In every job interview, your success depends on your story. When meeting with HR or a hiring manager for the first time, either via phone or video, you’re going to be asked to demonstrate your skills. And your flaws. There are qualifying questions and disqualifying answers – how will you respond? Here are five narrative techniques that can help you to change the conversation, presenting yourself in the best possible light. And, in this economy, you owe it to yourself (and your career) to tap into these new ideas.
- Introduce the Unexpected – a typical question that you may be asked is, “Why don’t you take me through your resumé?” or “How about you tell me something about yourself?” What happens if your response is, “I’d like to start off with something you won’t find on my LinkedIn profile”? The point here is not to avoid the question, but to find a powerful way to access your answer. Sure, you can talk about what you did from graduation until your last gig, but how about sharing something that’s not on your CV? Curious to know what that might be? The things that aren’t on your resumé include your values. Your work ethic. Your perspective on how you see your potential employer, and why your values, work ethic and perspective could benefit them. Ask yourself what the interviewer really needs to know, not just what it is they say they want. Because the difference between what people say they want and what they really need is called value. Don’t avoid the question around your experience – but start your story in the strongest way possible. Provide the high-value stories that serve you (and your employer) best.
- Flip the Script – leading with your intentions and values, especially in the way that those values align with the position and the company, is a counter-intuitive way to start the conversation. Traditionally, the story strategy is to build your message, one chronological point at a time – in much the same way that a resumé would – from college up to yesterday. What happens if you borrow a page from the expert storyteller handbook, and say the most honest thing you can? Stephen Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind”. What if you open with your values and describe how you can serve your next employer – then the stories support your point? I’m not suggesting you introduce an honesty that doesn’t serve you: like confessing your sins, telling your interviewer that she needs to lose weight, or opening with a salary demand. Consider the authentic story that will serve your intentions: lead with your values and let your stories support what matters most to you. Think of a situation or circumstance that illustrates how you behaved under pressure, how you solved a problem, how you created new opportunity. And be sure you talk about it using the ideas in #3.
- Name It, Claim It, Frame It – there’s a universal language that we all speak: it’s the language of numbers. How do you use numbers to amplify your narrative? Did you supervise a team of seven? Were you part of a $50 million dollar company? Did you get promoted in less than 15 months? Own your numbers and share them. And, by the way, if you think that sharing numbers is bragadocious, think again. If you ask me my shoe size and I say, “10 1/2”, is that arrogant …or just a fact? (If it’s really a 9, then we’ve definitely got an issue here. But it’s a 10 1/2. Because the best story strategy is never fiction, in the job interview). A number is just a number, and it helps you to frame your story in a powerful way. Getting comfortable talking about numbers is key – especially when it’s time to talk about your salary.
- Bend Time – expert story tellers understand something called “point of attack”: that’s the place where you come into the story. The best example is Star Wars: George Lucas started on episode four. What’s the episode in your life that really illustrates who you are, what you can do, and what you stand for? Sure, you can walk someone through your career history in chronological order – I’m yawning already – but how do you decide what the highlights are? Consider this prompt: “I’ll never forget the time when…” and access moments where you performed at your best, in the face of adversity and challenges.
- Provide Solutions – there’s one thing and one thing only that all companies hire: solutions providers. The restaurant needs people that can solve the problem of getting food out to the curb, for pickup. The engineering team at Honeywell needs folks that can write the code that will drive the satellite. All companies need solutions providers. What’s the solution you can provide? Write it down. Then, look for the second right answer. And the third. Get clear on how your history ties into your future, with this important storytelling phrase: because. It’s because of your experience in finance, real estate or veterinary medicine that you can provide some powerful solutions. What are they, and how can you use numbers and statistics to tell a story that’s innovative and engaging?
It’s easy to fall into a trap of describing your skills and talents using a lot of adjectives. Especially when it comes to your ability to solve problems, communicate effectively and be a part of a team. If you’re using a lot of words that you’ve seen on a poster with an eagle, you can stop right now. Stop focusing on credibility and start focusing on service. Get clear on how you can help your interviewer, right now. Following these story strategies above, you don’t have to tell people that you’re a good communicator, or that you’re able to focus on what really matters, or that you are good with numbers. You don’t have to explain what you are demonstrating. Why talk about your strengths when you can show them? Show your ability to solve problems by starting with the first one: how can you stand out above the crowd, and nail this interview?
Remember this maxim, because it is true (but only 100% 0f the time): the story you tell will teach people how to treat you, how to pay you and how to follow your ideas. Take time to get clear on the details that will serve your interviewer and your next employer most – and don’t be afraid to change the conversation.
Source: Chris Westfall via Forbes