Paul Bodine recently sent me the following “outtake” from his new book, Great Application Essays for Business School. I decided to share it because this tip could help you structure an answer to an interview question or a short essay question.
It sometimes goes by the fancy names “PAR” or “CAR” exercise (for Problem/Challenge—Action—Result), but what it really is a method for analyzing the achievements you choose to include and expressing them as mini-stories. You, the hero, face down a work-related dragon and through your own traits, expertise, or leadership create a happy ending that can be described in concrete terms.
As you inventory your accomplishments ask yourself: (a) What was the obstacle, challenge, or problem that you solved in this accomplishment—a tight client deadline? A complex merger transaction? A new product launch amidst fierce competition? (b) What did you do to rise to this challenge—motivate your team to work overtime? Sell senior management on the deal’s long-term upside? Identify a marketing profile for your product that no competitor can match? (c) What facts demonstrate that your intervention created a “happy ending”—Your team submitted the project deliverables a day early despite being 20% understaffed? Your client approved the $500 million merger, the largest ever in its industry? Your new product has 20% market share after only one year?
Break down your accomplishments into these three-part mini-stories, and you’ll have the raw material for a compelling short essay or interview response.