How to tell an effective story in an interview

An effective story can go a long way in a job interview, allowing you to build a connection with the recruiter and demonstrate a specific quality or skill.

Job interviews can be complicated, involved processes that require you to recall past experiences and convince recruiters of your ability and expertise. However, they're also powerful opportunities to advance your career by moving into a new role.

One especially powerful way to connect with the people interviewing you is through telling a story that uses a narrative. This can emphasize a particular skill, quality or piece of your educational background. Of course, the story has to be effective and relevant to connect with the interviewer to have its desired effect.

Let's look at how you can tell the right kind of story at the best possible time during your next job interview.

Knowing when to tell your story

Interviewers will often ask a question structured in a way that encourages candidates to tell a story. The Muse pointed to wording like "tell me about a time when..." that encourages interviewees to weave a narrative around an answer, as opposed to providing a more direct and shorter response. These are called behavioral interview questions. Paying special attention for this kind of phrasing can help you identify when you should start telling a story, which is critical for making your narrative effective.

"I often ask open-ended questions during an interview, with the hope being that a candidate will provide a relatable story that illustrates how they will be of value in the role," says Chris Sauls, Business Development Manager of Beacon Hill's Pharma Division in Raleigh, NC. "I pay attention to how they communicate, as this can serve as a barometer in regards to their manageability. Little accomplishes that in an interview better than showcasing your skills in an impactful way via a well-told story."

An interviewer might ask a question based on major skills specific to your role, or one about more universal topics like time management, teamwork, adaptability, past mistakes and how you would approach them differently. It's a good idea to think through your professional career to come up with situations that address these general topics, then take some time to decide how to build a narrative around them.

Two women in the middle of a job interview.

Knowing how to tell your story

Telling a story is a very individual process. It relies on creativity and allows you to express your personality, or at least your approach to working with others in a professional setting. That said, there are some universal tools you can use to convey information effectively and develop a connection with your interviewer:

  • Keep the point of the story in mind. You can share it briefly at the beginning of your answer, then build to it again, but with more details and context.
  • Use a lead-in sentence, as Forbes suggested. A simple "you know, I recently ..." or "as a matter of fact, I just worked on ..." as a segue into your story is an indication that you have a specific narrative in mind.
  • Touch on the three W's of who, what and when, the New York Times said. Focusing on the most important details helps you keep the story short and engaging.

Knowing when and how to tell your story in response to the right type of job interview question can help you stand out as an especially valuable candidate. For help finding the positions that best align with your educational background and professional experience, connect with a professional recruiter from Beacon Hill Staffing Group.

This content is brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.

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