OK, you have scored the interview. Great job so far. You are professionally dressed; you have researched the company. You have gone over your background to be ready for any question; You know how to handle the dreaded “tell me about yourself” question (See last post or ask me to resend it to you)

How do you make your answers stand out? Try the TBAR acronym. These letters stand for Topic, Background, Action and Result. Interviewers don’t want lengthy, wandering answers, thus quick, hard-hitting, action-oriented answers are perfect. If the interviewer wants more information she can always ask. But remember, the key is to answer succinctly and throw control of the session back to the interviewer.

So let’s talk about how to start. Assume the interviewer asks, tell me about your experience managing difficult people. Think to yourself, Topic. And you say, “I have quite a bit of experience managing difficult people.”

Then think to yourself, Background. And you say, “one example that comes to mind relates to when I was managing a high-performance drug development project team with Apex pharmaceuticals. I had one member, a formulation leader, who was disruptive and negative. He frequently interrupted and always had a reason why we could never accomplish our mission to reduce the normal time to file an NDA (New Drug Application) with the FDA by 6 months.

Think to yourself, Action. And you say, “I took this person aside after the meeting, and asked if I could meet him for coffee. Over coffee, I tried to find out where all of the negativity was coming from. He ultimately explained that he felt that no one really listened to what he had to say, and he was on the verge of leaving the company. A previous project had been severely delayed because the team and management had not listened to his caveats about a particular dosage form. I convinced him to put that aside and try another way of interacting with the team. I assured him that I valued his experience and would listen, and so would the team.

Think to yourself, Result. And you say, “I am proud to tell you that this person became one of the top contributors on our team and was recently promoted by his Director.

It is very likely your interviewer will say, great, that’s exactly what I needed.

Tim Ruef is President/CEO of Ruef & Associates, a retained executive search firm specializing in pharmaceutical/biotech R&D.