Creating Interview Stories

Telling stories is an essential part of the human experience, and when you need to really sell yourself in an interview, a well-crafted, relevant story can make all the difference. If a hiring manager asks you something like, “Are you a team player?” then simply saying “Yes” is not going to be enough to impress anyone. You need to back up that assertion with a story that shows you truly are a team player. Stories are an excellent way to prove that you have the skills and characteristics a prospective employer is looking for.

The following attributes should be incorporated into every story you tell a job interview:

  • Simple
  • Unexpected
  • Concrete
  • Credible
  • Emotional

In order to be thoroughly prepared to talk about yourself at length, you should prepare beforehand so that you know, or at least have an idea, of what you are going to say.

Preparation in Creating Interview Stories

You should have an idea of what skills are required of the position you are applying for, so you should focus on finding times in your life when you displayed those skills. Although you should mainly focus on experiences derived from previous jobs, it is acceptable to talk about other areas of your life. Students straight out of high school or college might not have job-related experiences, so it is perfectly acceptable to talk about how you showed your competencies in other areas.

Similar to how you would obviously outline a book before writing it, you should also outline the stories you want to tell in an interview. This does not necessarily mean you have to write every single detail down, memorize it and then repeat in verbatim during the interview. Reciting your story from memory can be readily apparent to the hiring manager, and he or she is going to know that you just memorized a response. Instead, focus on the basic points you want to bring up that you are essential in conveying the information.

When you are preparing your story, you want to make sure the problem you were trying to solve or the opportunity that was presented to you is conveyed clearly. All the characters in your story should be well-defined, meaning you need to make it clear is someone you are talking about was in a position of authority over you or if they were your equal. Discuss actions that were taken and the results that were derived from that choice.

Something important to keep in mind when telling your story is to keep yourself as the main character. You do not want to discuss a time where you merely helped someone else or where a positive result can only be attributed to a minor thing you did. You want to emphasize your role so that it is clear that you are the one that has the characteristic the hiring manager is looking for, not a co-worker.

Another important note to keep in mind is to keep your story brief and simple. Although it can be easy to get caught up in every single detail, stick to the facts and only discuss what is relevant. Two to three minutes is typically recommended. If you go any longer than that, then you risk making the hiring manager bored, and he or she might start zoning out. Of course, if you have a particularly compelling story, you might have the interviewer at the edge of the seat to hear the ending.

Making Your Story Unexpected

Often what makes a joke funny is the unexpectedness of it. A good way to make the interviewer captivated by the story you are telling is to have an element of something unanticipated. You can add this characteristic to your stories by talking about a time where you took an unusual action that led to great results. You can also talk about a time where an action had a side effect that was unintended but ultimately beneficial.

When told well, a story can really sell the fact that you possess a certain characteristic. When spoken poorly, it can make the hiring manager question if you are actually qualified for the position. Similarly to how you would prepare your interview attire beforehand, you should also take some time to go over your experiences with common traits. This will make you sound much more confident while you are telling the story, and you will be in a much better position to get the job.

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