By Shea Ki
Have you ever walked out of an interview and felt like you missed the mark on representing your best, authentic self?
Perhaps one of these common errors blocked your way in helping others see how you fit in the opportunity:
►Rambling at your interview or giving too much information without actually answering what is being asked
►Using phrases such as "I'm no expert, but...", "To be honest..." that make them re-consider your competence or integrity
►Ending your responses with questions such as "Did that make sense?" that detracted from your message of professional value
►Freezing up and not being able to share the examples that you wanted to in the moment
Thankfully, there is a remedy to most of these uncomfortable and costly moments in the interview.
Learning and practicing how to be a better, confident storyteller.
Even though we have often heard that storytelling is a powerful way to connect with others, most people I've met have not had a chance to strengthen this skill. Those that do invest in learning more about how to become a better storyteller often shine brighter in the hot seat at interview time.
I've been on a treasure hunt to add on to my toolbox of engaging ways to tell better stories when under professional pressure. Before we get into how to use one of my favorites, let me make sure you are aware of one more thing that might be limiting how you present your responses to interviewers.
Are You Using The Same Old Techniques TOO Much?
You may often hear about the STAR or PAR methods for answering interview questions (situation/task/action/result or problem/action/result). As a hiring manager, I saw these types of formulas to talk about yourself being used WAY too often by interview candidates.
These approaches got super popular several years ago, mostly from internet searches including "how to best answer behavioral interview questions". Even today, there are still some career development professionals and websites that offer STAR and PAR as a top tool for interview responses.
But if you use tricks like STAR and PAR that have been around a long time, you may miss out on fully engaging your audience or those interviewing you. And then not be remembered.
STAR and PAR can be a useful crutch if used strategically and sparingly.
But have you been using either of them often or planning to? At least now you know that STAR and PAR will not help you stand out. Many hiring managers and recruiters can spot when you are leaning on them. If you find yourself really liking the STAR or PAR method and can't let it go (?cue Elsa's big song!), at least take a few minutes to review my blog previously written about how to add LIGHT to your a STAR response to upgrade it.
Fortunately, there are MANY more energizing and creative ways to respond to interview questions.
In this post, I will offer one example of how much fun and creativity you can have in creating your interview story inventory. For more tools that boost your stories you tell in interviews, I would need to know about your career journey and personality. Then I could customize storytelling tools to best fit your style and the career success that you are aiming for (did you know I have a few, one-to-one 30 minute sample meetings open for this month that you are welcome to connect with me about).
My hope is that sharing one of my favorite tools here in this post provides a powerful, initial start to help you start writing down and practicing out loud better career stories so you can upgrade your interview.
Better Storytelling Using Menu-Making
What if a storytelling tool could help your interview preparation be something you look forward to doing and your interview responses be answers that others will enjoy hearing?
Are you in for learning about it? Here we go!
One of the most fun and creative ways to organize a story for a better interview is what I like to call "menu-making". I actually found this spin on storytelling on LinkedIn. (I would love to give credit to the person that posted it, so if it looks familiar to you connect with me so I can happily list the source.)
Think about your favorite restaurant. They put together their menu so you feel a certain energy and experience while you learn about all they have to offer on their menu. What if you approached structuring your storytelling at an interview with that same excitement and clarity?
Here's what that could look like:
1. Theme of the restaurant: Are you going to be talking to one person, a panel, a group audience? What are some of their likely needs or problems that they want you to solve? How do you want them to describe you when the interview is over?
2. Starter: It's time to get their appetites (or interest in hearing about you) ignited with a hook. Why should they give you 30 minutes+ of their time? Of course in an interview, you were invited to the hot seat. But now that you are there, what top three strengths or skills of yours would they be most interested that you have? What professional values or agenda of theirs and yours are similar?
3. The main course: YOUR KEY MESSAGE! This is the meat (or hearty, vegetarian alternative) of why you are sharing space together. What can you do to help the meeting feel more like a meaningful dialogue and less stuffy or tense? What is it about your personal brand that is unique and fits with the story they want others to believe about themselves or their organization? What steps will you be taking in the first 90 days with them to satisfy or improve their current situation?
4. The dessert: What next step can you picture taking together? How can you help them see clearly that in their mind? Or what call to action are you recommending?
5. Matching wines: This is what ties the whole interview together into a satisfying and MEMORABLE experience. I love the idea that, "like a good sommelier, your role is to connect, to amplify, and bring the interview/presentation all to life!" Let your own unique delivery style and personality come through your story telling during interview responses.
Play with this "menu-making" structure and make it yours. Since I am a foodie, this approach really gets me energized and inspired to write and practice a few career stories that align with this delightful menu flow.
This structure will not work for every type of interview question nor should you over use it. However, it is a fun way to help you organize your thoughts ahead of time about some of your success stories and professional value that you offer. It is also an excellent approach to get creative with if your interview process will be including any type of presentation.
Now, either you are hungry and headed to the kitchen or you are eager to get to writing some of your career stories. I suggest to combine the two! Go get yourself a tasty snack, a nurturing beverage, a favorite pen, and print this powerful printable.
I know you are going to cook up an incredible feast of professional stories that demonstrate your strengths, competencies, and skill sets.
Get to it, Chef!
Most of all, believe in you.
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