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Lay Down Some S.O.D. for a More Successful Interview

interview tips Aug 26, 2021

What if I told you that you only need three items to be successful in an interview?

  1. Structure
  2. Organization
  3. Detail

Just think of S.O.D. when answering interview questions. It is a proven method for success that will enable you to stay focused on providing the best possible responses. Let’s take a deeper look at each item:

Item #1 – Structure

This is by far the simplest and most important step. Unfortunately, too many interview candidates are unaware of the simple structures that will set them up for success. Understanding the structure for both behavioral and open-ended questions will be critical to your success. 

Let’s start with behavioral questions. These questions typically start with “Tell me about the time when…,” “Provide an example of…” or “What did you do when…?”

I recommend using the S.T.A.R. Method. This stands for “Situation. Task. Actions. Results.” These four items will support your interview answer structure and help you provide better examples of how your skills led to specific accomplishments in previous roles.

Open-ended and hypothetical questions often start with “I want you to imagine…,” “How would you…?” or “What are the…?” For these types of questions, I want you to use the C.F.A.S. Method. This stands for “Clarify. Framework. Assumptions. Solutions.” Again, these four items will help you structure clearer answers to open-ended interview questions. In some cases, you may present multiple solutions. Make sure your structure includes strong transitions between these solutions.

Missing any one of these steps in either structure is a big deal. There are only four items to remember in each structure. If you can stick to these systems, you will do great!

Item #2 – Organization

The concept of organization is a bit more complicated when it comes to interview responses. It can be hard to keep your thoughts and words organized when you are presented with a barrage of different questions. Starting with a solid structure is vital. For organization, I recommend a 5-step technique:

Step 1: All the Steps—Do not leave out a single item. Remember to follow all the steps in order to be more successful in your interview.

Step 2: In Order—There are reasons why these proven methodologies have a specific order. Just make sure you are following the correct order to ensure success.

Step 3: Timing—Some steps require more time than other steps. It’s important to understand the right timing for more balanced and focused interview responses.

Step 4: Transitions—It can also be critical how you transition from one area to the next when crafting your interview answers. This is especially important for the open-ended questions.

Step 5: Cadence—This is all about pitch, tone and flow, as well as building in space for your interviewer to jump in with comments and/or follow-up questions.

Item #3—Detail

Without a doubt, this is the most challenging part of the process. And, I want you to know that this item will never be 100% perfect. Some details will always be left out no matter how much you prepare. That’s okay. Just make sure the details you do include are relevant and clear. 

For behavioral questions, the S.T.A.R. Method will be incredibly helpful for covering the right details. First, think of Situation and Task. You will want to discuss your role and company, detail relevant people, processes, or technologies, and specify your key responsibilities and the timeline.  Think thirty seconds or less. Actions come next. Detail the initial research, planning and conversations. Describe what you executed and tested. Also, be sure to detail the launch, presentation, and or documentation. Results come last. Make sure your initial results answer the question, make sure to talk about anything that was repeatable and make sure, in general, you have qualified the impact. Walking through the S.T.A.R. process will enable you to show your examples in a very structured, organized and detailed manner.

For open-ended questions, remember to utilize the C.F.A.S. Method. When clarifying, remember to identity the key ambiguities in the question and ask a minimum of three yes or no or either/or questions. When presenting your framework, briefly reveal three or more concepts to focus on, connect these concepts to the core question, and focus on one core concept to begin your solution.  Your assumptions should confirm any details clarified by your interviewer and speak from the perspective of the role. Lastly, in your solution, start your first solution by connecting back to one framework concept. Detail the specific actions you would take and the potential success metrics.

If you are preparing for an interview, remember S.O.D. as your overarching strategy for responses to any questions that are asked of you. Then, practice the techniques within the S.O.D. system for even better results. Ultimately, you’ll be able to answer questions with more Structure, Organization and Detail, and this will help you be more successful in any interview.

Please check out my full video on the S.O.D. method below: 

For more interview tips, please check out my YouTube Channel. If you are interested in private interview coaching, sign up on Practice Interviews to get started.


Jeff H. Sipe

Jeff has interviewed over 1000 people in his career and previously spent five years working at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley. You likely found Jeff through YouTube and you will find the same level of dedication in his one on one practice interview sessions.

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