Surprisingly common mistake executive job seekers make during the interview


Want to know a SURPRISINGLY common mistake executive level job seekers make during interview?

I’ve noticed that most people are familiar with the STAR method for answering behavioral interview questions and are able to clearly articulate the situation & describe the action that they took… but often I see candidates get too excited talking about actions & forget to share results.

Photo credit: Unsplash

Photo credit: Unsplash


Q: Describe a time when you had to interact with a difficult client. What was the situation, & how did you handle it?

A: When I was working as a personal banker, I took over some clients for a colleague who moved to another role. One of the clients—a successful farmer— had a reputation for being difficult. (SITUATION) Knowing this, I decided our first meeting needed to be in person. I drove out to his farm at 6 am with hot biscuits because I knew he started his day early. I asked him open ended questions to learn about his business and found out that he didn’t feel valued as a customer. We really connected over biscuits and I renewed his trust in our bank. (ACTION). This one simple act resulted in this “difficult” client making several large business acquisitions over the next 4 years valued at $XX with me as his banker.(RESULT).


If you are someone who struggles to showcase RESULTS, try adding this single line: “had I not taken this action it would have resulted in…” to use it as a showcase to show you clearly understand the impact of your actions and the need to have taken them


I posted this on LinkedIn and got great suggestions from other trusted career experts and senior talent leaders. Here are some of the highlights:

Adrienne Tom, executive resume writer and founder of Career Impressions, shared:

I run into this scenario all the time with my executive clients. Loads of focus on the challenge. Loads! (people love to talk about challenges I find). Then either a brief wiff of a result or nothing at all. When in actuality the result is what the employer is wanting to hear. HOW was the problem resolved, specifically., by you, to positive end result? I often use the baseball diamond analogy during interview coaching. You need to touch on every base (challenge, action, result) in order to get a home run!

Maureen McCann, Canadian-based job search strategist, added:

I often remind clients that all answers end happily with a number. “I did X and Y and Z which improved sales 26% that quarter.” Or “…by making our process more efficient we reduced costs 35% and were then able to serve 116 more clients, monthly.”

Meg Guiseppi, personal branding expert and resume writer, shared:

One way job seekers can deal with this mistake is by stating the result at the top of their story, which will give it more impact, too. For your client it may go like this: “With me as the banker, I helped a difficult client make several large business acquisitions valued at $XX over the next 4 years. Here’s how I did it”. Then she/he can launch into the situation and actions.

Link to original post on LinkedIn for some additional suggestions from expert job coaches and senior talent:


  • Sarah Johnston

    I’m a former corporate recruiter and industry “insider” who got tired of seeing talented high-achievers get passed over for opportunities because they did not have the right marketing documents or know how to position themselves in interviews. I have relocated multiple times across the country as a “trailing spouse” and have had to execute job searches in completely cold markets (where I literally knew no one!) I have been named a LinkedIn Top Voice in the career space in 2019, HR Weekly’s Top 100 Most Influential People in HR, named the owner of the “best resume writing firm for experienced executives” by Balance Careers and a “top follow” by JobScan in 2019 and 2020.

Sarah Johnston

Sarah Johnston is a former corporate recruiter and industry "insider" with a passion for empowering high-achievers in their career journeys. Frustrated by talented individuals being overlooked due to ineffective marketing documents and interview strategies, Sarah made it her mission to equip professionals with the tools and knowledge to succeed. As a seasoned "trailing spouse" who relocated multiple times, she understands the challenges of executing job searches in unfamiliar markets. Sarah's expertise and impact have earned her recognition as a LinkedIn Top Voice in 2019 and a spot on HR Weekly's Top 100 Most Influential People in HR. Her resume writing firm has been acclaimed as the best for experienced executives by Balance Careers, while JobScan listed her as a top follow in 2019 and 2020.

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