Storytelling is something that humans have been doing for millions of years. It’s the simple act of repeating a narrative from person to person.
When a story is repeated, it gets remembered. And when a hiring manager is able to repeat your story to colleagues and other key decision makers inside an organization, you get hired. Here’s how.
Why It Matters
Whether you’re giving an elevator pitch at a networking event or talking about mission-critical skills during a job interview, when the pressure is on, words often become elusive. And when words become elusive, even the most qualified can bomb.
Great storytelling has always mattered in interviewing. And since most candidates are actually terrible at storytelling, you can impact your chances of landing a job simply by trying.
Great storytelling has always mattered in interviewing. And since most candidates are actually terrible at storytelling, you can impact your chances of landing a job simply by trying. This means thinking ahead, writing down your thoughts, and practicing.
If your story is long-winded, convoluted, or doesn’t show true impact, your story will die with the hiring manager, along with your chances of scoring that job. Your primary goal as an interviewee is to have the hiring manager — that poor overloaded soul who’s met five other candidates back to back — get up, walk out to the water cooler, and say to his or her colleagues: “I just met our new hire. Here’s why.” Then they repeat what you said nearly word for word.
Improve Your Storytelling
To give a memorable interview, you need to simplify your story to a point where it’s relevant, retained, easily recalled, and repeatable.
Most candidates approach a job interview from their point of view, without thinking about what’s in it for the hiring manager. Do this and you’re sunk. Demonstrating your relevancy by showing that you can adapt your skills and experience to a company’s needs and then elevate their game is very much your job. Candidates who show that their knowledge is applicable will thrill hiring managers time and time again. This tells them that you understand their business and their needs and can apply your skills to solve their problems.
Relevancy is a start, but it’s far from the end. You’ve got to stick in the interviewer’s mind. The best way to do that is to master your narrative. Earlier, we talked about how important it is to know your story before you walk in. It’s likely that every other candidate who’s interviewed for the position has probably umm-ed and uhh-ed their way through a few tricky questions. By presenting a cohesive narrative with confidence, you’ll look even more amazing and hyper-competent than your resume indicates, and that alone will make you memorable.
Now that you’ve wowed the hiring manager, you want them to be able to recall your story easily. Do so by drawing direct parallels between their challenges and your skills and experience. Do your research and prepare answers for how your work can directly benefit the company’s current difficulties. Having a short, direct response for several pressing issues means that a busy hiring manager will be able to recall your answers with ease without looking at his or her notes.
If the hiring manager can recall your answers easily, then they can share your story easily. They don’t have to be five-second sound bites, but they should be concise and compelling. Think about it this way: have you ever heard a really great joke that you just couldn’t wait to tell? Sure you have. It probably wasn’t long and convoluted with numerous twists and turns. It was likely all of 30 seconds long with a quick build up and a memorable punchline. Give your answers the same kind of brevity and punch, and the hiring manager won’t be able to keep them to himself.
Great stories — whether they’re on paper, on film, or just over coffee — provoke a reaction from their audience. They energize, electrify, and animate. You want to do the same with your interviewer. You want them to think, “I’ve found the one.” To do so, you have to prepare and practice. Write your story out. Practice it in front of the mirror. Then pare it down and practice again. Tell it to your partner or your best friend. Then tell them again. It may sound tedious, but it’s going to be worth it when you can walk into an interview and get the hiring manager excited about your skills, your experience, and you.
We’ll take you through the C.A.R. technique — a foolproof way to deliver memorable and sharable stories for every interview. It’s also a strategy you should use whenever you’re asked to talk about your career.
28 Days to a New Job is a month-long Hired Guns course designed to help you maximize your competitiveness in the current job market. Learn the secrets to getting a job from hiring managers, recruiters, negotiation experts and more. Read our our introductory post here. Or Subscribe Now to receive 28 Days to a New Job as a daily email.