Not Just Stories, but Stories Well Told
With storytelling well established as a way of responding to behavior-based questions, at least one scholarly study (by Ralston, Kirkwood, and Burant in 2003) focuses on how to measure and improve the quality of stories told in the interview. The authors present a set of criteria for an effective story to be used in a job interview:
- Internal consistency: Is the story cohesive? Does it avoid confusion and disjunction? Is the narrative consistent with the skills, abilities, and values the job-seeker wants to portray?
- Consistency with facts the listener knows to be true: Does the story conform to what the interviewer is likely to have experienced or knows about the environment the job-seeker is describing? Is it familiar and believable?
- Relevance to question asked and claim being made: In essence, does the story answer the question being asked? Does it provide appropriate evidence to support the skill, ability, knowledge, or characteristic the job-seeker is claiming?
- Univocality: Is the story unambiguous? Does it lead to just a single conclusion or interpretation?
- Detail that supports the claim being made: Is the story revealing? Does it, in the words of Ralston, Kirkwood, and Burant, “telling details of plot, characterization, and action that enable listeners to see for themselves what the point is?”
- Reflection of the job-seeker’s values, beliefs, sense of self/others, or emotional outlook: Does the job-seeker tell the story with sufficient passion so that it conveys a real sense of the applicant and how he or she might fit in with the employer’s organization?
Storytelling for Non-Behavior-based Interview Questions
While behavior-based responses are especially well suited to storytelling, you can tell stories in response to many other types of interview questions. One of these is the “question” that lends this book its title, “me about yourself,” which career writers Shelly Goldman and Wendy Enelow suggest is a great question to be asked because it “gives the candidate total control of the interview process” and is “a wonderful vehicle to build rapport.” Having interviewed 66 corporate human-resources executives, recruiters, hiring managers, and career experts for their book, Insider’s Guide to Finding a Job, Goldman and Enelow learned that those who make hiring decisions often like to learn some personal information about candidates. Thus, in the sample responses to “Tell me about yourself” that follow, you’ll find several instances of a more personal approach.