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Answering Interview Questions Effectively: Tricks Of The Trade

Answering Interview Questions Effectively: Tricks Of The Trade

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Whether you are in an interview or you are being interrogated by a mad boss, here is an answering technique that preserves composure and provides clear logical answers to almost any question.

This answering technique, known as the SEER Format®, was developed by Booker Consultants to help executives of large corporations answer journalist questions. The technique works just as well for answering interview questions. (Or, if you need to sound authoritative and knowledgeable about any subject.)

S (Summary)

E (Elaboration)

E (Example)

R (Restatement)

Here is an example of the formula. The interviewer asks a perspective employee:

“How can you contribute to our new manufacturing division?”

(S: Summary)

Give a simple concise summary of your answer: “During my last position as the assistant division manager of manufacturing, my division cut costs and improved sales by 20%  within a two year period. I can prove equally profitable for your new manufacturing division.” While stating the summary, think of the rest of your answer.

(E: Elaborate)

This isn’t enough; you need to keep talking. Both interview and office etiquette dictate that stopping here would be awkward. So, now you need to elaborate.

“As you know, I was assistant manager for the brush division of Colgate. We faced the difficult challenge of needing to lower the costs of our toothbrush manufacturing in order to stay competitive against low cost imports. Most of the manufacturing processes had already been automated, so the challenge was a huge one.”

Stopping your answer here is still too vague, the devil is always in the details. To persuade the person that you know what you are talking about, you will also need to provide an example.

(E: Example)

Here is where you toot your own horn.

“I worked with my boss, Mr. Stevens, (show you are a team player) and we analyzed all the separate costs of the tooth brush division. During this process, I realized that our labeling and shipping process would be more efficient if they were combined.

Although this produced an initial 15% savings, we still were not able to meet our targeted cost cutting goals. So, I had the idea to combine the labeling and shipping of the floss and toothpaste divisions as well. After placing all of these departments together, the net gain was a 25% decrease in shipping and labeling costs. In addition, this actually made it possible for us to improve our division sales by 20%.

Simply put, when shipped together, the items were cheaper for the retailers and they tended to buy equal numbers of each thing. Moreover, they also loved the new bundled product packages I developed. They are now a best seller.”

R (Restatement)

Here, you add closure to your answer.

“Here at Nike you produce a very different product, but manufacturing is manufacturing. I have a proven track record as an innovative thinker and a team player. I can make your new division lean and profitable.”

When answering interview questions, there are additional things to keep in mind.

First, there is generally only so much time. Fill the time up with intelligent well-answered questions you know the answers to. This means fewer questions and less time to trip you up.

Second, really listen to the body language of your audience during your answer. If they look bored, upset, or fidgety, make your answers shorter and encourage them to speak instead by asking thoughtful counter questions.

Lastly, practice using this technique on friends and family until is becomes a natural way to answer almost any question. In a difficult situation, SEER can be a real career saver.


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