Interviewing techniques tip 1: Tailor your story to the job
Applying your story to a specific employer or job is the next step. Lining up the stories that apply to the opportunity at hand is critical. Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes and pose the questions you would ask. Which stories are relevant to this job interview? Think about personal stories that show how you: handled change, made choices under pressure, or learned lessons from mistakes and failures. You should also think about stories you can tell in the interview that reveal your skill set.
Learning and appreciating your story is a prerequisite to any interview process. Don’t rely on your ability to think on your feet. Anticipate the questions and have answers at the ready. In the end, this is about making a great and memorable impression that demonstrates competency and ability.
You may want to start by developing your stories around these areas:
- Recall the times in which you either made money or saved money for your current or previous company.
- Focus on a crisis or two in your life or job and how you responded or recovered from it.
- A time where you functioned as part of a team and how you contributed.
- A time in your career or job where you had to deal with stress.
- A time in your job where you provided successful leadership or a sense of direction.
- The failures you faced in your job and how you overcame them.
- The seminal events that happened during your career that caused you to change direction and how that worked out for you.
Interviewing techniques tip 2: Develop a compelling story
We tend to conclude that our lives are pretty much the same as other people’s—that they are average and boring. As a result, many people don’t tell their own story well. But your story is so much better than you think. The way your life has evolved; the things you’ve learned; your achievements, failings, and dreams—these things are unique to you and much more interesting than you realize. Sharing your well thought-out story is a powerful interviewing technique.
Your story is what helps people understand who you are and where you are going. So learn to tell your story and tell it well, especially for interviewing and networking purposes. Putting together your story takes a lot of work and practice. However, the benefits to you and to your career are enormous. Your stories:
- Give you confidence
- Increase your self-awareness
- Bring humanity to your resume
- Make you memorable and set you apart
Developing your story for job interviews
- Take a comprehensive inventory of the chapters of your life. Think about major events, memories, and turning points that shaped who you are. Make notes about your feelings, expectations, and frustrations, or what you learned, accomplished, and experienced. Organize your chapters by time periods or jobs.
- Focus on memorable “aha” moments. These stories need to have vivid dimensions so people will experience that moment with you. It may have been a moment with your mom on the porch, or a trip you took to a faraway place, or what a boss or mentor told you. The stories don’t have to be dramatic, just meaningful to you.
- Uncover the themes in your story. What emerges as your passion? Mentoring others, doing research, helping a specific type of client, advancing knowledge in your field? What gives you joy? Are you a teacher, a leader, an entrepreneur, a risk-taker?
- Reflect on your career path. How have you arrived where you are today? Why did you make certain choices? Who helped you along the way? What motivated you then and now? Have your career goals remained the same or have they changed? Are you someone who likes new projects? Or executes the details of someone else’s vision?
Practice makes perfect
Once you’ve developed your story, the next step is to practice telling it—saying it out loud—ideally to others. Don’t wait until the interview to tell it for the first time. Try reciting it into a tape recorder or sharing it with a confidante for feedback. Get over your feelings of story inadequacy or thinking that a job well done speaks for itself.
As you become more comfortable in how to tell your story, you will see that your life has not just been a string of random events. Your story has a past and it has a future, and the road ahead becomes clearer when you understand where you have been. The ultimate test will be the next time someone says, “Tell me about yourself.”