A useful tool to use after you take an interview, after
you give a seminar or presentation or after a planned
event is an After Action Review AAR.
AAR is a retrospective analysis of a goal oriented
action that performs an evaluation and offers improvements.
In this process “lessons learned” can be an output. AARs
are common in military actions, emergency preparation
and actions, knowledge management, exit interviews,
and fire and police actions.
Colin Powell brought to light AARs in a Face the nation interview
several years ago.
CASE 1. On site interview
Shou and I reviewed his recent on-site interview where he
did not feel he performed particularly well So we captured what
he felt he did well and where he did not see how his preparation
was enough to satisfy the interviewers. [AAR step]
He met the night before two professionals for dinner and then
first thing in the morning with the HR manager. His technical
presentation that followed went well and his audience provided positive
He had a short conversation with a friend in the company that
confirmed this impression. After lunch, that is where he had problems.
The interview then become a unique process of one interviewer
listening to him in a conference room where he was asked one question
for one hour. He was asked how he goes about and has demonstrated
innovation. [AAR step 2 identify and break down areas to improve]
It took him 5-10 minutes to offered prepared responses. Then, he
had nothing prepared to offer. [This apparently was the purpose
of this interview strategy: The question asked to demonstrate
communications skills, creativity, curiosity depth of thought in
his graduate education.]
We discussed how he could 1) break down the initial question,
2) how he should perform an audience analysis, and 3) know
some common ground to frame the response and 4) create a dialog,
rather than a monolog. 5) Use room facilities [white board,
pens, paper, draw diagrams, flow charts, PERT charts, etc.].
The next interview was the same format asking the question:
How do you make decisions. He faced a similar dilemma.
CASE 2. Bullying incident in a seminar
In a mock interviewing seminar, an audience member volunteered
to be interviewed face to face with a colleague. The planned
session was completed quite competently and the audience was
asked for positive comments and areas for improvement. Of
the half dozen comments one person articulated a pernicious
attack on the person. While the interviewee saw, smiled and
said thank you, the interviewer turned the comment around
and devised an appropriate strong assertion pointing out how
the interviewee had nicely overcome problems and learned
Everyone in the session observed the disservice and it was clear
this became a “teachable moment” how to deal with adverse
The interviewee and I privately discussed how I was very
impressed with maintenance of composure under the
circumstance. I indicated that the interviewer and the
whole seminar room noticed it and appreciated the very
professional way in which it was dealt.
All three co-presenters shared their concern about the
bullying that we observed. After consultation we thought
we were all surprised, dismayed and thought if we had
direct interactions with the bully we should privately confront
her and communicate this has no place in our scientific
An AAR is a critical tool in our toolkit to continually improve.