Storytelling: The Key To Standing Out At Your Next Interview

When my clients land the in-person interview for their dream job, they almost always ask me, “What else can I do to stand out?” I understand their concern. They created the perfect resume and LinkedIn profile, passed the necessary preliminary assessments and nailed their initial phone screening. The in-person interview is the final stretch before getting the job, and they really want to nail it. While most people prepare answers to questions about their professional history and background, there’s often one aspect of preparation they haven’t even considered: a good, compelling story.

Let me explain. By the time a potential employer has gotten to the in-person interview, they’re not only looking to see whether a candidate meets every qualification listed on paper; they’re also trying to determine whether that candidate will bring value to their team. They want someone who’s personable, yet professional, and who will embrace corporate culture and the camaraderie that comes from positive working relationships. Time and time again, you’ll hear hiring managers say they found a candidate to be highly qualified based on their resume but felt as if they weren’t a good fit when they sat down for the in-person interview. They seemed robotic, too polished or lacked a certain human element. In other words, they didn’t feel a connection. And a connection is of the utmost importance when you’re working as part of a healthy and established team. Good storytelling goes beyond our desire to be entertained. A good story helps us feel connected to others and can inspire people and communities. Storytelling is consistently used by successful organizations to expand markets, drive sales and build brands. When people feel connected to something on a deeper level, they often buy it. So why not use storytelling to promote yourself?
Here are three factors to keep in mind when preparing your story for an interview:

1. Be Clear And Concise

While storytelling during an interview is an excellent way to help you stand out from other candidates, overtelling a story can be disastrous. Ensure that your stories are concise, with a beginning, a middle and an end. You want to clearly articulate your accomplishments without taking up much time. Consider using the STAR method when telling your story so that the details remain targeted and to the point without getting lost:

• Situation: Describe the situation you were in.
• Task: Note the task at hand and how you were involved.
• Action: Tell the interviewer about the action you took.
• Result: Let them know the results.

Remember: When telling a story during an interview, you don’t have to be afraid to disclose a failure. Share what you learned from that mistake and what steps you took to rectify it. Sharing the good and the bad demonstrates your desire to continuously expand your knowledge and awareness, as well as your initiative to take responsibility when leading a team.

2. Make Sure Your Stories Are Flexible

Film director Mark W. Travis says that there’s a “joy of flexibility and opportunity in oral storytelling.” You can read your audience, restructure your idea and feel empowered by your delivery, all by being face to face with your interviewer. When preparing stories to tell, make sure they’re flexible enough to adapt to various questions and interview scenarios so you can refer to them with ease. If your stories are too specific, you may not get the chance to tell them. One way you can prepare stories that you will likely get to use during your interview is by selecting ones that relate to skills specifically listed within the job description for the role you’re interviewing for. For example, if the job listing says the employer is seeking a candidate who will implement innovative marketing campaigns across a particular region, prepare a story that demonstrates your ability to do just that. Describe your achievements and how you motivated a team, built a successful brand, etc. Share what went wrong or how you helped improve a process.

3. Be Authentic

A hiring manager once told me that a candidate came in with a stuffed unicorn in his briefcase. It fell out when the candidate went to grab his notebook. When she laughed and asked what that little unicorn was doing in there, the candidate (who was slightly embarrassed) said, “My daughter gives me a different stuffed animal to take to work with me every day. She’s 3, and, well, I’m one proud dad.” I don’t remember whether the candidate got the job, but my friend thought it was authenticity at its finest. When telling your story, don’t try to be someone different. Be authentic, and allow the hiring manager to get a glimpse of what you love, who you are and how you lead. For that dad, if the company was looking for a candidate to work 15 hours a day, 75-plus hours a week, the job likely wouldn’t have been a great fit. His authenticity would’ve made that known right from the start.

Part of the focus when I work with potential candidates in my program is to provide job seekers with the tools and skills necessary to be the very best version of themselves. By remaining flexible and sharing stories that are clear, concise and authentic, you can make connections and allow yourself and your qualifications to shine. 🙂

Tammy Homegardner, Forbes Councils Member, 9 Dec 2019.

By Laura Garza
Laura Garza Career Coach Laura Garza