A storytelling technique to help you develop your job interview skills

Aug 27, 2015

It’s a job interview skill you really should have mastered at primary school!

We all love a good story and when a story is well told it has the power to capture the attention of any listener, so here is one storytelling technique that will help you develop your job interview skills: show, don’t tell.

When we say “show, don’t tell” we mean you need to show the interviewer what you did and who you are through the story. Rather than just saying, “I’m a great digital marketer” you need to demonstrate why you are through the stories you tell. It will help you capture the imagination of the interviewer, which is what you want.

First, let’s get one thing straight: there is no scientific formula for succeeding at an interview. You may have the precise skills and experience listed in the job description, but that does not mean you will even get a second interview. A major factor over which you have no control is the attitude of the interviewer or interview panel. We all make judgements within moments of meeting someone, and interviewers are no different. The best you can do is smile, make eye contact, and ensure that your advance preparation is faultless. This is where presenting your skills and experience through the show and tell storytelling technique can really help.

Do your research well before your interview

During your interview, it is highly likely that you will be asked some version of the question “Can you tell me about a time when you overcame a challenge?” so anticipate it. This is your opportunity to show the interviewer how your skills and experience are perfect for the position advertised.

Go through the job description and match every requirement with a story from your background. Just starting on your career path? Think of clubs you belong to and tasks you have completed for family members. Now, come up with an example of how you faced a difficult situation and came up with the optimal solution. These stories ensure that you remain in the interviewer’s memory and identify you as a candidate with the competence to approach tasks efficiently and provide solutions for complex problems.

Devise examples to improve your job interview skills

So how do you come up with career success stories? At some point in your professional life, you faced a seemingly insurmountable challenge, which would have had serious consequences if you had not dealt with it. Instead of allowing this situation to continue, you took the initiative and devised and implemented a plan to overcome the problem and produce a positive outcome.

Here’s an example for somebody going for a digital marketing role, perhaps: When you joined the last organisation you worked with, their website was out of date and not providing any useful marketing function. You undertook a content audit of the website, removing any duplicate or poor content and making sure that all existing pages were optimised to include appropriate keywords for the organisation’s sector. As a result of your actions, the website moved to the first page of search results for your chosen keywords, attracting more customers.

Practice telling your stories

Once you’ve come up with examples of how you used your skills and experience in previous situations, practice presenting these stories to a potential interviewer so that you are confident discussing your abilities. Don’t be afraid to use examples that, at first glance, do not seem to have precise parallels with your previous position and the job you are applying for. As long as you have done your research, and made a relevant connection between your skills and experience and the new job or industry, your story will sound convincing.

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