So the word “SAR” is back to being a bad word… Here’s what to do instead. Part 1 of 2

By: Don Oehlert
Managing Partner, eCareerCoaching.com

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If you are an “average Joe” American, you’ve been pummelled by over 3,000 advertising messages per day over the last few years. As a result, your attention span is about 28 seconds long.

You can’t help it. You have to keep a short attention span, so you can stay sane. Period.

Think about it this way. If we tried to actually listen to, analyze and then act upon each of those 3,000 items each day, we’d never get anything else done.

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And when we are not ignoring sales messages, we are interrupting each other. This is an interrupt-driven society. Whatever *I* have to say is *much* more important than what *you* have to say, right?!?

RIGHT?!!??!?

(Notice how often that happens the next time have a “hot” discussion with someone you know.)

So, what’s a marketer (job seeker in this context) to do in the midst of all that noise?

If you’ve been to a few networking meetings over the last 20 years, you’ve probably heard of the term “SAR story.” As a refresher, here’s what that means:

Situation as I found it – takes about 2-3 minutes to explain

Action I took – anywhere from 3-5 minutes to explain

Result of my action – BAM! – less than 5 seconds to say

The problem with this model is, it takes a minimum of 5 minutes, and a maximum (hopefully) of 8 minutes to tell each story completely. Interviewers are tired of hearing them. Sort of like the old “I work too hard,” or “I’m a perfectionist” when you are asked about your weaknesses.

Bleh. Tired phrases. Humblebragging.

Not a good look.

This is the scenario I’m drawing for you today: I’m the interviewer and you’re the interviewee. Here’s even more setup.

Since we’re living in an interrupt-driven society with attention spans that last only 28 seconds, how do you get your information/”social proof” across that shows that you can do this job better than anyone else?

You won’t.

Somewhere in the telling of your “S” or “A” parts of your SAR story, I’ll think of something my college roommate did several years ago; or my daughter’s last soccer game; or my son’s piano recital a couple of weeks ago.

I could also wander off into the greener pasture where my actual job lies. You know, since I’m down a person, more work is waiting for me to get done. I may be planning my next sales meeting. I may start thinking about my vacation that’s coming up in a couple of weeks. Any number of things could grab my attention while you drone on and on about how great you are.

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It’s not my fault – I’m human, too.

Oh, and it will also feel a bit like you’re trying to sell me something in the old “Features and Benefits” method.

And as a human being, I hate being sold.

So what’s a job seeker to do?

Well for starters, dig up and document your SAR stories. Carefully. Have 3-5 of them per decade of your professional experience.

Wait. WHAT?

Didn’t I just throw water on the whole SAR story fire?

Yes, I did.

SAR stories should never be used in the context of a job interview. They should be used as background material from which you create all of your other job search materials. But you have to know what you did, and what it was worth before you can create the short, pithy value statements that should make up your elevator pitch, handbill, resume and interview discussion points (among other things).

Your SAR stories are the facts upon which you document your professional life.

But you don’t tell them in an interview. You’ll bore your interviewer – me, in this scenario – to tears. And if you bore me during the interview, do you think I’ll hire you to work with my team each day?

Somehow, I kind of doubt it.

So make SAR stories. Deduce your quantified metrics. Measure how those metrics generated business drivers. From these two tactical items you’ll be able to find out how you “moved the needle” before. Tell me those Results early and often, and now you’re on my agenda. I’ll ask you the questions, and I’ll listen to how you achieved those Results, and think about how they’ll fit here, in my culture.

You then will have a better chance to hear those really exciting words – “you’re hired!”


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