Telling Stories That Get the Job

When you picture a job interview, do you envision an emotionless, back-and-forth session of questions and answers? Interviewing doesn’t need to be this way– nor should it be. When you go into an interview expecting to be grilled, you set yourself up for combat rather than relationship building. One way to warm up the atmosphere and inject some humanity is through storytelling.

Stories help to reveal your character, build trust, and create a bond. They also make an interview a lot more interesting for everyone. Plus, by painting a picture you create a more memorable picture of yourself. Next time you interview, consider these tips:

Do your research. This should go without saying. Print out the job description to bring with you. Spend some time on the company’s website, check out their LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and social media accounts. If possible, talk to folks who work there. Know what the company needs so you know what sort of story is going to tell them what they need to know about you.

Is it appropriate? Storytelling proponent Esther Choy cautions that you need to be able to differentiate between personal and private information. A detail about your upbringing or home life may be relevant, just be sure it’s presented in a professional way. If a story didn’t happen in the workplace, that doesn’t mean it’s not okay to use in a professional setting— just make sure it’s appropriate for your audience.

Keep it brief. A story should ideally be no longer than 2 to 3 minutes in length. Like all stories, it should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It should also be relevant to the subject at hand. Also, be sure you know where you’re going when you start so you don’t ramble. 

Make it purposeful. There’s little point in sharing a story if it doesn’t highlight something about you. Be sure that your story speaks to whatever it is you want the interviewer to know about you. Did you learn something? Did you grow? Did you overcome a challenge? These are perfect examples of what to share.

You don’t have to be the main character. A story should be told from your point of view, but you don’t have to be the focus. Maybe you were a participant in a project, a mentor to someone who blossomed, or you learned something from someone else’s success or failure. Painting yourself as a superhero can work against you at times. You can highlight your accomplishments but also be humble— this shows character.

Adapted from Choy, E. (2019). 5 storytelling tips to help you ace your job interview.

Revised 17 August 2020



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Article ID: 114315
Wed 8/19/20 9:50 PM
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