A Subtle Twist on Job-Interview Stories - A Storied Career

It’s been a little while since I wrote about one of my favorite storytelling topics, storytelling in the job search.

Storytelling especially lends itself to responding to questions in behavioral interviews, the style of interviewing that has grown in dominance over the last couple of decades and is based on the premise that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior and performance on the job.

overcoming_obstacles_large_pic.gif Now, a new twist on behavioral interviewing is emerging. As reported by John Zappe on ERE.net, Carol Quinn, CEO of Hire Authority, calls this new style “motivation-based” interviewing.

It’s very similar to behavioral interviewing, but there’s a subtle twist. Here’s the example she gives, as reported by Zappe:

Interviewer question: Tell me about a time when you satisfied an irate customer.

“Every person can tell you about a time like that,” Quinn says. Instead, her motivation-based method would finesse the question along these lines:

It’s the coda to the question that makes the difference: How you did it and what you got out of it.


That may not sound like a big difference, but it does kick things up a notch. The “how you did it and what you got out of it” part isn’t as amenable to a formula. It also has the benefit of surprise, and that is something every job seeker wants to avoid in an interview.

What Zappe means about “a formula” is that thousands of career gurus (including me) have proffered content on the Internet and in books that advises job-seekers to follow a formula when telling stories in response to questions like this. The formulas are along the lines of Situation —> Action —> Result (SAR), Problem —> Action —> Result (PAR), and Challenge —> Action —> Result (CAR), but many other variations exist.

Quinn advises interviewers to “go after details and pursue how they responded to challenges, especially impossible obstacles.”


“High performers achieve better results despite the obstacles,” she says. “Low performers think the obstacles are responsible for not achieving the high performance.”

So, when telling stories in response to interview questions, be sure to tell how you overcame obstacles. And don’t whine about how obstacles impeded your performance. Perhaps a new acronym/formula could be: Situation —> Action —> Positive Overcoming of Obstacles —> Result, or SAPOOOR!

Posted via web from AndyWergedal