The Art of Stories
Everyone has a story, and your story is the one you know best. Stories are fundamental to human experience and can captivate and engage people in a way that's exclusive to this form of art. But how can this be applied to your professional life? When going into an interview, it can be daunting thinking about how to present yourself and make a good first impression. While it's easy to check all the boxes by arriving early, wearing a presentable outfit, and greeting the interviewer with a firm handshake, people often overlook the importance of telling a compelling story that describes who you are and the qualities that would make you the best candidate for the position.
The Power of Stories
Storytelling is a powerful tool that can distinguish you from other candidates and make you more memorable to the interviewer, leaving a lasting impression. It’s important to know what makes for a good story and what makes a story stick in the listener’s head. Storytelling uses anecdotes and experiences to showcase your skills, talents, experience, and personality. Never underestimate the power of putting your experience into the form of a narrative.
Psychology of Stories
What makes a story so memorable? It all comes down to how our brains perceive information. Research shows that when we hear stories, the nerves in our brain fire in a way similar to if we were experiencing the story ourselves.
Stories also stick because they appeal to fundamental and basic human needs and desires. A good story has a lesson or moral that reinforces the understanding of the world around us.
Finally, stories follow similar patterns that make it easy for our brains to follow them and organize the structure of the events.
Crafting Your Story
All stories follow a similar structure using character, conflict, and resolution. Using this structure in professional interviews will make you memorable and keep the interviewer engaged.
Character- That’s you! Explain who you are and how you found yourself in the situation you’re about to set up.
Conflict- Describe the situation or incident that you were in. Describe what was at stake and the importance of making the right decision in the scenario.
Resolution- Explain how you resolved the conflict and what the outcome or consequences were of this decision.
Example of a Compelling Story
Here is an example of turning an ordinary story into one that has all three elements of a good and engaging narrative. Imagine an interviewer asking you, “Tell me about a time you faced a challenging situation and how you overcame it.”
Your response could be…
“As a project manager at a software company, I led a team tasked with developing a new product on a tight deadline.” (Character) “Halfway through the project, one of our key team members unexpectedly quit, leaving us short-staffed and behind schedule. We had trouble finding a replacement because his job was highly skilled and specialized.” (Conflict) “Eventually, I took the initiative to research and reach out to freelancers who worked in the field and interviewed them and eventually hired one. He was a great fit and we were able to finish the project one time, within budget, and with high quality.” (Resolution)
- - Most interviewers ask similar questions to the interviewee, find these questions out and use this format to turn your generic answers into interesting stories. Practice giving these answers ahead of time.
- - Explain the events in the proper order and make sure they emphasize the stakes of the conflict before jumping to the resolution.
- - Use humor and emotion when telling your story to show the interviewer your personality and give them insight into the way you approach conflict.
- - Don’t make up stories or exaggerate the truth. This will only lead to a bad impression if the interviewer asks you to expand upon the story and you are unable to.
- - Don’t share stories unrelated to the position. Make sure the story highlights the best aspects of who you are as a professional.
- - Don’t talk badly about previous employers or coworkers. Keep the conversation constructive and explain the conflict without putting down others.
Interviews are your chance to connect with your potential employer and present yourself as best you can. A simple, well-crafted story can go a long way in making you stand out from other candidates and help you display all the best qualities about yourself. Before your next interview, think of a time in your professional life when you demonstrated good qualities that you want your future employer to know about. Turn that experience into a narrative and use the power of storytelling to engage and connect with the interviewer, getting you one step closer to landing the job.