Apr 06

Tellin’ Stories

As you will know from our previous blogs (or if you have attended one of our masterclasses, online or 1:1 coaching sessions), having a plan is vital for success at your interview. We plan all our coaching around ‘The 3 Pillars of Success’ – Content, Structure and Delivery. Story telling is a key part of our Delivery Pillar.

Storytelling is a part of our basic human instinct. Whenever we learn or experience something, we love to share it with everyone we can find. We tell stories to our colleagues all the time – to help them understand our situation, to persuade someone to support a project, to explain to a member of your team how they might improve, or to inspire and motivate your team. It’s an essential skill in the workplace and it is a vital part for success in your interview; indeed, it is often said in work scenarios that leaders won’t be heard unless they’re telling stories. I totally agree with this sentiment in the interview context as well.

Fortunately, everyone can become a better storyteller. Even you! So how can you improve your interview story telling?

Know Your Audience
Before you write your story you should begin by asking: Who is my audience and what is the message I want to share with them?

In our interview context this is usually a panel consisting of the hiring manager and Human Resources, and the message will be related to the question being asked. I.e. I want them to know I can be Emotionally Aware or they need to know I am capable of Analysing Critically.

Agree on your ultimate message first; then you can figure out the best way to evidence it (hint: this will be by using STAR + or REDSTaR).

Create Sticky Moments

Operational detail, facts and figures and many things that we think are important in the work world don’t stick in the panels’ minds at all. Many people cram their answers with this kind of content – to be frank, as an assessor, it’s boring and all been heard a thousand times before.

But stories create “sticky” memories by attaching emotions to things that happened. That means leaders who can create and share good stories have a powerful advantage over others in the selection process. To put it simply, they are memorable. And in a process that may have hundreds of people being interviewed this is significant in your quest to be hired. Don’t be unmemorable.

Share Your Own Experiences

The best storytellers look to their own memories and life experiences for ways to illustrate their message and make it interesting. There may be a tendency not to want to share personal details at interview, but anecdotes that illustrate struggles, failures, and barriers overcome are what make leaders appear authentic and accessible. The key is to show some vulnerability and authenticity as this makes the panel sit up and listen to what you are actually saying, and ‘believe’ you.

Show Your Passion

So often I hear answers that are delivered with all the enthusiasm of a wet fish. Remember, if you are not interested in your own story and if you do not show passion and have some energy in your delivery, there is NO chance that the panel will be engaged and bought into your story. You will come across as if you don’t care.

Highlight a Struggle

A story without a challenge simply isn’t very interesting. Good storytellers understand that a story needs some conflict, so don’t make your example sound too easy. Don’t be afraid to suggest the road ahead was difficult – maybe there was a company wide challenge that needed to be overcome or there was change-resistant partner that needed to be transformed, and it was nightmare to sort out!

Panels like to be told it was hard. Smart leaders tell panels, “This was tough going, but we all pulled together and hung in there and we achieved something amazing in the end.”

Keep It Simple

Not every story you tell must be a surprising, edge-of-your-seat epic. Most successful and memorable stories at interview are relatively simple and straightforward – probably pieces of work that you do day in day out. You may think that they are mundane, but the panel wants to know that you can complete these core pieces of work well and consistently.

Don’t let needless details to detract from your core competency message. Work from the principle that “less is more.” One of the biggest mistakes you can make is putting in too much detail of the wrong kind – the panel will switch off. However, transporting your audience with a few interesting, well-placed details, how you felt for example, can help immerse your listeners and drive home your message.

Practice Makes Perfect

Storytelling is a real art form that requires repeated effort to get right. Practice with friends, loved ones, on Zoom and with trusted colleagues to hone your message into the most effective and efficient story. Do not walk into the interview never having told your story.

Oh, and Finally

There’s one other non-negotiable essential if you’re telling your own story: It has to be true.😂