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The Art of Telling An Effective Story

Preparing for an interview can be an exhaustive process.  Do you have the proper wardrobe? Do you know how to get to the office?  Do you know every piece of your resume and why you put it on there?  If you have all of this down, you probably feel pretty prepared, but you forgot something.  Do you have effective stories to tell?

Stories?  But I’m getting ready for an interview not a campfire.

Just as stories connect people around a campfire, they are an important part of establishing rapport with your interviewer.  Other reasons why stories are critical in interviews:

  • They make your past duties and responsibilities interesting and memorable
  • Stories demonstrate how you used your skills to overcome a challenge or meet a goal
  • They give a better sense of who you are and how you work

So what are the elements of a good story for interviewing?

  1. Short and to the point – Each story should not be more than two minutes.  Anything longer and you will lose the audience.  If they ask for more detail, you may share more but wait to see if they ask.
  2. Relevant to the position you are applying for – A great story quickly becomes a bad one if it doesn’t somehow connect and make you a match to the job you are applying for and the question asked by the interviewer.
  3. Interesting –Find ways to make your stories appealing.  Don’t make things up, but choose words that create great imagery. A sense of drama that leaves the listener wondering how things will turn out is ideal.
  4. Showcases your skills – Think about what skills you feel are your strongest, and how those have applied to past successes.  Highlight those when preparing your stories.

The next step is to prepare and practice your stories.  As you are creating your stories, the general structure should be:

  • Quick presentation of background information including the problem or situation to be solved
  • The actions you took, including how you used your skills to create success
  • The positive conclusion that occurred and the impact your actions had.

Once you have your stories created, practice them with friends and family to get their take on them.  Make sure they feel it showcases the items and skills you want.  If it doesn’t, go back and tweak accordingly.

Be sure to prepare a wide variety of stories so you have just the right one for the question being asked. Generic stories that you can plug in anywhere do not come off smoothly in interviews.  Typical questions that may invite you to share a story include:

  • What are your strengths?
  • Give an example of a challenging situation you were faced with and how you handled it.
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why do you want to work for this organization?
  • Are you a team player?
  • What has been your biggest professional disappointment?  (Be sure to highlight what you learned from this to put a positive spin on it.)

By having a number of quality, descriptive stories ready at your interview, you will be setting yourself ahead of the competition and much more likely to get the job.  If you do it right, you will be memorable to the interviewer, much like the campfire story you were told as a kid but still remember to this day.

 

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