LESSON 10: Interviewing – STAR (The Stories You Tell Will Get You the Job) Copy

Interviewing  

STAR Stories

Your resume may get the interview, but the stories you tell will get you the job.   Given all the time, expense, and anxiety people have invested in their resume, this may sound a little counterintuitive.  After all, your resume is the first thing many interviewers will see to form a first impression.  While that’s true, it’s still not the most important thing.  The most important thing is can you solve their problem?  That’s it.  They are hiring you because in some way, the role they are seeking to fill will help the company solve at least one of these three things:

  • Make money
  • Save money
  • Mitigate risk

Every role, directly or indirectly, is budgeted for because it addresses one of these areas.  For some roles, the connection is very simple:

  • Salespeople sell stuff which helps the company make money
  • Procurement people buy stuff for less which helps the company save money
  • Accounts receivable folks collect money faster which both makes the company money (increases cash flow) and saves the company money (reduces the need to borrow with interest expenses)
  • Supply chain professionals vet and diversify suppliers to reduce risk in case there is an unexpected interruption in needed materials or finished product

But what about some less obvious connections to impacting the business:

  • An executive assistant organizes time for the CEO so she can focus on making money, saving money, and mitigating risk
  • A Python programmer works on a new product that will make the company money
  • An IT professional works on retiring tech debt thus reducing expenses of an old system and mitigating risk by updating system to more reliable platforms
  • Customer success professionals make the company money by achieving higher renewal rates which increases ARR which drives the value of the company
  • An HR professional recruits talent more quickly and with higher quality that achieve all three business objectives
  • A creative designer incorporates consumer insights into new packaging that is appealing on shelf and clearly communicates the product benefits, thus making the company money through innovation success

STAR Stories

How many times have you been a finalist candidate for a role?  In my job search consulting practice, it is not uncommon for me to meet new clients who have been a finalist five or more times during their current search.  To their credit, they are identifying opportunities and getting engaged in active recruiting cycles.  Unfortunately, they are always the proverbial bridesmaid, never the bride. While there may be various situation-specific reasons why this can happen, when I do a post-mortem with them on what are the common threads across the missed opportunities, quite often it is a result of ineffectively demonstrating their value proposition.  

Our value proposition is most effectively shared in the context of past successes that relate to the interviewing company’s needs.

Candidates whose stories are overly modest, vague, or uninspiring are rarely offered the position.  The antidote to this is great storytelling.  How we relate an experience (tell a story) is the single most important factor in getting a job offer.  Let me say that again, how we relate an experience (tell a story) is the single most important factor in getting a job offer. It convincingly answers the question, “Does this candidate really have the skills we need to solve our business problem?” Being crisp and relevant with storytelling is the mountaintop of interviewing.  Without proper training, many people ramble and retell a story the way they experienced it (it was cold, our flight was delayed 4 hours, I had the stomach flu…), versus using a structured format to be clear, concise, and compelling.  This is why formats for storytelling like these were developed:

  • CAR – Challenge, Action, Result
  • PAR – Problem, Action, Result
  • STAR – Situation, Tasks, Action, Result

I have a slight modification to STAR that hopefully enhances it a bit.  By replacing the T for Tasks with Thinking, we get to what the employer is really hiring, your brain.  The basic math they are doing in their heads when they are asking you questions is to determine how well you can solve the kinds of problems they have.  They are mapping your answers to see if your experience is applicable to their problems.  Your efforts in Research and Preparation, coupled with Storytelling, is to tie your experience and qualifications to their issues.

The Job Description

Like a great doctor, you are trying to gather as much information about your patient so that you can accurately diagnose their pain and provide the best cure.  One of the most fundamental steps a doctor can take is to read the patient’s chart.  In the context of an interview cycle, the job description is the patient’s chart.  The company spent a lot of time and energy articulating where it hurts and what a remedy would look like.  Let’s look at a real-world example (name changed) for major symptoms this patient is suffering from.  First, we will see the job description as originally posted.  We will then look for themes (Symptoms) that recur as strong indications of where it hurts.  We will see three different themes emerge:

  • Retail and Consumer
  • C-level / Senior level
  • Sales

Job Description as originally posted

Join Our Team

Denominator fosters a unique culture that encourages its people to grow and expand their role commensurate with their capabilities. In a fast-paced environment that is centered on delivering client value through strong market analytics, Denominator associates and leaders have the opportunity to work with the top brands and companies on the planet. If you are looking for boundless opportunities and a culture where your progress is gated only by your effort and performance, Denominator may be your ideal fit.

Enterprise Sales Director - Retail (West or Midwest Regions)

Denominator is a data and technology company reinventing market research. Headquartered in Chicago, IL, Denominator has 1,600 employees worldwide. The company blends proprietary data with advanced technology to create unique insights for the market research industry that has been slow to change.  The majority of Fortune 100 companies are Denominator clients. 

Job Description

As an Enterprise Sales Director in our Retail vertical, you will have the opportunity to work with some of the world’s most iconic retailers to help bring to life their advertising, marketing, pricing, and consumer insights strategies through Denominator's rich portfolio of solutions and insights. The Enterprise Sales Director will develop and bring solutions, insights and communicate our value proposition to all our retail prospects and current clients.  This role will partner with multiple cross-functional teams in a fast paced and collaborative environment to drive new revenue growth at existing clients and create demand for new logo revenue.

Our most successful Enterprise Sales Directors develop winning account strategies for the growth of their assigned territories by prioritizing and profiling their assigned accounts. These strategies include analysis and identification of C-level and other senior-level key decision makers and influencers within and across each buying center as well understanding key business questions we can help answer and solve with our solutions. 

Job Duties include:

  • Continuing or igniting growth at the largest retailers in the industry
  • Generate leads through professional networking, attending trade shows and social selling techniques
  • Prospect and build new business pipeline in assigned territory
  • Build strong relationships with clients and prospective clients by creating trust and confidence at multiple levels within all key focus areas in the organization
  • Uncover and develop client business needs based on Denominator's unique Point of View and set of comprehensive capabilities and solution sets
  • Articulate and demonstrate the value of our solutions individually and as a unique set of connected capabilities
  • Lead the complete sales cycle from opportunity identification to contract negotiation across all product lines by working with clients, prospects, and internal teams

Skills & Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree or Master's degree (preferred)
  • 5+ years of new business sales individual contributor experience selling into consumer products and retailers with particular emphasis on building new relationships and opening new accounts
  • Proven ability to interact and drive relationships at the C-level
  • Deep understanding of multiple facets of retailer and consumer products with prior experience selling into marketing, advertising, market research, category management, shopper, or consumer insights buying centers
  • Understanding of household panel data (NPD, Nielsen and/or IRI) is a plus
  • Familiar with enterprise software applications and services designed for the retail and consumer goods industries (e.g., Nielsen, IRI, NPD)
  • Functional knowledge or previous use of CRM tool (Salesforce.com a plus) and its use for updating accounts, opportunities, and deal stage
  • Deep understanding of the sales process with the ability to engage senior level executives in strategic meetings to ensure top-down alignment regarding strategy and objectives
  • Strong negotiation skills
  • Skilled at building and managing customer relationships, including stakeholder management
  • Proven record of strong sales results where the individual has met and/or exceeded annual goals
  • Strong oral, written, and presentation skills
  • Exceptional Microsoft Office (PowerPoint, Excel, and Word) and G Suite skills
  • Collaborative mindset 

Job description highlighted for mentions of Retail or Consumer

Join Our Team

Denominator fosters a unique culture that encourages its people to grow and expand their role commensurate with their capabilities. In a fast-paced environment that is centered on delivering client value through strong market analytics, Denominator associates and leaders have the opportunity to work with the top brands and companies on the planet. If you are looking for boundless opportunities and a culture where your progress is gated only by your effort and performance, Denominator may be your ideal fit.

Enterprise Sales Director - Retail (West or Midwest Regions)

Denominator is a data and technology company reinventing market research. Headquartered in Chicago, IL, Denominator has 1,600 employees worldwide. The company blends proprietary data with advanced technology to create unique insights for the market research industry that has been slow to change.  The majority of Fortune 100 companies are Denominator clients. 

Job Description

As an Enterprise Sales Director in our Retail vertical, you will have the opportunity to work with some of the world’s most iconic retailers to help bring to life their advertising, marketing, pricing, and consumer insights strategies through Denominator's rich portfolio of solutions and insights. The Enterprise Sales Director will develop and bring solutions, insights and communicate our value proposition to all our retail prospects and current clients.  This role will partner with multiple cross-functional teams in a fast paced and collaborative environment to drive new revenue growth at existing clients and create demand for new logo revenue.

Our most successful Enterprise Sales Directors develop winning account strategies for the growth of their assigned territories by prioritizing and profiling their assigned accounts. These strategies include analysis and identification of C-level and other senior-level key decision makers and influencers within and across each buying center as well understanding key business questions we can help answer and solve with our solutions. 

Job Duties include:

  • Continuing or igniting growth at the largest retailers in the industry
  • Generate leads through professional networking, attending trade shows and social selling techniques
  • Prospect and build new business pipeline in assigned territory
  • Build strong relationships with clients and prospective clients by creating trust and confidence at multiple levels within all key focus areas in the organization
  • Uncover and develop client business needs based on Denominator's unique Point of View and set of comprehensive capabilities and solution sets
  • Articulate and demonstrate the value of our solutions individually and as a unique set of connected capabilities
  • Lead the complete sales cycle from opportunity identification to contract negotiation across all product lines by working with clients, prospects, and internal teams

Skills & Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree or Master's degree (preferred)
  • 5+ years of new business sales individual contributor experience selling into consumer products and retailers with particular emphasis on building new relationships and opening new accounts
  • Proven ability to interact and drive relationships at the C-level
  • Deep understanding of multiple facets of retailer and consumer products with prior experience selling into marketing, advertising, market research, category management, shopper, or consumer insights buying centers
  • Understanding of household panel data (NPD, Nielsen and/or IRI) is a plus
  • Familiar with enterprise software applications and services designed for the retail and consumer goods industries (e.g., Nielsen, IRI, NPD)
  • Functional knowledge or previous use of CRM tool (Salesforce.com a plus) and its use for updating accounts, opportunities, and deal stage
  • Deep understanding of the sales process with the ability to engage senior level executives in strategic meetings to ensure top down alignment regarding strategy and objectives
  • Strong negotiation skills
  • Skilled at building and managing customer relationships, including stakeholder management
  • Proven record of strong sales results where the individual has met and/or exceeded annual goals
  • Strong oral, written, and presentation skills
  • Exceptional Microsoft Office (PowerPoint, Excel, and Word) and G Suite skills
  • Collaborative mindset 

Job description highlighted for mentions of C-level or senior level

Join Our Team

Denominator fosters a unique culture that encourages its people to grow and expand their role commensurate with their capabilities. In a fast-paced environment that is centered on delivering client value through strong market analytics, Denominator associates and leaders have the opportunity to work with the top brands and companies on the planet. If you are looking for boundless opportunities and a culture where your progress is gated only by your effort and performance, Denominator may be your ideal fit.

Enterprise Sales Director - Retail (West or Midwest Regions)

Denominator is a data and technology company reinventing market research. Headquartered in Chicago, IL, Denominator has 1,600 employees worldwide. The company blends proprietary data with advanced technology to create unique insights for the market research industry that has been slow to change.  The majority of Fortune 100 companies are Denominator clients. 

Job Description

As an Enterprise Sales Director in our Retail vertical, you will have the opportunity to work with some of the world’s most iconic retailers to help bring to life their advertising, marketing, pricing, and consumer insights strategies through Denominator's rich portfolio of solutions and insights. The Enterprise Sales Director will develop and bring solutions, insights and communicate our value proposition to all our retail prospects and current clients.  This role will partner with multiple cross-functional teams in a fast paced and collaborative environment to drive new revenue growth at existing clients and create demand for new logo revenue.

Our most successful Enterprise Sales Directors develop winning account strategies for the growth of their assigned territories by prioritizing and profiling their assigned accounts. These strategies include analysis and identification of C-level and other senior-level key decision makers and influencers within and across each buying center as well understanding key business questions we can help answer and solve with our solutions. 

Job Duties include:

  • Continuing or igniting growth at the largest retailers in the industry
  • Generate leads through professional networking, attending trade shows and social selling techniques
  • Prospect and build new business pipeline in assigned territory
  • Build strong relationships with clients and prospective clients by creating trust and confidence at multiple levels within all key focus areas in the organization
  • Uncover and develop client business needs based on Denominator's unique Point of View and set of comprehensive capabilities and solution sets
  • Articulate and demonstrate the value of our solutions individually and as a unique set of connected capabilities
  • Lead the complete sales cycle from opportunity identification to contract negotiation across all product lines by working with clients, prospects, and internal teams

Skills & Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree or Master's degree (preferred)
  • 5+ years of new business sales individual contributor experience selling into consumer products and retailers with particular emphasis on building new relationships and opening new accounts
  • Proven ability to interact and drive relationships at the C-level
  • Deep understanding of multiple facets of retailer and consumer products with prior experience selling into marketing, advertising, market research, category management, shopper, or consumer insights buying centers
  • Understanding of household panel data (NPD, Nielsen and/or IRI) is a plus
  • Familiar with enterprise software applications and services designed for the retail and consumer goods industries (e.g., Nielsen, IRI, NPD)
  • Functional knowledge or previous use of CRM tool (Salesforce.com a plus) and its use for updating accounts, opportunities, and deal stage
  • Deep understanding of the sales process with the ability to engage senior level executives in strategic meetings to ensure top down alignment regarding strategy and objectives
  • Strong negotiation skills
  • Skilled at building and managing customer relationships, including stakeholder management
  • Proven record of strong sales results where the individual has met and/or exceeded annual goals
  • Strong oral, written, and presentation skills
  • Exceptional Microsoft Office (PowerPoint, Excel, and Word) and G Suite skills
  • Collaborative mindset 

Job description highlight for mentions of Sales skills

Join Our Team

Denominator fosters a unique culture that encourages its people to grow and expand their role commensurate with their capabilities. In a fast-paced environment that is centered on delivering client value through strong market analytics, Denominator associates and leaders have the opportunity to work with the top brands and companies on the planet. If you are looking for boundless opportunities and a culture where your progress is gated only by your effort and performance, Denominator may be your ideal fit.

Enterprise Sales Director - Retail (West or Midwest Regions)

Denominator is a data and technology company reinventing market research. Headquartered in Chicago, IL, Denominator has 1,600 employees worldwide. The company blends proprietary data with advanced technology to create unique insights for the market research industry that has been slow to change.  The majority of Fortune 100 companies are Denominator clients. 

Job Description

As an Enterprise Sales Director in our Retail vertical, you will have the opportunity to work with some of the world’s most iconic retailers to help bring to life their advertising, marketing, pricing, and consumer insights strategies through Denominator's rich portfolio of solutions and insights. The Enterprise Sales Director will develop and bring solutions, insights and communicate our value proposition to all our retail prospects and current clients.  This role will partner with multiple cross-functional teams in a fast paced and collaborative environment to drive new revenue growth at existing clients and create demand for new logo revenue.

Our most successful Enterprise Sales Directors develop winning account strategies for the growth of their assigned territories by prioritizing and profiling their assigned accounts. These strategies include analysis and identification of C-level and other senior-level key decision makers and influencers within and across each buying center as well understanding key business questions we can help answer and solve with our solutions. 

Job Duties include:

  • Continuing or igniting growth at the largest retailers in the industry
  • Generate leads through professional networking, attending trade shows and social selling techniques
  • Prospect and build new business pipeline in assigned territory
  • Build strong relationships with clients and prospective clients by creating trust and confidence at multiple levels within all key focus areas in the organization
  • Uncover and develop client business needs based on Denominator's unique Point of View and set of comprehensive capabilities and solution sets
  • Articulate and demonstrate the value of our solutions individually and as a unique set of connected capabilities
  • Lead the complete sales cycle from opportunity identification to contract negotiation across all product lines by working with clients, prospects, and internal teams

Skills & Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree or Master's degree (preferred)
  • 5+ years of new business sales individual contributor experience selling into consumer products and retailers with particular emphasis on building new relationships and opening new accounts
  • Proven ability to interact and drive relationships at the C-level
  • Deep understanding of multiple facets of retailer and consumer products with prior experience selling into marketing, advertising, market research, category management, shopper, or consumer insights buying centers
  • Understanding of household panel data (NPD, Nielsen and/or IRI) is a plus
  • Familiar with enterprise software applications and services designed for the retail and consumer goods industries (e.g., Nielsen, IRI, NPD)
  • Functional knowledge or previous use of CRM tool (Salesforce.com a plus) and its use for updating accounts, opportunities, and deal stage
  • Deep understanding of the sales process with the ability to engage senior level executives in strategic meetings to ensure top down alignment regarding strategy and objectives
  • Strong negotiation skills
  • Skilled at building and managing customer relationships, including stakeholder management
  • Proven record of strong sales results where the individual has met and/or exceeded annual goals
  • Strong oral, written, and presentation skills
  • Exceptional Microsoft Office (PowerPoint, Excel, and Word) and G Suite skills
  • Collaborative mindset 

What’s the diagnosis here?  

  • Symptom 1
    • Clearly this patient is concerned about relevant industry experience in Retail & Consumer Products.  Why does this matter to the employer?  It is one less thing they have to teach you before you are productive.  Hiring is a risky business by its nature and nearly every employer will have a bias for industry experience.  You might be really smart, a quick study, and interested in learning new things but from the employer’s perspective that all spells RISK.   
  • Symptom 2
    • Experience in calling on C-level or senior level executives.  This company believes that decisions for their services are made at the highest levels in a client organization and therefore need people who have C-suite contacts and are polished at that level of a client organization.
  • Symptom 3
    • Strong sales experience. This is fundamentally a sales role so a successful track record of producing results, knowing what it feels like to have that pressure to produce, comfortable with having a large percentage of their income dependent on performance are all critical traits they are looking for.

After reviewing the chart, the doctor typically begins the examination by asking questions.  That’s exactly what we looked at in Lesson 9.  As we noted, not only do relevant / differentiated questions distinguish you from the other candidates, they provide you with invaluable information to dig deeper into the underlying issues the company and the interview team are dealing with.  For example, asking, “How do you measure the cost of not resolving this problem?” can tell you the KPIs they use and telegraph to you which story to share that impacted similar problems in your prior work experience.

In this next section, we’ll look at how to take an existing portfolio of stories and craft them to be tailor-made to the employer’s needs.

Remixing

You should have a core set of stories, perhaps seven or so, that answer the most common interview questions you will encounter (see Lesson 9).  It would be nearly impossible to have a unique story for every conceivable circumstance, so the next best thing is to be able to shape and mold your playlist of stories to fit the situation and audience.  Essentially you will be a DJ who is remixing the same songs (your core set of stories) to suit your audience.  

Example story:

  • Situation 
    • Led the launch of a new product line for a syndicated data service targeting the Consumer Electronics (CE) industry
  • Thinking 
    • Understand the insights gaps clients feel with existing services
    • Evaluate our core differentiators and weaknesses relative to competition
    • Based on most common use cases, develop ROI model for moving to our new service
  • Action
    • Identified large CE manufacturer and built relationship with their Retail team.  Offered them a modest discount and exclusive access to the data for a period of 12 months in exchange for helping us get the value proposition right
    • In month 6, hired 2 sales reps to take to market
  • Result
    • $400,000 revenue in Year 1
    • Marquee client and retailer to go to market with
    • Now a $3M business

Now, depending on whom I’m interviewing with, I can remix this story to resonate more effectively with the interviewer.

  • CEO
    • Strong evidence that I’m a strategic thinker, entrepreneurial
  • CFO
    • Focused on the financial aspects of the story like revenue generating in Year 1, low cost to launch
  • CRO
    • Stressing this initiative was revenue generating in Year 1, plus she can grow the organization around me as a team builder / leader
  • Salespeople
    • Demonstrate to my peers or team that I’m not afraid to get in the trenches and I actually know how to sell, not just manage spreadsheets and forecasts
  • Client Services
    • Emphasize to the Services organization won’t be overly taxed with poorly positioned or highly customized deliverables, rather we only sell products we know we can deliver with scale and excellence

Similarly, this one story can be remixed to meet the needs of various situations.

  • Tell me about yourself
    • I’ve always been drawn to exploring new places and trying things I haven’t done before, like traveling to off the beaten path locations or camping in remote areas.  In my career, I think those same traits come out, for example successfully launching new verticals like the Consumer Electronics practice at Denominator, taking it from $0 to over $3M in under three years.  In my next role, I’m looking forward to contributing in a role that allows me to flex and grow my entrepreneurial muscles while delivering high value to clients.
  • We’re a start-up and don’t have unlimited resources. Tell me about a time when you made something happen on a shoestring budget.
  • You say on your resume you’re a strategic thinker, can you give me an example of that?
  • The company needs to open up new revenue streams to complement our core markets.  How would you think about doing that?
  • Tell me about a time you successfully did cold call prospecting?

With a just a bit of creativity, all of those questions can easily be answered with the same story.   

Reflection:

  • Have you spent more time on your resume and not as much on your stories?
  • Thinking about your career, do you already have a core playlist of 5-7 stories that clearly demonstrate your value?
  • How can you strengthen them within the framework of Make Money, Save Money, Mitigate Risk?
  • Take time now to map out at least one story in the STAR format