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Tips for Leaving Strong Impressions During an Interview

You are going to want to set yourself apart from other applicants during your interview. Here are a few tips for how you might accomplish this.

  • Craft your SOARS stories. A SOARS story is a brief but compelling story of how you succeeded in a previous positions. SOARS stands for Situation, Obstacles, Actions, Results, and Skills. A SOARS story can be used to provide a powerful response to an interview question. Each part of the SOARS acronym plays a role in developing the SOARS story:
    • Situation – set the story’s context by describing a challenge you faced, a mission or objective you were given, a project you were assigned, or an idea you wanted to act upon
    • Obstacles – few really important missions are accomplished without encountering obstacles of some sort. The ability to persevere, to improvise, to succeed in the face of difficult odds are valuable traits for a potential employer. Describe the obstacles, constraints, or setbacks you faced.
    • Actions – outline the tasks you performed, steps you took, and approach you used to overcome obstacles.
    • Results – define the impact of your actions, the difference you made, the benefits you generated, and/or the positive changes you brought about.
    • Skills – describe the capabilities, traits, or knowledge you utilized as well as the skills you acquired or strengthened as a result of this experience.
    • Example of a SOARS story – My department received a new piece of equipment, and I was tasked with training my teammates on how to use it. Time was short, and I wasn't provided training to learn how to operate the equipment. When I unpacked the gear, I discovered it was unlike our existing equipment. To complicate matters even more, I had only one week to learn how to operate the new equipment well enough to teach others how to use it. For the next four days, I spent every free moment I had studying the operator’s manual, and I taught myself to use the equipment. On days five and six, I developed a pocket-sized job aid describing each step necessary to use the new equipment. I asked a teammate to use his smart phone to film me narrating each step as I performed it. On day seven, I conducted the training. At the end of the training, I tasked each team member with attempting to operate the new system successfully. I then emailed them copies of the video, so they could refer to it in the future. From this experience, I learned how to identify the key steps in a process, how to translate that knowledge into easy-to-understand print and video job aids, and how to organize a block of instruction in such a way that novices can quickly acquire and demonstrate mastery of an unfamiliar task. I’ll be able to use these skills in the future whenever it’s necessary to learn a new skill and then train coworkers to use that skill.
  • Ask informed questions. Throughout the interview process, the interviewer is trying to gauge how committed you are and how capable you will be in helping the company succeed. At the end of an interview, the interviewer may ask if you have questions. You’ll typically have time to ask two or three. The following questions will demonstrate your commitment to the employer’s success while providing you with information you'll need to decide if the job is a good fit for you:
    • After hearing my answers to your questions, do you have any concerns about my ability to do the job?
    • What will be the most important part of my job, in terms of ensuring that you and our team will be successful?
    • What will be the most valuable skills to develop if I am to add more value to our department?
    • Will I be given opportunities to acquire those skills?
    • What are the next steps in the selection process? How soon do you plan to fill this position?
    • Is it okay if I follow up with you?
  • Ask a “magic interview question.” If you really want to impress an interviewer, develop your own version of the following statement, practice it until it sounds natural, and then use it early on in the interview.

"From what I’ve been able to learn about this position, it sounds like it consists of things that I like to do, and am good at doing or could quickly learn to do. But now that I’ve got this opportunity to talk to you directly, could you tell me in more detail what are the most important things I can do in this position to contribute to your success and the success of the department that I’d be joining?"

This statement will accomplish three things.

First, it will set you apart from most of the other applicants by conveying that you are interested in the interviewer's success, not just your own.

Second, the interviewer’s response will provide you guidance as to what you should talk about throughout the rest of the interview to demonstrate that you will make valuable contributions to his/her team.

Finally, if you do get the job, you will have a blueprint for success.

  • Thank the interviewer for his/her time and consideration. At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer(s) for the opportunity to meet, ask for business cards, restate your interest in the job, and express confidence in your ability to contribute to the organization's success. A few examples of strong closing statements would be "This sounds like a great position and a great place to work" or "I'm confident that I could make significant contributions here."
  • Wait for a job offer before asking about salary and benefits. Do not ask about salary, vacation or paid time off, retirement plans, or other benefits until after you've received a job offer. Refraining from asking about these things will demonstrate that you are most interested in performing well in the available position.