What’s Your Story? Interview Tips

Storytelling is crucial to interview success

Interviews hinge on storytelling. Interviewers often begin with a prompt to, “Tell me about yourself,” followed by behavioral questions that start with, “Give me an example of a time when…”

Why do they ask questions like these and how are you supposed to answer them?

Interviewers want to know more about you, how you think, and how you approach problems. Even a great candidate can lose an opportunity at the interview stage if they can’t articulate their potential value in a compelling way.

Stories are what we remember. The more specific the story, the more memorable it will be. Answer the question, “What is your greatest strength?” with a flat, one-dimensional answer, “I am a fast learner” and the interviewer would likely be underwhelmed and discount the answer. However, if a candidate were to answer that question with a story that provided a specific example, that would be much more memorable. Check out this example:

Q. What is your greatest strength?

A. I am a fast learner. For example, when I worked for a natural products company, I held three different positions in three years. I started as a Marketing Assistant, was promoted to Merchandiser when the company began a new catalog project, and then moved to the role of Marketing Coordinator, managing the catalog schedule, working with the designer, styling photo shoots, and even writing catalog copy and sales collateral to manage costs by keeping those projects in-house. I learn by following any existing materials, by asking questions, and then by tackling the new tasks myself, which made it possible to figure out each role as I went. My manager told me I was one of the most valuable people in the company, due to my ability to move into different positions, develop the necessary skills, and make it work.

With that second answer, the interviewer has a sense of “proof” that my answer about my strength wasn’t just pulled from thin air. There is enough detail in the story to make it “sticky” in the mind of the interviewer and the takeaway is likely to be that I can be counted on to figure things out and deliver—which is what most hiring manager are looking for!

So, how can you start learning to tell better stories during your interviews? Follow the WHO method. Include What you did (the task), How you did it (the skills you used), and the Outcome of your work. We highly recommend creating a Story Bank of experiences, so that you are prepared to answer any number of behavioral questions.

Still unsure about your ability to tell a strong story? It just takes practice! Try Big Interview, our video interviewing practice software.

Or, make an appointment with a Career Advisor for a mock interview. You’ve got this!

By Pauline Thaler
Pauline Thaler Career Advisor