Facing an employer in a job interview is often described as the most stressful and intense moment in the process of finding work. When asked what they fear most about interviews, job searchers often say that they worry that they may get overwhelmed by anxiety and forget what they wanted to say, or that they may not be able to answer a question properly.
Of course, the only way to deal with this anxiety is by preparing; work on some of the commonly asked questions. In addition to preparing answers to questions, you should be ready to talk about yourself by sharing examples of your achievements from your past jobs. These will serve to demonstrate your skills and prove your competency. It will help the employer to picture you in the workplace. When an interview has concluded, it is likely that candidates will most be remembered by the interesting stories or anecdotes they shared.
To identify your best stories, think back to your past jobs. Think of accomplishments or events which challenged you or which gave you an opportunity to demonstrate your abilities. Consider including the feedback you received for these achievements. Keep in mind that stories do not have portray you as perfect – situations are more likely to be believable and credible if they include times when you made mistakes and learned from them.
Your stories might include a time when you:
- lead a project from beginning to completion
- identified a problem/gap in service and took initiative to solve it
- were given responsibility to represent your company in a public event
- dealt with an unhappy or difficult customer
- assisted a colleague with a problem
- developed and applied expertise in a particular area
- went above and beyond the usual demands of your job to contribute to the company
- did something really well
Keep in mind that to sustain the listener’s attention and be memorable, you need to plan your stories carefully. Make sure that examples are clearly structured with a beginning, middle and end:
- Begin with a brief context or setup – where and when did the incident/event happen?
- Describe what happened and why was it important — what was YOUR role/action?
- End off with a description of how the issue was resolved (what was the outcome?)
These stories have to be short, but should include enough detail to allow the employer to visualize the situation. Most importantly, make sure they are directly relevant to the position for which you are interviewing.
Write up and practice saying your stories out loud. Ask an employment professional or even a friend for feedback; let their impressions and questions guide you to improve the length, clarity, details and relevance of the story.
Once they are complete, try figure out which skills each story demonstrates. Each example may demonstrate a number of skills such as your ability to make decisions, work in a team, solve problems, take initiative, be responsible or flexible, and many other skills. Identify those which you would like to “show off” to employers. A good anecdote can often demonstrate multiple skills or strengths, and can be told differently depending on what you are trying to demonstrate. If you are able to talk in a relaxed and comfortable way, storytelling can become a very effective tool to market yourself. You will be demonstrating your communication skills, as well as having an opportunity to show the best of what you have achieved in your work history.
Read this guide for more ways to develop your storytelling abilities. Make sure to watch this excellent video included in the post for more tips on effective story telling in interviews: