Interview Responses - Answers vs. Stories

When being interviewed the idea is that you will be answering questions in order to attain a job. Since these answers determine your job outlook it is important to approach them as best you can. This is why storytelling is becoming an art in the job interview process. Telling a story with your answer is more likely to help increase your job prospects as real world experience becomes more and more important for employers. College students and recent graduates such as ourselves are able to separate from the pack using detailed descriptions of plans in action and information about learning experiences. For tips on writing these stories we will take a look at "Interview Tip: Don't Give an Answer, Tell Stories" by Jorgen Sundberg.

Selling yourself in an interview is a very difficult thing for many people to do. Creating stories as answers allows for a much different interview approach, where you are sharing about your life rather than having to brag about yourself.  "By using stories you will appeal to the human mind," says Sundberg, "You will create a strong connection with the listener, you will demonstrate your communication skills, and finally you will be remembered." Stories leave an imprint that simple, short answers cannot. This mental image helps recruiters choose you for their positions over other candidates.

When you are telling stories there are a few tips to remember.  Stories should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Sundberg says, "The punch line will be your result. You don't want your anecdotes to be too long; aim to be able to deliver your story within 60 seconds." This time constraint allows for consistent attention from the interviewer and allows for the interviewer to ask elaborating questions if they so desire. Also, remember to listen carefully to the interviewer's question in order to find the story that fits best. Telling a great story about teamwork will not be as effective when asked a question about your weaknesses as it will be when answering a question about improving yourself. The context of the stories is just as important as the content.

There are seven types of stories that Sundberg believes you should have readily available heading into an interview. Stories may overlap between two types, but preparing a set of five to seven stories should allow you to answer any question thrown your way. These seven types are as follows: the story about yourself, how you can make money or save money, being a team player, working hard, company loyalty, your biggest challenge, and dealing with conflicts/setbacks/stress. These categories cover the vast majority of behavioral questions that employers are asking.  Stories about each of these will be able to provide the correct context to almost any question asked by an interviewer, giving you the upper hand in the job hunting process.

Telling stories is an excellent way to relate your real world experience when interviewing for a job. Stories are also incredibly helpful as you build rapport with an interviewer. Using Jorgen Sundberg's tips can help you refine your interviewing skills and may lead to more job offers in the near future.