Interviews: Telling Your Story

Interviews are not about just answering questions, your resume does most of the answering to the basic questions about your skill sets and abilities.  Interviewing is about telling a story and communicating a message.  When interviewing, you should strive to communicate how you would be a great fit for the organization and the position.  This requires storytelling abilities.

Two recent articles drive this point home:

Undercover Recruiter: Don’t Give Answers, Tell Stories

Marketplace: How to Interview Better Than 99% of People

In addition to the tips shared in the article, how can you be an effective storyteller in your next interview?

USE EXAMPLES: During the interview process, you will be asked to “Share a time when…” or “Provide an example…”.  This is the perfect time to tell a story.  Stories need to have a beginning that sets the stage, action, and final outcome.

  • Set the Stage: When sharing an example, be sure to provide a setting.  How many people were on the team?  What was the goal of the project? Was this a work or outside activity?  In 20-30 seconds, you should be able to convey the main setting points of your example.  Do not deluge the interviewer with details, hit the pertinent background points in order for the interviewer to understand the lay of the land.
  • Action: In this part, be sure to communicate your contribution/action.  What did you do?  What part of the project did you own? How did you approach the client?  What suggestions did you make to further the discussions? etc.  In short, the interviewer needs to hear from you as to your actions/efforts/contributions.  This is a crucial point at when asked about examples where teamwork was involved, too often candidates do not address their specific roles and contributions to the team but instead keep the focus 100% on the team actions.  Remember, YOU are interviewing for the job, not your entire team.
  • Results or Outcomes: Every story has to end, so make it a memorable one.  What did you learn from that experience?  How did your activities achieve a specific goal or influence an outcome?  What would you do differently next time?  The interviewer wants to know how you have developed to become a better individual because of this example.

Three Themes: A number of years ago, a survey was done of institutes of higher education and the words most commonly associated with the schools.  For example, Notre Dame’s three words may have been Catholic, tradition, and football.  These were the words  the general public most associated when they thought of Notre Dame.

What three words will the interview committee associate with you when you leave the room?  Innovative, leader, problem solver, details, strategic, results?  What words do you want them to associate with you?

Look over the job posting to identify the needs of the employer/position and then assess which three needs of the role are strengths of yours.  Weave these attributes into your answers in order to help the interview committee to associate yourself with term.  For example, I interviewed for a role that required the ability to reach out to clients for new business – thus persistence and relationship building was key.  During the interview I was asked what was my very first job (no lie, that was the question):

My first job was a paperboy.  The role required me to visit each customer and collect the weekly amount for delivery – this is key as without the collections I would not get paid.  This role taught me the need to follow-up with clients, identify optimal times to approach them (i.e. when they would be home) or for this role when they would be available to meet, and to not get discouraged when there was a miss one or two weeks in a row.

The key to this answer is to connect the story to a desired skill set needed for the position.  By relating the stories and examples back to the core competencies of the job, I communicate an image instead of answers to questions.

The next time you head into an interview – be memorable by relating stories.


About Kevin Monahan

I have 10+ years experience in coaching clients in their career management and career change efforts. Personal career consulting services combined with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituents.
This entry was posted in Branding, Interview, Job Search and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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