So, you have a job interview or a big meeting coming up with the boss or an important client. You’ve done your homework and you’re prepared, primed, and pumped up. But have you thought about your thinking speed?
We all know that interviews and high-stakes meetings can be stressful, and when nerves flare up, our tendency is to think and talk too fast, leading to our blowing that meeting that we prepared so hard for.
In his now classic book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” Daniel Kahneman takes a deep dive into how we think – and teaches us how we can think more effectively. According to Kahneman, one of the biggest problems is that we tend to think too fast.
When your brain reacts and responds automatically and instinctively – almost thinking without really thinking, that’s what he calls “thinking fast.” This is how we think most of the time. On the other hand, “thinking slow” is when your brain hits the pause button and takes a moment to consciously reason, consider, question, analyze, and decide, before responding or acting.
Of course “thinking fast” is a good thing. We couldn’t possibly – and wouldn’t want to – have to over-analyze every little thing before responding. But, on the flipside, how often do we make mistakes because we jump to conclusions or have knee-jerk reactions when we might have benefitted from pausing, even momentarily, to devise a more thoughtful and well-considered response?
So how can you leverage the power of “thinking slow” in your next job interview or meeting? One way is by simply remembering this extremely effective behavioral interviewing technique called “PARLA.”
With the PARLA technique, you might start by finding out more specifically what the job opening entails; and then, focusing on just one of the biggest challenges you might face in that position, you respond with a real-life story that illustrates how you’ve successfully solved similar challenges before. PARLA stands for Problem, Action, Result, Learning, & Application:
P – Problem: Here’s a problem or situation I faced previously that’s similar to that of this role;
A – Action: Here’s the action I took;
R – Result: Here’s the result or outcome of that action;
L – Learning: Here’s what I learned from that experience;
A – Application: And (the most important and relevant part to the interviewer) here’s how I would apply what I learned from that prior experience in this new role.
Let’s say the interviewer asks you, “Why do you think you can do this job and why should I hire you over anybody else?” What often happens, in your excitement and enthusiasm to convince the interviewer that you’re the right person for the job, you excitedly blurt out something like, “Because I have a degree in x, and five years’ experience, and I’m a hard worker and team player, and blah blah blah.” Not only are you thinking fast, you’re talking fast, and often just rambling on. And that’s what everyone else does.
Instead, differentiate yourself by pausing for a brief moment and thinking slow…slow enough to come up with a thoughtful and winning PARLA-based response that’ll make you stand out from the crowd. Focus on one – just one – key aspect of the job, and respond with something like this:
“You had mentioned that one of the key responsibilities and greatest challenges of this position was X. Well, one time, in my last job I faced a similar challenge. Here’s what I did… Here’s what the outcome was… Here’s what I learned… And here’s how I would apply what I learned in this role….
Even if things didn’t go well in the Results phase, what’s important is that you took an Action to address a Problem, and you Learned something valuable that you can Apply going forward. And, in truth, that’s really what the interviewer is looking for.
By the way, PARLA is not just for use when BEING interviewed; it is actually a classic behavioral interviewing technique that was originally designed for the interviewer to use to interview YOU. If an interviewer ever starts a sentence with, “Tell me about a time when you faced a situation in which…” you will know that that is exactly what they’re doing…and what they are looking for in terms of a response! So (not to give away any behind-the-scenes interviewing secrets), now that you are aware of this very popular interviewing methodology, you are now equipped to respond more effectively going forward.
Seizing the opportunity to tell a true, well-structured personal story using the PARLA format will capture and hold the interviewer’s attention, shows that you can think on your feet, and demonstrates with poise and confidence that you have what it takes to do the job…because you’ve been there before.
That’s the power of “thinking slow” in action.
For more on how you can improve your thinking, check out my post from last month entitled, “15 Fascinating Books to Help You Become a Better Thinker in 2015.”