Author: Alex Shteingardt, MD, Hays Russia
Have you spent weeks interviewing for a new role, learning more and more about the company ethos, imagining your future there, only to discover that another candidate has beaten you to it? This can be extremely confusing, given that you had the right skills; you interviewed well and were invited back to the next stage. It could make you question “what did the chosen candidate have that I lacked?” These situations are also incredibly frustrating, given that you put so much effort into preparing, not to mention taking the time to actually attend the interviews.
What many don’t realise is that there is one simple trick which can strengthen your chances of interview success and this is the ability to story tell. If you can master the art of storytelling during your interview, you can use this technique to build a rapport with those interviewing you. As a result, the interview panel are much more likely to sit up, take notice and remember you for the right reasons.
Storytelling – isn’t that just for kids?
Telling stories is a key tool for relationship building and one that has passed down vast reserves of learning and culture throughout generations of time. Have you heard of the oral tradition? This explains how societies share their traditions and knowledge through verbal means – essentially storytelling. Today, the biggest organisations and brands use this apparently simple art to engage customers.
Think about leading business people such as Richard Branson – a man who will frequently write a LinkedIn blog about his anecdotes, leadership tips and the life lessons that he is still learning along the way.
So, how can storytelling help improve your chances of interview success?
If, during your interview preparation, you have been meticulously rehearsing answers to common interview questions and practicing ‘textbook’ replies, the chances are your interviewers will start to switch off. That’s why you should give your interview technique a more affable touch. After all, you are selling your value as a candidate, and are more likely to succeed if you share your personal experiences and come across as a relatable person.
Storytelling is a real art and one worth developing. You won’t only use it in your interviews, it is vital for all walks of life – whether you are pitching for a department budget increase or looking to win a new customer.
Here are my six steps to creating, and telling, the perfect story during your interview:
1. Prepare examples before your interview
When preparing answers to common interview questions, think of stories which can help you describe your competence in real terms for the interviewer and bring it to life for them. Remember, it is important to keep these concise and relevant to the question, as opposed to just reeling of rambling tales for the sake of it.
For instance, you may be asked whether you consider yourself to be an independent learner. If you think you are, then say so, and cite a time where you took it upon yourself to learn a new skill (e.g.- via webinar, book, training session etc) for either the good of the company or your role.
Highlight some of the key pre-requisites for the role beforehand and make sure your answers reflect these. For instance, if the role needs somebody who can build repeat business with clients, think about professional situations which showcase your relationship building skills.
Remember, this is a story to demonstrate how you embody the job specification, and how you have the skills and experience necessary to be appointed.
2. Structure it
By structuring your answers, you can ensure they remain substantial without your point getting lost. A beginning, middle and end are essential – so use the STAR technique here: S to set the situation, T to describe your task and involvement, A to tell of your action, and R to show off the results! Here is an example of a typical interview question answered using the STAR structure:
Q.: “Can you think of a time where you demonstrated a problem-solving attitude?”
- (Situation) “Yes, whilst I was employed X company, I was responsible for digitally promoting a portfolio of X products.
- (Task) One week, our online sales for a particular product were 25% lower than usual.
- (Action) Therefore, I created banner adverts for these products to go on our homepage and email signatures. I also increased our social media activity promoting these products. I encouraged internal teams to “like and share” this activity. I also launched an email campaign to go out to a targeted list of customers for that product.
- (Result) Consequently, by the following week, online sales for this product saw a 40% increase and have remained steady ever since.
3. Be ready to adapt the story
The audience plays a role in every story, as it is an interaction between the listener and the teller. So listen carefully when your interviewer tells you about the direction in which the company is headed, their own job in the company and the type of person they are looking for. Now tailor some of you answers and anecdotes accordingly.
For example, if your interviewer tells you that the company is expanding globally and this will affect the vacancy in a certain way, you may recall a previous role where you had a global remit. Mention this to the interviewer, and how your experience here could benefit the company and its expansion if you were successful.
4. Make it interesting and engaging
Use humour appropriately and to show your personality. Bring their senses to life with visualisation techniques – using rich words to create visual pictures. Watch videos of the great corporate stories for inspiration – Google’s ‘Reunion’ is a legendary example.
Use hand gestures gently, however – a little punctuation with a soft hand movement is useful, but don’t knock teas and papers off the table with wild gesticulating.
5. Practice makes perfect
You don’t want your story to come across as overly-polished, but trying a few practice runs with trusted friends and family can help you to get valuable feedback. These trial runs will also help to build your confidence and personal style.
6. Be authentic
Don’t pretend to be someone that you’re not. Storytelling should be authentic and help you to demonstrate your personality – so don’t copy someone else’s style or try to be a comedian. If you are naturally extrovert and expansive, this will already come across in the way you express yourself. If you are naturally quieter, more introverted and a little quirky, then that is ok too. Remember, it’s vital that you are matched with a job that will genuinely suit you. By showing your character in such an honest and memorable way, your interviewers will get a true sense of how you would fit culturally and individually within the company and the wider team.
By following the above steps, you can use relevant anecdotes to strike the right balance of being professional whilst letting your personality shine through. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to start polishing up some of your best corporate tales.
I hope you have found the above advice useful. For more advice and insights about the world of work, visit our dedicated blog page here or click on one of the links below.