Thursday, March 15, 2007

Framing Success Stories with with P-A-R

I'm often asked, "How can I be sure to put my best foot forward in an interview? What's the best way to share Success Stories?" My answer: Frame them with P-A-R:
  • P - Start by stating a PROBLEM you've dealt with that is relevant to one that your prospective employer might have and/or want you to be able to address.
  • A - Next, explain the APPROACH you took to meaningfully, if not eloquently, resolve the problem.
  • R - Then share how the RESULTS you achieved not only solved the immediate problem, but enabled additional downstream benefits as well.

Information Technology Example:

"Tell me about an experience you had with handling a major system outage."

Sure, I'd be happy to. The problem was this: All calls into our facility were being improperly rerouted by the phone company to a 'this number is no longer in service' recording.

Obviously, this was unacceptable. So, I took the following approach: Through a series of conversations, I was able to quickly learn the name and number of the specific person responsible for assigning technicians to fix such problems. Unfortunately, she was less than cooperative, at first, to put it mildly! But we didn't have time to go in circles, so I said, "Look, this is a real mess so I need to know: Is it that you don't want to help me, or you don't know how to help me. Now, which is it?"

That turned the tide and in a very short period of time she had her top technicians working to restore our service - which they did in record time. So that was good, but the added bonus was that I now had some new key inside contacts who could be excellent resources for helping us address future outages. And you can be sure that those results have paid multiple dividends since.

Human Resources Example:

"Tell me about your experience with implementing changes to the benefits administration process for a unionized workforce."

Sure, I'd be happy to. The problem we faced was that the benefits staff was spending a whole lot of time checking on the status of pending insurance claims for employees and not getting to other important matters.

So, I took the following approach: I researched, proposed, and got approval to install a web-based claims management system where employees could check on their claims themselves - without HR's assistance. Of course, the biggest key to making something like that work effectively was getting union buy-in, which I was able to do by demonstrating how employees could check status from their home computers anytime, day or night. (Too, I agreed to install several shop-floor terminals for employees who didn't have home computers.)

The results were pretty good: Not only did we save the company tens of thousand of dollars each year in the benefits management area, but we were also able to improve efficiencies in other benefits-related work - and improve union relations, as well. We hit the trifecta on this one!

Everyone has Success Stories to share. But try taking a few of yours and frame them with the P-A-R model. See if it doesn't make them that much more compelling and engaging stories to tell.

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