An employer may not ask you to describe a time when you walked on water, but often they’ll ask you to describe a specific experience to illustrate your ability to lead, problem solve, correct mistakes or go above and beyond the call of duty. Whatever quality the employer is looking for, your story should clearly and concisely reflect your experience.
So what’s the best way to answer this question? There’s a simple structure that you can use for any anecdote to appropriately respond:
Step 1: Describe the situation you were in and the task you were given. This initial set up helps your interviewer visualize the context of your story include any imperative details. Keep it as concise as possible, but don’t leave out elements that are important to understanding the outcome.
Step 2: Describe the actions you took to resolve the situation, complete the task, etc. The most important part of this step is to make sure to take credit for your responsibilities. Maybe you were a part of a team that reduced a project’s projected time frame by two weeks, saving the company thousands of dollars. Instead of saying, “we reduced the project’s time frame” say, “I reduced the project’s time frame.” Remember, you’re expected to sell yourself in this interview, not your team.
Step 3: Now, mention the results! Explain what your actions accomplished. Using the example from above you might say, “Because I was able to shorten the time frame for the project, my company saved thousands of dollars. We were able to deliver to our client in record time which left me free to contribute my skills to other projects.”
Essentially, these steps boil down to set up, action, effect. If you frame your responses this way they are easier for interviewers to follow and you’ll never forget to leave out an important detail!