The importance of telling stories in an interview

Interview tips

As opposed of course to “”making up stories”  which is not recommended under any circumstances.

The best way to understand the importance of telling stories is to put yourself in the position of the person conducting the interview.  They will need to be impressed with your demeanor, your character, your appearance, your energy, your qualifications,  your  handshake, your communication skills and a whole host of other factors.  However in essence the interviewer wants to know the answer to one question: “If I hire this person is my working life going to be easier/happier/less stressed/more successful?  Or is it going to be even harder/more miserable/more stressed/less successful than it is now?  And it’s pretty stressed already of course because he or she is understaffed. Which is why they are currently recruiting.

In short they want to hire someone who is a solution to the problem, not an additional problem.

So what is the best way for you to demonstrate that hiring you will put their lives firmly in the first scenario?  Tell them the story of you, in action, being the person they need to do the job. Anyone can and  (unless you are the only candidate being interviewed for the role which is unlikely) will say in an interview that they are organised, or entrepreneurial, or good at multi tasking or a great people manager etc.  But if you say something about yourself and then back it up with a story illustrating  that particular skill or quality, then you bring it to life for the interview in a way that he will

  1. Believe

and

2.         Remember after you leave the room.

No one else can use exactly the same story as you to illustrate what they have said about themselves – it is unique to you.

Interviewing successfully for a role involves telling your stories essentially in the same way that Hollywood tells stories in scripts – you should start with setting the scene, your story should have a beginning, a middle and a happy ending and the subject matter should be appropriate and interesting to your audience.

So if the role requires someone who is good at growing client business for example, at the point in the interview where you are discussing this your story needs to be something like:

“When I first started working on the Cool Crisps account the client was only using us for digital advertising and PPC to support particular promotions which were run by X agency. (set the scene)

I quickly established a really good working relationship with the client and presented an idea to them for a ground breaking promotion involving social media, digital advertising, PPC, building microsites, mobile, and experiential . (beginning and middle)

This eventually became the “Be Cool” campaign which rolled out across the UK and won the XXX award for Best Integrated Youth Campaign for 2010. The account grew to be worth about £250,000 for the agency and we are now lead agency on all their youth promotional activity. (happy ending – happy client, happy profitable agency, happy you. )

In an ideal world the hiring manager would follow you around at work for a week to see how you operate before they decide whether you are right for the role.  They can’t do that (even with video camera phones – yet) so the next best thing is for you to create a video in their minds with your story which allows them to visualise what you are like to work with. Prepare your stories before you go in to the interview –even rehearse them if you need to.

Then use them to wow your audience.

The End. Roll Credits

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Claire Griffin on LinkedIn