The job interview. It’s one of the most commonly-used candidate screening tools in the world. In fact, interviews are so ubiquitous that it’s hard to imagine getting a job without having to do some sort of interview beforehand.
It’s also the part of the job search process most people fear. Especially students. That has a couple of reasons. For one, students often don’t have much experience with job interviews. Most students have done only a few serious job applications, if any, so interviewing still feels new and unfamiliar. Second, many students feel like they don’t have a lot to offer. Fresh out of university and feeling like you haven’t learned anything truly useful yet? You’re not alone in that feeling! Third, selling yourself can feel awkward and even a bit fake. That’s part of the reason why many people cringe when they think about having to do a job interview.
These negative feelings cause many students to dread the interview process – and that’s a shame. The good news is this: performing well in job interviews is a trainable skill. With time and practice, you can become much better at it, to the point where interviewing is one of your strengths. A big part of building proficiency with interviewing is knowing how to answer tough questions. And luckily, there are templates you can use for that. For example, you might be familiar with the STAR method, which stands for situation, task, action, and result. It’s a template you can use to show how you handled challenging situations in your personal or professional life. It helps you show off your experiences, skills, and attitudes. It works quite well, but there’s an even more powerful template that not many people know.
The big drawback of the STAR method is that it doesn’t really allow you to show off your personality. It’s quite dry and technical. With personal branding becoming more and more important, that’s a big weakness in the method. We need a template that allows you to show off your experience and skills, but also your personality and character.
That’s where the 4C-method comes in.
4C stands for context, conflict, choice, and change. Think of it like this:
‘Context’ is about the question ‘what happened at the beginning?’ It’s the who, what, where, and when of your story.
‘Conflict’ is about the question ‘what drove the need to respond?’ Something changed. Something happened that forced you to respond by doing something or changing something. What was that thing? What did you want to achieve? What stood in the way?
‘Choice’ is about the question ‘what choices did you make?’ Choices define character. This is where you can articulate your thoughts and feelings about the obstacles and challenges you faced. You explain your strategy and execution to overcome the obstacles.
‘Change’ is about the question ‘what happened at the end?’ Ideally, you want to talk about both external and internal change. External change refers to the tangible result of your actions. Internal change refers to your personal learnings. Here, you can reflect upon your own choices.
To make things more tangible, I will give you an example story.
“I was leading the team that improves the efficiency of the bank’s call centers. A team member of mine found some great scheduling software we could use.”
“As the team leader, I wanted to get buy-in from the investment committee. However, the high investment, disruption potential, and the different priorities of key decision-makers created a challenge for me.”
“I decided to adopt individual influencing strategies for each person, based on their specific business needs and personalities.”
“In conclusion, two things happened: first, the committee voted to buy and implement the software. Second, as a personal lesson, I realized how much I thrive on the challenge of driving organizational alignment.”
That’s it. A simple template that allows you to answer challenging interview questions with confidence and with personality.