You’ve scored an interview.
This is where the rubber really meets the road. Where everything comes together.
So here’s a superpowered tip that can make all the difference to nailing the job.
Tell as story…..
Most people go into an interview having practiced their lines. They’ve found the most common interview questions online and prepared their answers to these questions. They’ve read about how to prepare for an interview, the do’s and don’ts of interviewing, they’ve nailed down their perfect professional interview outfit. But what they haven’t thought of is that an interview by rote does not come across nearly as sincere or genuine as a story.
Storytelling is an innate part of the human species. We’ve long been oral storytellers, and there’s a reason for this: storytelling is entertaining, authentic and a compelling form of self-expression.
“People have been using storytelling for many thousands of years as a memorable and effective way to pass along information,” says Karen Burns, creator of karenburnsworkinggirl and author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. “You could say that humans are ‘hard-wired’ to relate to and gravitate toward stories. A bunch of facts is just a bunch of facts. But a bunch of facts expressed in the form of a story becomes a persuasive tool. “
So why wouldn’t you take this persuasive tool and use it to your advantage at the interview?
Consider this: You enter your potential employer’s office on time. You sit down to the anticipated questions. But instead of delivering a previously devised series of answers without much character or intrigue, instead you tell your page-turner of a story.
As with any story, you need four things: a dynamic main character (you!), conflict (or the rising action of the plotline), climax and resolution.
Take Karen Burn’s advice: “Try to make your stories brief and powerful. You can do this in three short sentences. The first sentence states a problem, the second tells what you did to fix the problem, and the third describes the (good) results. For example you could say, ‘At my last job we were always running out of office supplies. So I created a spreadsheet for our inventory and taught people how to use it. We never ran out of anything after that and it saved everybody a lot of time.’”
Create Your Character & Your Plot
You are the main character of your story, and you don’t want to be the antihero or the protagonist that everyone hates. You want to be one of those main characters that everyone adores, admires and is rooting for.
How does your character come across when answering interview questions with storytelling?
- Be Your Character – First things first: The character you create must be authentically you or storytelling in an interview will never work. You know your good qualities. Make sure these come across both in your story and in your person. If you tell your interviewer that you are a leader, while speaking with a timid voice, fidgeting with your hands, and meekly staring at your feet, they’ll see right through you and will never believe your story.
- Illustrate Your Character’s Past – Here comes your character’s plotline. When you’re asked questions like, “Tell me about a time you…” don’t let these opportunities to tell a good story fall flat. Build the rising action, the climax and the resolution of your story. For example, you previously worked for a print newspaper (a medium that is slowly dying), and your employer wasn’t willing to get with the times. Illustrate the conflicts you faced in trying to confront the downturn of newspaper and ad sales and the ideas you had to modernize the company’s approach in order to make the newspaper relevant again. Make your story intriguing, lively, and impactful in a way that best illustrates your character’s past successes.
- Color Your Plot with Detail – Don’t be vague about your character or his storyline. The detail is what will set you apart from your competitors. Highlight the specifics (numbers, sales, percentage points, etc.) to clarify just how impactful your character was at his/her former jobs. Ensure that you’re clearly showcasing your character’s strengths through details.
- Demonstrate Your Character’s Present – “Why do you want to leave your current job?” When asked this zinger, explain why your character needs to grow and how this potential job can help him do so and take him to the places he wants to be. To make your answer to this question more engaging, explain your character’s goals in storytelling form. For example, “I was a kid when I had this dream to do such-and-such. Since then, the dream has lit a fire in me, a passion I’ve made grow through (details of working experience). I want to see this dream come true, to see this childhood dream fulfilled. I don’t feel entitled to following my dream. I feel I must earn it, and I want to do this by (what you can do for the company).”
- Create Scenarios in Which Your Character Comes Out on Top – When your interviewer asks, “What would you do in ______ situation?” create scenarios in which your character’s attributes shine. You’re a good leader? Inject that into the scenario set before you. You’re exceptional at organization? Tell that story in an intriguing way. Know your character (ie, yourself), through and through, and not only will you know exactly how they’ll handle any situation thrown at them, you’ll also know how to describe their handling of it in a compelling voice that highlights all of your character’s strengths.
- Practice Makes Perfect – Not everyone is a natural storyteller…but it’s a gift that you can learn. Karen Burns notes in her article for the Seattle Times: “Spend some time developing stories that succinctly answer the most likely questions you’ll get — how do you handle stress, what are your leadership skills, tell us about a time you failed at something, do you function well in a team, etc. Be specific. Don’t ramble. Practice so that you can clearly and audibly tell each story in under a minute. Remember that interviewers will ask for more detail if they’re interested.”
For those fresh out of university who feel they don’t have a story to tell, consider this advice from Karen: “Try to remember two things: everybody has experience of some sort and many experiences are transferable. A lot of the skills you’ve learned in school, sports, hobbies, and even family life can be framed to highlight your value to a potential employer. For example, maybe you organized a fundraiser for your volleyball team or created a website devoted to your family tree. These are great things to put in a cover letter and talk about at an interview.”
Now, it’s time to get out there and tell some true-life stories. At your next interview, follow these six steps and use storytelling to get your dream job.