Kathy Hanson’s blog A Storied Career is always full of interesting information about how to best use stories in your career development. Three recent resources she highlighted deal with how to best prepare and tell stories in a job interview.
The first resource is Tim Tyrell-Smith, author of HeadStrong, who offers a wonderful list of questions to ask yourself to get at “what’s memorable and interesting about you.”
Tim has also published this list of 31 questions on his blog.
These questions are primarily intended to generate sound bytes — which could be in story form — for networking situations — in which an individual might want to stand out from the crowd and be remembered. Most of the questions relate to personal rather than professional life, but a few of them could also generate stories that might come up in a job interview:
· Have you ever done anything really hard (run a marathon, complete a triathlon, read all the classics)
· What can you do unusually well (artist, chef, writer, chess, crossword puzzle)
· Do you have an engaging hobby (re-building cars, growing flowers, interior design)?
· What is your best quality?
· Have you ever written a novel, an ebook of poetry or a song?
· Have you had to overcome a challenge in your life?
· What one work accomplishment will you be remembered for?
· What are you passionate about?
· What have you always been known for?
The second resource she mentioned is career expert, Pamela Skillings, who suggests you pick stories not only for when you are answering behaviour competency questions but also for questions like “Tell me about yourself” and “Why should we hire you?”:
“I advise first jotting down the top 3-4 qualities that you feel set you apart from other candidates for this particular position. What do you want the recruiter to remember about you when deciding who to call back? These qualities should form the basis of your pitch. Then you must practice weaving them all together into an irresistible 2-minute story. Turn on a recorder (iPhone voice memo feature works well) and see what comes out. Your first few tries will be terrible, but you will find the right approach and the right rhythm if you keep trying. Ask an objective friend for feedback if you start to feel too close to it.”
The final resource is Sharon Graham who has written a post that gives advice on how to tell your SAR stories once you’ve created them. She suggests you consider the following:
§ Knowing how to engage listeners in an interview is pivotal. Reflecting on your brand story is a good jumping-off point. Whether your interviewers actually ask you to tell them why you believe you should be hired over any others or not, be ready with a short opener that tells them what makes you special.
§ Telling stories that reflect your passion helps diffuse tension. In fact, when you are totally immersed in a story, you will relax and the content will flow. Some stories will seem to take longer than in practice while others will feel much shorter.
§ Listening for opportunities to tell a short story will give you a chance to share more. Even when asked a traditional question like “what kind of leader are you?” you may spot an opening to segue into a story that illustrates your leadership style.
§ Checking for reaction and interest is important. All great storytellers look around as they speak. They feed off the energy of their audience. Being aware of the reaction you are getting can keep you going or give you a hint that it’s time to wrap up.
§ Keep the momentum – as long as your audience is captivated. If you are not entirely sure, you can pause and say something like, “Have I shared enough or would you like me to continue?”
§ Wrap up the entire interview process with a fitting conclusion. Ensure your listeners know how much you appreciated their interest in you and your stories of success, and how much you would enjoy working with them in the future.
Sharon also highlights one of the biggest reasons story is such a useful tool in interviews: “Once you start in on a story that is dear to your heart and deeply familiar, you will tell it convincingly.” As your next job interview approaches, prepare, practice and enjoy telling your stories.