Now that you know what the Top 5 Interview Questions are, you are ready to learn how to dramatically improve your answers to them. The secret is 3 simple letters: S.A.R.
SAR stands for Situation – Action – Result.
The idea is that when you’re asked a question you can use a SAR to nicely package your answer (rather than telling a big long story with no point… you know the ones, where after 4 minutes you realise that you’ve been talking about your co-workers personal hygiene and haven’t yet touched on the answer to the employer’s question?).
The ideal breakdown would be 10% Situation, 80% Action, and 10% Result.
The employer asks you how you deal with conflict. Before you knew about ‘SAR’, you might have replied “very well, thank you”.
Now that you are a SAR-wielding genius, your answer is a little different:
“How do I deal with conflict? What a great question (<–tactic used to buy time while you think of your SAR). I’d like to give you an example of a time I dealt with conflict.”
“There was a situation where my direct supervisor and the VP of my department gave me conflicting instructions on how to proceed with a very important project that we were working on. (No additional detail is necessary! They don’t care about the project nitty-gritty; they care about how you handled it!).
The way I handled this was I approached each of them individually and asked for a 5-minute meeting, I explained the two sets of instructions that I had been given, I requested that we meet as a trio to collaborate on the most effective way to proceed, and then I mediated the meeting by actively listening and encouraging all stakeholders to “seek to understand before being understood”. (“Action” is one of the areas that you absolutely want to stress YOUR contributions; whether you were part of a team or working individually, try to avoid saying things like “we worked on this together”, “I assisted with”, etc. Keep the focus on what you did, and use action verbs wherever possible!)
As a result of this, the three of us were able to come up with an even better plan of action, the project proceeded smoothly, and we actually came in 2 weeks ahead of schedule and $4,000 under budget. The VP later approached me and thanked me personally for orchestrating that procedure. (Results are the benefits to the employer; forget to mention the result of your actions and you’ve lost a chance to sell your skills. Do NOT forget the results!!! If you’re stuck for a result, think back to a time that a supervisor, colleague, or client ever commented on your impact — this is a great way to have others “brag” about you without coming across as a pompous ass!).
This all seems like a lot of work!
Yes, creating a perfectly crafted ‘SAR’ for every interview question can be daunting; the good news is that if you can sit down and come up with 5 well-rounded SARs, you can most likely adapt them to any question that is thrown your way. As a starting point, see if you can come up with SARs for each of the above questions.
Those are the basics! Once you’ve got SARs down for those 5 you’ll be well on your way to interview mastery!!