Job Search: Telling Your Story, Part 1
Looking for a way to stand out during job interviews? Consider perfecting your narrative skills. A good story keeps people engaged, vividly illustrates information you wish to convey, and leaves a lasting impression.
“Storytelling makes you appear relaxed and confident, as opposed to awkwardly stumbling over exact facts and figures in an effort to quote your résumé perfectly,” says Paul Smith, author of Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives that Captivate, Convince, and Inspire. “It puts the interviewer in ‘listening mode.’ The interviewers’ job is to critically evaluate you. That means they’re looking for any reason they can find to not hire you. Anytime someone is listening to rational, fact-based language, the human brain automatically goes into this evaluative mode. But when someone tells a story, something amazing happens. Listeners sit back in their chairs, put down their pencils, and they just listen. They open up their posture and their minds to what you have to say. And that’s exactly what you want the interviewer doing at that point.”
Obviously, a story isn’t an appropriate response to every question. Answering the question “What was your last job title?” with “Well . . . let me tell you a story . . .” will seem strange and may cause suspicion that you’re hiding something. As Smith notes, “Save your stories for when you’re asked questions about work you did or things you accomplished: ‘Tell me about a time when you showed leadership under pressure.’ ‘What was your biggest accomplishment?’ ‘What was your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?’ Those are great times to tell a story.”
Tomorrow: What makes a good story and how you can create one.