From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

December 2021
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After the Interview. AAR AfterActionReview
Filed under: Interviewing, Mentoring, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 5:09 pm

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
from them. 

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.

2 Responses to “After the Interview. AAR AfterActionReview”

  1. site admin Says:

    Here are the questions you need to ask in each AAR:
    • What was supposed to happen?
    • Why actually happened (the “ground truth”)?
    • What were the positive and negative factors here?
    • What have we learned and how can we do better next

    The Army suggests you divide your time in answering
    the AAR’s questions into 25-25-50: That is,
    25 percent reviewing what happened,
    25 percent reviewing why it happened, and the
    remaining 50 percent on what to do about it and how
    can you learn from it to improve.

    The objective is not just to correct things, but rather to
    correct thinking, as the Army has learned that flawed
    assumptions are the largest factor in flawed execution—
    another way of saying there is no good way to execute
    a bad idea.

    The AAR could be videotaped, audio recorded, or
    summarized later in a formal report, any of which
    could be deposited into the organization’s knowledge
    bank. The Army also recommends answering the
    following summary questions to wrap up the AAR:
    • What should the organization learn from this
    experience of what worked and did not work?
    • What should be done differently in the future?
    • Who needs to know these lessons and conclusions?
    • Who will enter these lessons in the knowledge
    management system, or write the case up for future use?
    • Who will bring these lessons into the leadership
    process for decision-making and planning
    Imagine the benefits of having a library of AARs for
    almost any type of project, process, or method the
    company may encounter.
    Imagine a culture that understands AARs are real work,
    where time is spent on not just doing the work, but
    also improving the way work is done. Perfectionist
    cultures, however, resist this type of candid reflection,
    as they tend to be intolerant of errors, and mistakes are
    associated with career risk, not continuous learning.
    Confucius said “being ashamed of our mistakes turns
    them into crimes.” The medical world has an appropriate
    axiom for mistakes made: forgive and remember. Fear
    is another reason for learning not taking place.

    AARs mitigate fear, if they are used not as a method to
    place blame but to learn from mistakes so they do not
    happen again, and identify best practices so they can
    be spread throughout the organization.
  2. site admin Says:

    Answers to Tough Interview Questions

    Tell me about yourself. This is really more of a
    request than a question. But these few words can
    put you on the spot in a way no question can. Many
    quickly lose control of the interview during the
    most critical time- the first five minutes. This is
    not the time to go into a lengthy history or wander
    off in different directions. Your response should
    be focused and purposeful. Communicate a pattern
    of interests and skills that relate to the position in
    question. Consider your response to this question
    as a commercial that sells your autobiography.
    Provide an answer that includes information about
    where you grew up, where you went to school, your
    initial work experience, additional education and
    special training, where you are now, and what you
    intend to do next. One of the most effective ways
    to prepare for this question is to develop a 60-second
    biographic sketch that emphasizes a pattern of
    interests, skills, and accomplishments. Focus your
    response around a common theme related to your
    major interests and skills.
    Where do you see yourself five years from now?
    This open-ended question is one of the most difficult
    and stressful ones job seekers face. Employers
    ostensibly ask this question because they are looking
    for people who know what they want to do and who
    are focused on specific professional goals. If you
    lack goals, you will have difficulty answering this
    question. Be sure you arrive at the interview with a
    clear vision of what you want to do today, tomorrow
    and five years from now. Be consistent with the
    objective on your resume and the skills and
    accomplishments you’re communicating to the
    interviewer. Your answer should be employer-centered.
    Give an example of a goal you both set and achieved.
    Ideally, this should be a professional goal; such as
    improved time management skills, achieved new
    performance targets, or learned a new skill. A
    personal example can also be appropriate if it reinforces
    your pattern of accomplishments.
     We all have weaknesses. What are some of your
    major weaknesses?
    This is not the time to confess
    all your problems nor to confidently say you have no
    What type of decisions do you have difficulty making?
    Show that you are generally decisive but mention that
    there are situations that give you time to pause or you
    are learning how to better make decisions.
    What is your biggest failure? Focus on something
    outside your work or something that happened on the job
    that you later fixed.
    What are the major reasons for your success? This
    is not the time to become extremely self-centered and
    arrogant. Keep in mind that employers are often looking
    for team players rather than Lone Rangers. A good
    response to this question may relate to a mentor or
    the people you work with. 
    Why should we hire you rather than someone else?
    Focus on what strengths you bring to the table. These
    should be consistent with the four things most employers
    are looking for in candidates during the job interview:
    competence, professionalism, enthusiasm, and likability.
    How do you spend your free time?
    Why do you want to work in this industry?
    How do you stay current?
    Describe your ideal career.
    Tell me something about yourself that I didn’t know
    from reading your resume.

    Describe your first encounter or a recent encounter
    with the company or its products and services.
    What have you learned about our company from
    customers, employees, or others?

    There are many more suggestions and ideas in the
    above link.

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