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The goal is to create a set of prepared stories so whatever the interviewer or job posting asks you’ve already figured out what is the best answer you want to give and how to succinctly tell the story.  You want to avoid hemming and hawing and then thinking of a good story after you leave.

Where to start –

  Start with just three stories.

  • A project I did well on
  • A project I enjoyed doing
  • A project I’m proud of

Then for each story write three paragraphs

  • The Problem or opportunity
  • The Actions I took
  • The positive Results for the company

Polish the stories by adding facts.  Use numbers anywhere you can.  Best of all are dollars or percent improvements, but any numbers you can recall will help cement the achievement in the reader’s mind.  For instance instead of saying a big team, say a team of 12.  The qualifier ‘big’ leaves questions in the reviewer’s mind that cause it to be forgotten quickly, but the specific number 12 attaches your number to that reader’s personal experience with teams that size and it will then be remembered along with the reader’s own experiences with a team that size.  Don’t believe me?  Practice with a friend, get them to tell you a story without numbers and then repeat a similar story with numbers.  Which do you remember more clearly?  Other numbers you might recall are the number of departments or regional offices, or the number of months the project took, or how about the number of stakeholders?

Write out all 3 stories.  It will help with retaining the information and completing the next steps. 

Psychology note:  Got a story with bad parts or something you are angry about? (cheated, lied to, laid-off?)  Write it down and find someone to listen to you vent it out.  This will help you purge the resentment you are hanging on to.  Then re-write the story focusing on the positive aspects.  If you don’t deal with your baggage your body language will show the un-processed emotions.  Your interviewer will get a confusing message and may subliminally get interpreted as a lie.  In the worst case you may let a negative comment slip in an interview because your brain really needs to tell someone before you can let it go.

Skills inventory  –

So now you have the Problem, Action, Results of a PARS done.  The next step is to go over your story and tease out what skills you demonstrated in those stories.  Just list them.  You will use them in the next step, and it’s also useful when an interview ask you to tell her about a time when you used ‘x’ skill.  Hopefully you will be able to recall a story you labeled with that skill.  This step should also help boost your confidence when you realize how much you really do.

Summarize your PARS statements -  

   Your PARS stories are too long to put on a resume, and there is probably too much detail to try and recite the whole story.  In fact each one of your one of your stories may demonstrate a variety of skills and abilities, but to start just come up with one 30 second overview of each story.  Find good words that succinctly describe the skills you exhibited (find the associated vocabulary list).  You can usually get away with about six sentences, and you have to rehearse so it just flows out when the opportunity presents itself. 

Create Resume Bullets - 

   Resumes are not detailed job descriptions.  Nobody wants to read that.  In fact, nobody wants to read resumes.  You need to catch their attention quickly and make your point.  Everyone’s point is the same with resumes.

I’m interesting, I’m resourceful, I’ve done stuff, I get results!

You want to call me and get more information!

   Don’t bother summarizing the PMBOK and listing skills everyone should have.  Who would want to read that!?  Take your 30 second power statements and summarize them into 3 lines.  You don’t have to do them in the PAR order, and you might even have more than one per PARS story.  Depending on what skills you want to emphasize you will pick a different version of your bullet summary.   More on this subject in the resume writing section.  

 Build your inventory - 

   After writing and practicing your first three you should commit to working through creating at least one new PARS a day until you have a polished response to every one of the interview questions in our list.