Structured Response Approach

One of biggest complaints we get from employers is that candidates ramble in interviews and can’t put structure around their answers. So what is structured thinking and answering? Here is an example to illustrate the point: I was role playing with a CPO candidate for a retained search.

“So, why are you looking for a new opportunity?” I asked. He hesitated… “We’ll, my company is experiencing financial difficulty, so I am worried about that”. He hesitated some more, “and I can’t move out of procurement at my company so there is no growth potential. And oh yeah, my wife doesn’t like the Midwest”.

Here was my answer using the same information but with more structure: “I am glad you asked that question. There are three reasons I am looking for a new opportunity. First, my company doesn’t move people to different functions so I have no career growth potential. In addition, my company is experiencing financial difficulty and quite frankly I am worried about our long term viability. The final reason is location. My wife hates the Midwest and we want to move back to the East Coast.”

Notice, I didn’t change any of the content. However, I put some structure around the answer. I framed my answer by saying there are three primary reasons for the change. Then I proceeded to list the three reasons in a concise matter with context. The CPO candidate rambled and was unprepared for the question.

This is a simple example of structure. However, there will be times when a more complicated structure is needed. Another question that comes up often is “What would you do in the first 90 days?” There are a lot of structures you could use to answer this question. One could be process, people, and technology. Another might a Porter five forces analysis. If you are a six sigma person, you might use DMAIC. It doesn’t matter what structure is employed as long as one is used and it is logical.

Visit our Interview Preparation Guide to read more tips on preparing for your next interview.


Jeff Flannery
About the Author:

Mr. Flannery has many years of executive search, supply chain consulting experience, supply chain strategy, and process improvement. He has managed consulting projects for several Fortune 500 clients on three continents, including: Raytheon, IBM, Union Bank of California, H.J. Heinz, ConAgra, Eaton, Nestle, and Lucent Technologies. Mr. Flannery holds a Bachelor of Arts in Finance from the University of Northern Iowa and a Masters of Business Administration in Strategy from Indiana University.

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