[editors note – sorry to a guy called Steven who suggested I write shorter blog articles. I wanted to capture all this waffle for my own memory].
I spoke to my outplacement consultant today. I told her of my success in completing the selection criteria for a job last week and she was naturally impressed with my perfect safety record (see the last blog article).
She also said that she had not seen a job response that mentioned never having accidentally detonated a nuclear device.
She commented that my response was certainly imaginative and unexpected , which I guess reinforces my innovative nature. But she also said that quite a few senior IT people in the financial services industry are likely to have the same saftey track record … so what will differentiate me from these other candidates.
This is a tough one, particularly if you are of average height, hair colour and (it turns out) a pretty common experience in not setting off nuclear devices.
So she gave me this advice – for any job, work out what the likely key job functions are. This might be as easy as reading a job description or as hard as thinking about it for a couple of minutes. Then, for each key function:
- Ask yourself what it means. Apparently this is where a lot of job applicants go wrong. They don’t actually think about what something means before talking about doing it.
- Ask yourself how you do it.
- Ask why its important – both in relation to the job and to the organisation. Apparently most people talk about what they do, but don’t think about why … or whether it adds any value.
- Think about the typical challenges that arise in performing the function.
- List the key skills and knowledge you need to perform the function.
- Then think of an example of when you have done it (another tip is not to think of an example before thinking about what it means, because you are likely to talk about random things like not detonating nuclear devices in the office .. which, while important, is not related to the question they people are going to ask).
- Finally list the 3-4 skills or knowledge bites you need to do the function well, and write half a sentence on why you are good at each.
So its not too hard – you then just go on about (ie succinctly and positively summarise) a Situation where you did something, the Challenges you faced, what Actions you took and what the Result was. This is called the SCAR technique of explaining your experience.
Interestingly though a lot of HR people think it is more positive sounding to refer to it as STAR (replacing challenges with tasks, which sounds a bit wimpy) or SOAR (replacing challenges with obstacles).
So you are now ready to go through your examples and you can even drop in sime elevator pitches about your vast skills and knowledge if the opportunity arises.