How to turn yourself into a winning job candidate

By David Hunt, PE

In replying to someone’s comment on my posting Am I a Fit? in a LinkedIn group, I had a flash of insight for another essay.

When writing resumes, and especially when in an interview, there are several acronyms for techniques used to outline your accomplishments. The one I know is SPAR - Situation, Problem, Action, Result. What was the Situation – the environment, the product or service – in which you were working? What was the Problem you faced; what Action did you take; what Result came from that action (ideally something quantifiable)?

But there’s something missing. And so at the risk of creating an unwieldy acronym, I want to propose:


Situation, Problem, Action, Result… Transferable, Aimed, Customized, and US.

Transferable: Based on your research, can you highlight the skills you exercised in this item that can transfer directly to the company where you are interviewing?

Aimed: The examples need to be aimed at specific problems they’re having – or are likely to be having.

Customized: The more you can customize your story to that particular company, the better.

US: Try to discuss the problem and your transferable skills as if you were already there.

Now that I’ve probably got your head spinning, let me back up. Much of this presupposes that you already understand specific problems the company is having. Well, as many job search advice articles hammer home… do your homework.

Read up on the company, both on their own website, the product line, competitors, and the industry in general. Peruse the job description word by word. Often times the order of duties in the description/posting is keyed to the problems they’re experiencing. Can you network to people in the company through LinkedIn or elsewhere to learn more – assuming, of course, that you have the time to do this. But even an after-hours phone call can yield great information; you don’t need a face-to-face lunchtime informational meeting. An article on LinkedIn gives some interesting tips for this.

Can you post to topical LinkedIn groups? Put out the word on your own network (alumni groups can be of enormous help in this) that you will be interviewing at the company… not only will you – hopefully! – get some good info, but it’s entirely possible that someone from that company might see your request for information. First, they might offer to help. Second, they may know someone who is interviewing you (or be one of the interviewers). Showing publicly that you have an active interest in being informed can, IMHO, do nothing but good things if the company learns you are doing solid preparation.

Next, there’s the interview itself. Take charge. As the hiring manger enters the room, be standing already. Proactively go over as they come in, shake their hand; “Mr. So-and-so, glad to meet you. I’m really excited at being interviewed for <position title>; what kinds of problems would you have me working on out of the gate?” (Remember, many people don’t like doing interviews; so long as you’re not pushy about it, they may appreciate your taking an active role in the conversation.)

Wham! You’ve shown you have energy, drive, and you’ve opened the door for them to vent about their “pain points”. You’ve also painted yourself as if you’re already in the position ready to get started on Day One.

As they talk, take mental notes. The things they say will then guide your SPARTACUS answers from then on. Remember – you are not in an interview because you need a job, but because they have problems they need to solve.

By taking a SPARTACUS approach to the interview conversation you:

1. Highlight accomplishments you’ve already made

2. Show how you can transfer skills to their problems – don’t rely on them to make those inferences

3. Demonstrate enthusiasm and initiative because you’ve clearly taken the time to do your homework

4. Get the interviewer to envision you in particular in the role

© 2014, David Hunt, PE

David Hunt is a Mechanical Design Engineer in southern New Hampshire looking for his "next opportunity" that allows him to design new products and shepherd them to stable production. His LinkedIn profile is:; he blogs at and tweets at @davidhuntpe.

1 comment:

  1. Resumes that catch my eye are the ones that show me numbers and are not filled with fluff. When interviewing, the candidate who gets to the point, is succinct, and who tells me how he or she is going to solve my company's problems will get the job!