Storytelling is all the rage right now. When you tell a story, it grabs people’s attention, drives the meaning deeper, makes the content relatable, and is easier to retain. These are all things that we strive for; and yet, why is telling a story so hard for some of us?
Okay, it’s not hard for me. Arguably, I tell too many stories and probably repeat them too…guilty as charged. As a recruiter, I’ve heard hundreds of stories and oftentimes I’m either yawning or cringing. My inner voice has often said, “No! Don’t say it. Stop! TMI!” I’ve heard stories of wrongdoing, lame excuses, descriptions of bad decisions, and many things that just aren’t going to send the message, “Hire me!”
It’s important to know when to tell a story, what to say (and not say) and how to craft it in a way that doesn’t bore or alienate the listener.
When I do career coaching, I ask my clients to think of stories and write them down. These stories should answer basic interview questions in a way that seems more concrete than a hypothetical answer. Behavioral interviewing is used by many organizations, and the goal is to discover how the interviewee acted in specific employment-related situations. The logic is that how you behaved in the past predicts future behavior and performance. Stories can be used in behavioral interviews and can be effectively woven into any interview.
For example, the interviewer asks, “Tell me about a time that you had a difficult customer. What did you do to turn the situation around?”
Stories should be told in a positive way. You can say that you made a mistake and acknowledge what you learned from it. Avoid the blame game. Take ownership of your work, career, and choices. Don’t be negative regarding previous employment situations. Watch or listen for feedback from the interviewer. On a phone interview, keep it high-level and provide more details if asked. Listen carefully in case they want to move on. In an in-person interview, watch their body language to see if they are interested or ready to ask the next question. No need to provide too many details. Give just enough to make it interesting.
Practice your stories on a friend, family member, or your career coach. Even the best storytellers can benefit from feedback. Develop your stories and you are sure to make a memorable impression in your next interview. Need help crafting your stories? Reach out to me or another career coach for advice that is sure to help build your confidence.