The Power of Story Telling in Interviews

Do you get a little nervous and tongue-tied when asked to describe your talents, skills and strengths in a telephone or face-to-face interview? That’s normal.  It’s not that you don’t have anything to say – actually you have lots to say – but the challenge is saying something concise and meaningful in a way that captures the interviewer’s interest and conveys the value you can bring the organization.

So try this new, old approach . . . story telling. Everyone loves a good story.  And people remember a good story because it creates a visual image for them.  We come alive while both telling stories and listening to them.  Stories are powerful, but they take planning to avoid the pitfall of a tale that goes on and on.

Selecting Strengths for a Story

Here’s how to get started in deciding what is most important to communicate in an upcoming interview.  First, think of a strength that you want to highlight for the interviewer(s).  This strength should speak to one of these five P.E.A.K.S areas:

  1. Your Personal Characteristics (ability to work in a team, leadership, handle conflict, attitude etc.)
  2. Your professional Experience in this industry or in the responsibilities being requested
  3. Your Accomplishments which you have been recognized for by your colleagues
  4. Your Knowledge (formal education and on-going professional development)
  5. Your range of Skills appropriate to this job opening.

Use the C.A.R. to Create Your Story

Once you have selected the strength that you want to showcase take a minute to rough out one short paragraph that tells the story.  And here’s the trick . . . use the C.A.R. format.  This works beautifully to keep your story short and to the point.

  • C = Challenge (what was the challenge you faced ie. new project, a conflict etc)
  • A = Action  (what was the action you took – focus on your actions)
  • R = Results (what were the concrete results that happened as a result of your actions)

And then the icing on the cake is tieing in the results with the value you could bring this company if hired.  Play with this . . . do one story completely and then a couple more.  Shoot for about 8 – 10 short stories.  Create a cheat sheet for yourself with the C.A.R. format.  For each story hit each of the three points briefly adding in the final touch of the value you would bring.

Practice each story out loud to your dog but don’t overdo it.  You want your natural voice, enthusiasm and energy to come through as you’re telling the story.  After all, you’re talking about you at your best.  Good luck out there, and if you see me along the way tell me your best story.  I’d love to hear it!

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