“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….”. A simple phrase, familiar to movie goers everywhere, and one which triggers an avalanche of memories for many of us. Memories about the film and the commercial enterprise it generated. Perhaps some recollection about where we were the first time we saw it and who we were with, eager to talk about it long after the movie ended. About the cultural touchstones it created and the memes it continues to generate, even to this day (Enter your favorite “I am your father, Luke” reference here!).
We remember all of these things because of the story, of course. We remember the story. Star Wars was a story well told. It had a plot, character (and characters), held our interest and ultimately had a point. We remember the story. And the other movies we remember we remember primarily because of the stories.
We see you nodding, thinking to yourself, “sure, that’s sort of interesting, but what does storytelling have to do with me? Aren’t these articles supposed to help me find a new/different job?” Indeed they are. And storytelling can actually play a significant role in that. How? Simply by turning your interview into a conversation, one in which you can describe not only who you are but what you’ve accomplished, how you managed to do so, and how those things are of value to the employer.
Perhaps it’ll be helpful to remember what an interview involves. No, not for you. For the interviewer(s). There are few things most executives, human resources staff, managers and supervisors dislike more than interviewing job applicants, spending time with people they don’t know, not because they want to but because they have to. They’re also probably thinking about how much time you’re taking away from their mission-critical tasks or other things they’d rather be doing.
You may be unique, but is your resume distinctive enough to make you considerably different from the other candidates for the same position, to essentially render you unforgettable? No offense, but unless you have had Distinctive Career Services write it, probably not. And, if you are reading this article and haven’t yet had us write your resume, there is no better time than the present. But even if your resume has not been professionally written, and you have somehow managed to land an interview in spite of that, your story CAN still be unforgettable.
At the end of the day, whatever lasting impression you make will depend on how compelling your story is and how much of what you have to share is commensurate with the hiring needs of the organization. So write a story. Then write another. About the events, circumstances and challenges you’ve experienced. Write 10-12 stories that illustrate how those experiences impacted you and developed within you skills and/or abilities that will add value to this employer. Write stories that tell how the results you produced added value to your past employers.
This isn’t merely a writing exercise, however. Here are some things to consider when writing your stories to prepare for your interview:
Once upon a time…. Detail the scenario. Paint a picture in the mind’s eye of the interviewer(s) that enables them to fully appreciate the level of difficulty you faced and understand the exact nature of the problem you attempted to solve (action items).
The Last Action Hero! Everyone loves an action-adventure story, so don’t hold back on the details about what you actually did to meet the challenge or solve the problem (action steps). And give credit where credit is due. If you acknowledge the assistance others provided, you’ll seem like the team player you are (you are a team player, right?).
The facts ma’am, just the facts. As best possible, quantify the results, don’t just qualify how great you were. Did your actions increase sales, improve departmental or organizational efficiency, strengthen customer service or build brand loyalty? In the alternative, if your actions didn’t generate immediate results but laid the foundation for success down the road, be sure to include that part of the story in your narrative.
What if…you hadn’t performed the way you did? What would the outcome likely have been? Would there have been an “epic fail?”
How do I get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, man, practice. Once you’re comfortable that you’ve compiled your personal career “Top Ten” bestsellers list, rehearse telling them. We know: “But wait, these are my stories. I know them by heart. Why should I practice telling them?” Really, we mean it. Rehearse each story so that you become completely comfortable with the retelling. This will enable you to talk about each success with confidence rather than having to rely on your notes and inevitably uttering “Just a moment, I want to be sure I’ve covered everything.” There’s a big difference between telling a story and reading one aloud.
So, at the end of the day, or in this case, the interview, your goal is to have become not only memorable but memorable for all the right reasons. By turning the interview into a conversation, your job search story may actually have a happy ending.