The Ultimate Interview Hack: Storytelling
Updated: Nov 13, 2020
I recently received a message from a friend telling me that he was one of the last two candidates for a director position, and after months of interviews, they didn't extend an offer. I encouraged him to ask for feedback, and they responded, "what we wanted to hear was your story."
I encouraged him to ask for feedback, and they responded, "what we wanted to hear was your story."
This is not the first time I've heard this. As a hiring manager, most of the people I hired were because during their interviews, they focused on the impact they had at their previous jobs vs. what was on their resume. The other percentage, they asked me for feedback after the first interview, and when I gave it they implemented it the second time around. Your resume summarizes your work experience, skills, and accomplishments, but during the interview, your responsibility is to become the storyteller of your professional career.
Your resume summarizes your work experience, skills, and accomplishments, but during the interview, your responsibility is to become the storyteller of your professional career.
A simple framework you can use is the STAR method. This framework is a technique to answer behavioral questions, and it moves you from telling the interviewer the tasks you did to help them understand your achievements.
STAR stands for:
Situation you faced in the past
Task and specific challenges you had to address
Action(s) you took and how you did it
Result and outcomes of how you approached the challenge
Most people only use the STAR method when asked to respond to scenarios but to stand out you need to use it even during yes/no questions.
Here's how this can look during an interview:
"Are you comfortable with working in a fast-paced environment?"
"Yes, I've worked in fast-paced environments before and I'm used to it."
Your STAR response:
"Yes. In my previous role as Team Leader for XYZ Organization, I was responsible for managing the partnerships of our top-3 client accounts and supervising a team of 5 site coordinators at universities."
"This meant that I was responsible for managing multiple projects simultaneously and supporting a team with different skills and needs. It was challenging one year because the university wanted to make changes to a service agreement at the last minute, and I was onboarding a new site coordinator."
"The first thing I did was to get clarity on my immediate deliverables. I updated my work calendar and blocked time to work on partnership agreements in addition to ongoing meetings with my new staff."
"I organized a team meeting with my coordinators and shared the onboarding plan for my new staff member and they provided feedback on what should be prioritized for the start of the school year. The coordinators wanted to provide peer coaching, which was perfect because it was part of their professional development plans for the year. "
"Based on that experience, I wrote a framework and process for managing changes in service agreements at the beginning of the school year. Our programs team decided to move the contract signing date for the next year to an earlier time, and my team spearheaded a new onboarding process for site coordinators."
In this example, we connect the candidate's experience to a specific point in their career. In addition, using this method helped highlight the skills of time management, staff development, goal-setting, delegation, change-management, prioritizing, and collaboration. In one response you prove your impact and let the interviewer know how you put your skills into practice.
To set yourself apart from others, you want to understand what the interviewer is asking. By moving away from yes or no answers and sharing a compelling story, the interviewer won't doubt the skills you bring to the role.
You don't hate to figure this out on your own. Book a coaching session and I will help you prepare for your next interview and perfect the STAR method.
Paulette Piñero is the owner of LEAD Media LLC, a leadership coaching and management consulting firm that helps professionals of color get the confidence and skills they need to take the next step in their careers.