PAR – Good For Golf – And Good For Interviews Too

One of the challenges Job Candidates face during an interview is how much information to provide to the Interviewer’s questions.  You want to impress the Interviewer with the depth of your knowledge and therefore you are tempted to jump up on a soap box and tell them everything you know about the topic.

But that is usually not a good idea….

You don’t want to do a “data” dump.  You risk overwhelming – and possibly boring – the Interviewer.

On the other hand you don’t want to be so brief that you simply respond to their questions with one word answers.

So how do you formulate responses that provide the level of detail the Interviewer needs without overwhelming them with information?

Actually -it’s pretty easy – just use the P.A.R. Method of answering interview questions.

While Par is a commonly used term in Golf – most people don’t associate the term with interviewing.  But it is actually a helpful acronym to remember during your interview.

P.A.R. stands for:

Problem – state the problem or challenge you were faced with

Action – describe for the Interviewer the action or actions you took to address the problem

Result – let the Interviewer know what the end result of your actions were.  (And make sure to use data or specific details in your answers whenever possible.)

Again – using the P.A.R. method of answering interview questions will help you to structure your answers so that you can provide the information that the Interviewer needs in a detailed yet concise manner.

Answer a Question with a Question

Years ago, I was discussing with a fellow recruiter about the best way to handle typical interview questions.

One of his bits of advice was priceless.

Image Courtesy of Creative Commons by © Maryland GovPics
Image Courtesy of Creative Commons by © Maryland GovPics

He said that sometimes it is best to answer a question with a question.

I asked him what he meant, and he replied:

“Sometimes on an interview you will be asked a question that catches you “off-guard”.  You are either not sure exactly what the interviewer is asking, or you are just simply not sure how best to answer the question.  By using the technique of answering a question with a question, you do two things.

The first thing you do is buy yourself some time to think.  The worst thing for you to do when faced with a situation like this is to just start rambling and saying things off the top of your head.  By answering a question with a question – you buy yourself more time to formulate a concise answer.

The second thing that you do is obtain more information about what exactly the interviewer is looking for.  And once you know what the interviewer is looking for, you can give them a better answer.”

He went on to give an example.

“For example, if the interviewer simply says to you, ‘Tell me about yourself’, instead of simply launching into your answer, you might say to the interviewer, ‘Let me ask you – do you want me to start with my college experience or are you just looking for me to discuss my professional experience?’ By questioning the interviewer, you can get a better idea of the type of information they are looking for, and that way you can formulate a more targeted response.”

I thought his suggestion was brilliant.

And his advice is not only good for interviews, but his technique can be used in all types of business situations.

So the next time you are asked a question that you can’t answer immediately, instead of responding immediately, the more prudent thing to do may be to answer that question with a question.

Mark Zuckerberg – The One Question He Asks Before Hiring A New Employee

Interesting article over on ABC News re: Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring philosophy.

Image Courtesy of Creative Commons by © Jason McELweenie
Image Courtesy of Creative Commons by © Jason McElweenie

The Facebook CEO is quoted as saying:

“I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person…It’s a pretty good test.”

I agree with Mark’s assessment.

One thing I was told early in my career as a Recruiter was that a good way to judge how a Hiring Manager’s competence was was to see who they hired.  Competent managers tended to hire strong candidates. Incompetent managers tended to hire weak candidates.  The reason for this – competent managers want to bring strong, accomplished employees in their departments because they feel that strong employees make for a strong organizations.  Incompetent managers see strong employees as a threat.

So while you may not agree with everything Mark Zuckerberg says, or you may not agree with every change in policy on Facebook, you have to admit that Facebook is a well run company.  And Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring philosophy is a good reason why.

The Importance of Hiring Top Talent


One of the great truths in life is that superior talent, whether on the playing field, in the Executive Suite, or in the laboratory, usually wins in the end.

Good Coaches – and good Managers – have always intuitively grasped this concept.

Alfred Sloan, the former head of General Motors once famously said:

“Take my assets, leave my people, and in 5 years I will have it all back.”


CC Image courtesy of Creative Commons -U.S. Army Photos by Tim Hipps - FMWRC Public Affairs
CC Image courtesy of Creative Commons -U.S. Army Photos by Tim Hipps


Yet, the question remains, exactly how much difference does talent make?

In the mid-1990s, consulting firm McKinsey & Company set out to answer that question. After interviewing hundreds of executives and extensively studying numerous companies, the consulting firm reported having strong talent in key positions creates huge improvements in performance.

For instance, top Plant Managers grew profits 130% while the lowest performing managers achieved no improvement; the best Center Managers in Industrial Service Firms grew profits 80%; and Portfolio Managers in Financial Services institutions grew revenues by nearly 50% while average performers’ portfolios remained flat.

But the positive effects of superior talent extend beyond improvements at the individual and/or departmental level. The most striking effect of talent is seen on the company’s bottom line. The consultants at McKinsey stated that the companies that excel in talent management achieved total returns to shareholders that were 22 percentage points better than the average in their industry.

The difference talent makes is striking.

The concept that superior talent enables superior results is not something that we need to only grasp intuitively.

The data shows that companies with better talent are not merely better than their peers – They are vastly superior to them. 

Pump Up The Volume Before An Interview

In a series of earlier posts here and here, I wrote about Amy Cuddy and her research about how changing our posture and adopting a more expansive pose (Power Pose), in fact causes us to act and feel more powerfully.

But are there any other ways for us to feel more powerful and more confident?

According to researchers at the Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management – there is.

All it takes is putting Queen or 50 Cent on your iPhone and turning up the volume.

Image Courtesy of Creative Commons by Jonathan Grado
Image Courtesy of Creative Commons by Jonathan Grado

Researchers ran a series of experiments to study how music, and in particular powerful songs with a heavy emphasis on bass, like Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”, tended to empower people and make them feel more in control and more powerful.

You can read an article about their research here.

In the article, Dennis Rucker, one of the researchers at Northwestern, discussed how athletes, before a game, are seen listening to music to put themselves in a proper frame of mind:

“One ritual we have noted is that athletes often arrive at the stadium wearing earphones. And these athletes often emerge from the locker room to the sound of music pounding. It is as if the music is offering a psychological coat of armor for the competition about to occur.”

The article then discussed how people can use this same ritual to prepare for the “competitions” in their lives (e.g. job interviews).

Bottom line – whether it is listening to music with a strong emphasis on bass, or adopting a Power Pose, there are rituals that we can perform before an interview that can put us in a frame of mind that will enable us to succeed.

Power Pose Before An Interview – Part 2

In a previous post, I wrote about how adopting a ‘Power Pose’ (i.e. a more expansive posture) can improve performance and reduce stress, especially before important meetings or job interviews.

One of the leading researchers on this topic is Amy Cuddy, an associate professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

Ms. Cuddy decided to research the question of posture and its impact on performance even further.
While her previous research had addressed the question of whether adopting an expansive body posture or ‘Power Pose’ could positively impact performance before meetings or interviews, Ms. Cuddy decided to ask the next logical question – Will adopting a low power posture negatively impact performance?

Low Power Pose
Image Courtesy of Creative Commons by Simone Graziano Panetto

Ms. Cuddy, in a paper she co-wrote with Maarten Bos, examined this very topic.  In this paper. the authors wrote:

“We examined whether incidental body posture, prompted by working on electronic devices of different sizes, affects power-related behaviors.”

The authors continued:

“Just before walking into a meeting, many of us are hunched over our smart phones, reading and responding to emails, and reviewing last minute notes. Following this frenzied attempt to efficiently manage our time, we have to be on our game in the meeting. Recent research documenting the benefits of adopting expansive (vs. contractive) body postures – “power posing” – suggests that hunching over our smart phones before a stressful social interaction, like a job interview, may undermine our confidence and performance during that interaction.”

Cuddy and Bos went on to discuss the details of their study. You can read the full version here.

At the end of their study, Cuddy and Bos concluded that hunching over our cell phones and adopting a low power posture does indeed negatively impact our performance. By adopting a low power posture before a stressful event like a meeting or job interview, we actually feel less powerful and less confident.

The authors concluded:

“Many of us spend hours each day interacting with our electronic devices. In professional settings we often use them to be efficient and productive. We may, however, lose sight of the impact the device itself has on our behavior and as a result be less effective. We suggest that some time before going into a meeting, and obviously also during it, you put your cell phone away.”

In a future post, I will address exactly what to do prior to an interview to ensure that you really do feel more poised and more confident….

Power Pose before an Interview

Your mother’s advice to stand up straight turns out to be good advice after all.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal:

“New research shows posture has a bigger impact on body and mind than previously believed. Striking a powerful, expansive pose actually changes a person’s hormones and behavior, just as if he or she had real power.”

And the changes a person experienced were not simply how they felt. There were measurable differences in the study subjects hormone levels.

The article goes on to state:

“Merely practicing a “power pose” for a few minutes in private—such as standing tall and leaning slightly forward with hands at one’s side, or leaning forward over a desk with hands planted firmly on its surface—led to higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in study participants. These physiological changes are linked to better performance and more confident, assertive behavior, recent studies show.”

According to Dana Carney, who is an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business:

”Striking a powerful pose can reduce symptoms of stress.”

What does this research mean for job seekers?

Amy Cuddy, an associate professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, addressed this very issue in a study she led to see how adopting a “power pose” could impact the performance of interviewees. According to her study:

“…participants who struck power poses for several minutes before beginning a mock job interview received better reviews and were more likely to be chosen for hire—even though the evaluators had never seen them in the poses.”

So next time, before a big meeting or an interview, make sure you stand up straight and a adopt a “power pose”.

You will find that your Mom was right after all.