Quite a number of years ago I had a friend in the retail sector that always had a couple of made-up stories to use in an interview to showcase his skills… and they worked! Firstly, I would like to say that we don’t agree with making up stories however, the science behind his approach is excellent and I have used it as a training tool for candidates throughout the years.
Why are stories good?
People relate to stories. It gives them a picture of what you have done and helps them to picture you doing similar things in their role. When you think about it, you have already been selected based on your written application. This means that the employer or recruiter has already made the decision that you have some or all of the skills and experience that they are seeking. Now it is up to you to provide examples of where and how you have demonstrated this when asked questions about your skills and experience at interview.
What kind of stories do you tell?
When we say stories, they need to be short and to the point – think more about them as a paragraph rather than a page-long story that puts the interviewer to sleep. Going back to my friend’s approach, he was in retail and thought about the questions he was always asked – customer service, sales targets, process improvements, conflict resolution and communication skills. Whilst he went ahead and made up short stories for each one of these, he could have easily found examples in each category and created a real story for each.
Examples to think about
Here are some examples of likely scenarios that you may have encountered in your job :
- Retail – customer service example of assisting an elderly customer in the store with their shopping (I’m sure that a lot of us have done this at some point). Another one may be about conflict resolution – a customer may have had a complaint about a faulty product and you were able to rectify it, creating a happy customer
- Administration – Streamlining an administrative process in the office to cut down time spent on a task. Another one is to write a list of what you actually do in each program that you use so that when asked, you can create a picture in the interviewer’s head of what you do in those programs – sounds easy but we rarely hear it from a candidate
- IT – Examples of where you have managed a project, examples of troubleshooting systems – what was the issue and how did you rectify it?
- Management – examples of leading teams, the number in the team and how you managed them in particular scenarios. Financial management, size of the budget, how you were involved and results.
- Kitchen hand – Did you improve processes or find another more efficient way to prepare food – explain what you did. Did you save money on minimising wastage.
It doesn’t matter what job or role that you have been in or are applying for, this strategy can work for you. If you can think of examples of your work for the type of questions that you have previously been asked, you can create a short story around each one. Then you can hone it to be exactly what the interviewer needs to hear to help them picture you in the role.
Don’t fake it, use good and factual stories in your interview that your referees can back up when asked. Good Luck!