Ace the Interview: Using the SPARK-Technique to Stand Out from the Crowd

Group Of Diverse People Waiting For Job Interview In Office
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Congratulations! You have razzle-dazzled the department manager with your small-talk skills and your memorable elevator pitch and have received the exciting news that you have a job interview. After giving yourself that well-deserved pat on the back, you realize that it’s time to start preparing. You set out to craft the most powerful and impactful answers that will not only impress your audience, but will also demonstrate how you CAN and WILL add tremendous value to their company. What might that answer look like?

SPARK Technique

Using the SPARK-technique is one of the most concise and relevant ways to answer each interview question. The method requires the interviewee to provide his/her answer in a well-structured, five-point response that addresses the following key areas:

  • SITUATION: Briefly discuss the situation or event in question. Add a few details to help the listener understand the context, including date, duration of time, number of members on the team, budget, deadline expectations, etc.
  • PURPOSE: Explain the overall purpose of the task or action.
  • ACTION: Include 3 – 5 steps YOU took to accomplish the situation? Incorporate specific and descriptive action verbs and use sequence markers to help guide the listener.
  • RESULT(S): Confidently state the positive outcome(s) of your actions. Remember to quantify, quantify, and quantify some more.
  • KNOWLEDGE: What important lesson(s) did you learn from this situation?

Scenario

Now that you have a clear idea of the 5 components of the SPARK-interview technique, let’s take a look at an example.

Question: You’re facilitating an ELT program for students/clients with language profiles in the CLB 5 – 8 level. How do you manage this multi-level group?

 

SITUATION The situation I would like to talk about today is when I facilitated the ELT Program for Internationally Trained Professionals, held at ACCES Employment.

I served as facilitator from October 2013 to July 2017, running 17 sessions with over 250 graduates in the 140-hour intensive Business English and Communication Course.

PURPOSE The purpose of the course is to help prepare new Canadians to find and keep meaningful employment in their sectors in Canada.

The participants are in the CLB 5 – 8 range and are looking to develop both their English language fluency, as well as their understanding of the Canadian work environment.

ACTION To build appropriate lesson plans that addressed the abilities and needs of the diverse classroom, I completed the following three actions:

First, I created a chart of the common language outcomes and features of communication across Stage 2: CLB 5 – 8, as outlined in the Canadian Language Benchmarks.  I used these outcomes and features when planning lessons, tasks, and assessments.

Second, I designed and administered a diagnostic reading, writing, listening, and speaking assessment of each student, based on program outcomes.

Third, I used the information from the common features and the diagnostic assessment to group and re-group participants of varying language levels to serve either as the leaders or supports of each task.

RESULT The result was exactly as I had hoped.

Rather than creating a variety of different criteria for each student based on their language profile, I was able to create one criterion for each task, which allowed each member of each group to utilize their language strengths. This not only saved me from creating multiple lesson plans and alternative tasks, but it also enabled me to focus on simultaneously developing the participants’ collaborative skills and confidence in their language strengths.

After a few sessions, the enrollment for the program increased, and I was verbally recognized by the manager of the program, as well as the senior manager of the center. I was then asked to develop and facilitate additional OSLT programs in the organization.

KNOWLEDGE From this, I learned two valuable lessons.

First, grouping participants with varied language profiles will allow them to demonstrate their language strengths while developing their language gaps through collaborative group work.

Second, it allowed me to provide more support to each group rather than spending unnecessary time creating multiple activities or spending an unequal amount of time with participants at the lower CLB levels, resulting in all participants feeling like they received equal attention and opportunity to develop their language skills and/or cultural knowledge.


Katina Deichsel is a Business Communication Coach and ELT / OSLT Curriculum Designer who has had the great pleasure of guiding over 400 internationally-trained professionals in employment-focused training programs that not only prepare her clients to overcome the challenges of finding work in their fields in Canada, but to also build the confidence needed to push themselves out of their comfort zones and into networking and mentoring opportunities that get them that first interview. From there, with proper training in interviewing techniques, many of Katina’s clients have gone on to secure rewarding employment opportunities in the Finance, IT, Education, Health Services, Construction and Trades, and HR sectors.  

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