When it comes to an interview, what’s the one thing that differentiates you from all the other applicants with the same skill set, certifications and level of experience? The answer is simple: You, of course.
You know what you have to offer a prospective employer, and so do the people who know you. However, the hiring manager at your next interview only knows where you’ve been. In order to stand out from the crowd of other candidates, you need to be prepared to tell your story in a compelling and eloquent manner.
Knowing how to tell your story is what can turn an interview into an offer.
Connections Move People
Think back for a moment to the last five movies you saw, or books you read. Which stories stuck with you the most? Science fiction, true crime, romance and fairy tales - no matter where your tastes lie, all good stories have one thing in common; the main characters feel like fully realized people with whom we come to care about them. We don’t even have to have anything in common with them, but their basic struggles feel familiar. Stories succeed when we can see something of ourselves on the screen or in the pages.
And while an interview is hopefully nothing like your favorite novel, it is your best and perhaps only opportunity to make a meaningful connection with a potential employer.
How Do You Use Storytelling In An Interview?
Prospective employers want to see how you think, how you your experiences have made you smarter, sharper, and more efficient. Your resume only tells them where you’ve been, it’s up to you to fill in the heart of the story.
Get Comfortable With Yourself
Come up with 5 words to describe yourself. Be honest and take your time with this exercise, do not just write down the first things that come to mind. Think back on challenges you’ve faced and what attributes got you through.
Then ask two trusted friends or coworkers to come up with 5 words to describe you.
Do their words match yours? Or, are they wildly different? If so, drill down and try to see what you might be missing, how your picture of yourself differs from the one others have of you.
Note: You may not necessarily use in an interview, but knowing your strengths and how they’ve served you in the past is an important first step in defining your story.
Create A Narrative
Build a timeline of both your accomplishments and challenges, successes and failures. Then stand back and try to understand how one event led to the next. How did you wind up as a sales engineer when you started your career as a support guy? What happy accidents or perceived losses led to you where you are today?
You may be hesitant to share the pitfalls that befell you, but understanding how they all fit together frees you up to present your story in a cohesive and engaging manner. Remember, you want to make certain that you are seen as a resilient and thoughtful employee, one who is resourceful and always thinking.
Know Your Audience
Do your research on the company and your interviewer. Understanding who you are talking to, their management style, their values and interests helps you tailor your story. Read their LinkedIn profiles and/or blog posts, or turn to the recruiter or mutual contact to understand more about who you’re meeting with.
Highlight An Achievement
Without making yourself sound like a superhero, relay how you were able to meet a situation head on and work through to a successful conclusion. Draw on examples both large and small - how you handle daily problems can be as telling as major issues.
Listen To The Stories Others Are Telling
Listen to your interviewer and try to figure out where you fit into the story of the company, where your strengths can help, where a past experience can shed light on a particular problem they are facing. Being open and perceptive to the story of the company and then dovetailing the solutions you can provide makes you a candidate worth remembering.
Tip: Always Remain Perceptive
Do not iterate lists or stick too close to your idea of how the conversation should go. Be prepared to dial back or change your narrative to fit the reaction of the person sitting across from you.
When you take the time to understand how to present yourself so that others can see who you are, how you work and what value, you are far more likely to make a lasting impression. Leaving an interviewer with the sense that they got to know YOU is key to getting either to the next level of the interview process, or better yet, landing an offer.