The Four Steps to SOAR Through a Job Interview
Job interviews are hard. The hardest part is often the situational questions, where we demonstrate our capabilities by telling the story of a past success. These questions are uniquely stressful because they require us to present ourselves in a positive light and they require that we think quickly to answer complex questions based on past experiences we may not have fully processed. So we need a way to minimize the amount of thinking we have to do about the structure of our answer and present our actions as the reason for the successful outcome.
The STAR method is a common way to answer situational questions. This method has you talk about the situation and challenge, the task for which you were responsible, the actions you performed, and the results of those actions. Here's the problem: this structure is inherently passive.
What's a better way to respond? SOAR. Here are the four points:
Situation, or the organizational challenge. What occurred that needed to be resolved?
Objective, or the goal you established. What outcome did you set out to create that would resolve the challenge?
Actions, or the behaviors you performed. What steps did you take to create this outcome?
Results, or the effect on the business. How did the outcome contribute to a better product or service, or a stronger team?
The difference between tasks and objectives is that talking about your objectives puts you in the driver's seat. You assessed the challenge, came up with a solution, and then took action to implement that solution. You may have been assigned a certain role, but your contribution isn't limited by that role. Leaders can occur at all levels, even without a job title or formal authority.
The trick with using SOAR (or STAR, or any other interview technique) is to practice before the interview. Like any learning experience, practice makes the behavior preferential. Get comfortable framing your questions in this manner and it will reduce the mental effort of structuring your answer, which lets you focus on the content of your answer. Find a list of questions online, or better yet look at the job announcement and think about what they might ask you, then answer the question to yourself in the shower or wherever you do your best thinking.
The structure of SOAR allows you to demonstrate your leadership no matter what job you have in an organization. The technique will benefit your answers in other settings as well, such as in meetings where you have to discuss accomplishments and growth.