Use the SESERV Strategy to Win Job Offers

SESRV job interview question responses combine the power of storytelling with sharing your relevant experiences to in ways that make you a truly memorable and hire-worthy candidate.

What wins job offers?  Let’s look at the process to get there:

1. It lets me know my boss cares about me and what I’m getting out of empYour ticket to a job interview was how well the words in your résumé/application/social profile matched the employer’s list of essential keywords for the job.

2. Your invitation to become an interview finalist was based on the strength of your initial interviews.

3. What wins you a job offer is how effectively you proved your ability to excel in the job the employer needs done.

What Do Employers Want from Candidates?  The very best predictor of what someone will do is what they have already done in the past.  For example, suppose you needed an operation that could save or extend your life.  Which one of these two surgeons would you choose?

1. Smith, who just graduated from America’s leading medical school at the top of her class, having studied and observed your particular operation for three years during her residency. She also wrote an article that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on the patient recoveries for the operation but she never actually performed the operation. 


2. Jones, who was an average medical school grad, and who has performed the operation successfully on 1,800 patients.

Why did you choose Dr. Jones? Likely because you want a surgeon with a track record of success, not someone with vast knowledge who has yet to perform your operation.  The same premise holds when employers want to fill an opening – hiring managers want someone who has skillfully performed in similar roles, versus someone who can tell you how the job should be performed.

The SESRV Interview Strategy Answers What Employers Look for in a Candidate.  Most interview questions are designed to evaluate a candidate in terms of his or her skills, qualities, characteristics, work ethic, experiences, and the like.  Savvy candidates carefully prepare for their interviews by developing an inventory of quantifiable examples which illustrate how they successfully demonstrated the skills, qualities, characteristics, work ethic, and experiences the interviewer wants to learn about.

Whether the interviewer uses a behavioral interview approach or simply asks a candidate about his or her proficiency, the SESRV interview strategy makes a candidate someone the interviewer wants to hire.  It illustrates the candidate’s quantifiable accomplishments related in a compelling story of how the candidate delivered a successful outcome.  Here’s the S-E-S-R-V of the SESRV interview strategy:

1. S: Set Up. In the Set-Up stage, you’ll first want to define the particular characteristic, skill or proficiency the interviewer is looking for. For example, suppose the job calls for someone who isn’t afraid of hard work.  You know what you mean by hard work, so define it in order to frame your example of hard work.  


2. E: Example. Having defined the term, offer to provide least two recent and relevant examples.  Why two? Often people who prepare for a job interview have one example they’ve practiced.  Few have two examples, so you’re more likely to convince the interviewer with two examples.

3. S: Situation. This is where the storytelling comes in.  Use words to provide the backstory of the example you’re going to illustrate.  “Here was the situation I was dealing with… (and provide the specifics in story form).”   Tell about the obstacles you encountered, and what you did to overcome them.  Provide enough detail that illustrates your planning and execution process, but not so much so that you bore the interviewer. 

4. R: Results. Conclude the example by telling the interviewer how things turned out, what you delivered, and the result achieved, both in quantity and quality, relative to what was expected of you. 

5. V: Verify. Here’s where you summarize what you learned from the experience that you have applied (or will apply) and tie it to the position for which you are interviewing.  It is in this stage that you demonstrate you are a development-focused learner.

Here’s what your SESRV Answer should look like:

Here’s an example of a SESRV response to the interviewer’s question about hard work.

“Good question…let me first define what hard work means to me. It means working well beyond the normal requirements to deliver a great result that exceeds expectations.

I can give you several recent examples. The first example happened three weeks ago when my team was asked to complete a three-week program rollout in only two weeks. It involved providing a half-day training to six different teams located in six different time zones, which meant delivering some of the training during the night hours. We also had to navigate handling our regular duties and the unexpected illness of one of the key team members.

We took the challenge, and together developed the training timetable to meet the needs of each team, then delivered the documentation and workbooks electronically two days before each training session to give adequate time for them to be replicated locally.

As a result, we completed each of the six sessions on time, and our post-training evaluations were fantastic. What I learned was how to engage my team in the solution by setting clear expectations of the outcome and let them develop the plan, which has raised the levels of trust in our department. It’s a strategy I know will help me be effective in the role for which I’m interviewing.”

This story is believable because it contains specifics, but took less than two minutes to deliver. It may invite further questions from the interviewer to understand more of what happened, and if similarly answered, will convince an employer that you are a top performer in this area. Most interviewers never get this complete an answer, which also stands in your favor.

In addition, your answer provided much more than just an answer to the question of whether or not you are a hard worker. Among the other insights your interviewer discovered about you are:

  • How you think through a problem, your judgment and decision-making.
  • How you engage the people on your team (“we”), aligning them around a shared objective.
  • Your understanding of what it takes to build trust, essential for high-performing teams.
  • A sense of your communication skills and how clearly and concisely you articulate ideas.
  • Your focus on results, beginning the project with the objective in mind.
  • Your ability to work with the needs of others in the organization to create a positive experience.
  • How you learn from your work experiences and build skills for future use.
  • Your general attitude in positively working through obstacles.

Multiply Your Perceived Strengths with the Association Effect.  What happens when a candidate begins supplying SESRV answers consistently in response to his or her interviewer’s questions?  Based on decades of observation and experience, after a certain number of SESRV responses, the interviewer begins to apply the Association Effect and assume the candidate possesses equally strong competence in other areas not asked about.  Two reasons this happens:

1. SESERV answers reveal far more about a candidate than just the area around which the question was asked.

2. The assumption by the interviewer that he or she will receive equally detailed answers about other questions he or she might ask.

In order to leverage this tendency, job seekers should build a skills, experience, and characteristics inventory of real examples with quantifiable outcomes for use in interviews, on your résumé, and on social profiles.   

Bottom Line. Mastering the SESRV Strategy and then consistently applying it will result in winning more job offers and better job offers, because the candidate become the hunted, not the hunter.

About Me: I help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. My company’s acclaimed career development tools help people navigate the ever-changing landscape of conducting a successful job search. I also work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


Latest Leadership Posts


Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principles, Part 5 Continue Reading


The Seven Essential Soft Skills of Highly Effective Salespeople Continue Reading


Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principles, Part 4 Continue Reading