Want To Ace Your Next Interview?…TELL STORIES

How Do You Prepare For Interviews?

In this post, I want to challenge your thinking about interview preparation, and suggest something a bit different to add to your prep efforts.

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Before reading further, though, please answer this question, “How do you currently prepare for job interviews?”

My experience as a corporate engineering recruiter suggests that most students (and working professionals too) who actually prepare for interviews, tend to do it mostly by focusing on questions they think they will be asked. They build a list of commonly asked questions and then create “good” answers to those questions.

If their career center offers the service, some college students will also participate in mock interviews. This activity simulates the pressure of being in an interview and it let’s them practice answering typical questions.

I’m definitely an advocate of both of these interview preparation techniques, but there’s another activity that I’ve found can result in huge dividends during an interview.

That activity involves learning how to be an excellent storyteller.

It’s about learning how to tell your own stories. Personal stories that reveal who you are, skills you’ve developed, experiences you’ve had, and why you would be a real asset to an employer.

Why Stories?…Because We’re Human

It’s no secret that humans have been telling stories since we appeared on the planet.

Stories are our unique way of connecting with one another. When told authentically, and with emotion, stories can impact us in powerful ways.

If you agree with these ideas, then don’t you think it would make sense to leverage personal stories in your interview conversations?

Your personal stories, when shared authentically, can help you quickly connect with an interviewer in ways that short, lifeless answers simply can’t.

Telling STAR Stories Is Key

While sharing stories is valuable, the real payoff comes when your stories are correctly structured as STAR stories.

STAR stories are most often sought after by recruiters and interviewers who are conducting behavioral style interviews. 

A STAR answer consists of the following: S/T represents the Situation or Task that you faced, A stands for the Actions you took, and R represents the Results that your actions brought about.

Essentially, what the interviewer is looking for from you are authentic, honest stories that reveal how you brought about good results. Or at a minimum, how you handled the situation.

Your stories don’t all have to be stories of outstanding success, but ideally they will reveal some valuable knowledge, strengths and/or attributes that you can bring to the interviewer’s company.

Effective STAR Stories Require Upfront Preparation

As you might imagine, STAR stories typically don’t flow easily and naturally in the heat of an interview. To get them to flow smoothly, you must prepare ahead of time.

Good preparation starts with studying some of the most common behavioral style interview questions, and then identifying relevant personal stories that would best satisfy each question. It’s important to invest a good amount of time tapping into your memory and writing your stories down long before you go to any interviews.

A Recruiter’s TIP:

One method I’ve found helpful for recalling stories is to walk through your entire resume, but especially through the most recent months and years.

As you do this, make sure each story you capture contains all the elements of a complete STAR. Write down the Situation or Task, identify the Actions you took, and document the Results that you brought about.

Then practice telling what you consider to be your 5-6 best stories. You might want to use an audio recorder to capture, and then listen to, your stories as you practice them.

Your Prep Will Set You Up For Success

By investing the time, and working through this process in advance of the interview, your stories will be ready and available “top of mind” to share.

You’ll be able to stay as cool as a cucumber and glide through your interview with ease.

Hopefully, soon after the interview ends you’ll get the recruiter’s call with an attractive offer for the job of your dreams. That’s certainly my hope for you!




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