Maybe my nuclear safety record is not enough

[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.

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About James King

I coach organisations in how to better make use of the untapped talent they have in their people and to explore new ways of understanding and solving new and old problems I live in Sydney with my wife and daughter and have no real hobbies beyond the usual boring ones of reading, writing and watching tv.
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2 Responses to Maybe my nuclear safety record is not enough

  1. tom bosley says:

    situation: i was a karate pirate

    challenge: ninjas were clinging to the hull of my karate/pirate ship

    action: i launched a barage of chinese water-resistant boomerang throwing STARs that SOARed through the air/water, into the depths of the ocean, and back up to the ninjas who were clinging to the hull of my karate/pirate ship.

    result: 7 out of 10 ninjas killed by bleeding and/or drowning. 2 out of 10 ninjas not killed but left with embarrasing eyeball SCARs (this is bad for ninjas because the eyeballs are the only part of them that you can see and now how are they going to attract the ladies). And the last ninja turned out to be an alright guy. we’re seeing pineapple express together at the cineplex next friday.

    summary: i am qualified for any position where ninja attacks are possible (keep in mind that ninjas usually attack unexpectedly).

  2. jamesking42 says:

    Perfect – you can see how easy it would have been to miss this answer in an interview without the right preparation

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