How Much Time Should You Spend on Context in an Interview?

Whether you’re answering a behavioural interview question using the STAR structure (Situation, Task, Actions, Results/Reflections), or giving upfront context during a presentation or meeting: what’s the best % ratio to use when you’re giving that context?

How can you avoid spending too long on setting the scene? I used to get bogged down in detail with this (and still have to stay alert to the danger!)  – and so do many people I work with.

Getting the ratio right can make the difference between your audience tuning out and drifting to thoughts of lunch or the weekend, or staying engaged right to the end.

In this video, I recommend one % ratio in particular that your audience or interview panel are looking for: think of the 80 20 rule.

Only 20% of your time should be spent on the setup and the context. And 80% focused on the actions and results.

Context is important. But it’s not usually what your audience or your interview panel is most interested in.

They’re after the deeper insights they’ll gain from hearing about what you did, the results, and the self-reflection you did. This tells them about your values, your capacity for self-awareness, and potentially how you ‘fit’ with others in your team or organisation.

The transcript is below the video if you prefer to read.




Whether you’re giving context in a meeting or setting up the scene for some kind of case-study or story in a presentation, or you’re answering a behavioral question in an interview – it’s worth checking your percentage ratio.

How long are you spending on the setup and the context versus the actions that you took and the results or reflections?

I recommend the 80 20 rule: 80% of your time should be spent on the second half…so the actions and results; and only 20% on the setup and the context.

The context is important, but it’s not really what your audience or your interview panel is most interested in.

Best wishes with your public speaking or presentations!

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