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Interview Storytelling that SOARS

Job Search Storytelling that SOARSStorytelling is one of the most essential skills in a successful job search, and doing it well can mean getting a great job, sooner.

Your success stories prove what you can do for an employer. They’re vital in job interviews – especially for answering behavioral questions. They’re powerful in you resume as well.

To get the most out of your stories, follow the SOAR interview storytelling technique.

SOAR stands for Situation, Obstacles, Actions and Results. It’s a lot like other techniques, but I like the added focus on overcoming obstacles. I’ll say more about that a minute. Here’s an example of a “SOAR story.”


Denise realized that she and her co-workers were wasting time on tedious processes that could be better handled by software. But the company was small and had no IT department, so the tasks hadn’t been automated. Denise wanted to change that.


The budget was tight and management was resistant to spending money on something new. Also, nobody had time to figure out what was needed.


Denise did some research on her own time and recommended a software called WhateverWare. She also worked up an estimate of the staff time that would be saved, and the dollar value of that time to the company. She used these data in presenting the idea to management. They were convinced, and they found some resources to make it happen, asking Denise to coordinate the project.


The new software saved 10-15 staff hours per week. The company is still using it, with increased productivity to the tune of over $15K per year. Denise received a raise at her next review, and her supervisor wrote in the evaluation that “This achievement is further proof that Denise’s initiative and dedication are exemplary.”

Would the story have worked as well without SOAR?

If Denise didn’t use the SOAR story technique she might have skipped over the obstacles, thus understating the difficulty of the task and how much skill she brought to it. Also, she might have been too vague about the results – the “evidence” of success – missing a chance to vividly depict the value she can bring to an organization. Or she may have rambled, telling the story in a confusing or repetitive way and not knowing when to stop.

The great stories of literature and film include these four elements, and it works. If the Lord of the Rings had skipped over the obstacles of Frodo’s quest, would we be awed by his courage? If the story had ended the moment the One Ring fell into the Cracks of Doom, would we really understand the results of that action – the huge difference it made in the world? (In my humble opinion, the book shows this better than the movie did, but don’t get me started.)

A well-told success story may not portray you as a save-the-world hero, but it can show that you have what it takes to overcome tough challenges and and have a positive impact on your organization.

For more about how to use SOAR to transform your interview storytelling, read my post, “Job Search Tool #1: SOAR Stories.”


This post was originally published in March 2013 and has been updated.

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