What Story Do I Tell?
Interviewing for a new position is all about story telling.
From the first question (usually, “Tell me a little about yourself”) to the last (“What are your salary requirements?”) as someone in a career search you need to consider questions as a way to entice the interviewer to get involved in your “career story.”
With most executives, the challenge is to figure out what story to tell.
In order to help you as you are building your career story, here are a few tips:
- Just like a good yarn, your story should have a clear plot line. Make sure that you can explain why you moved from one position to another in the past.
Practice talking through the “plot” of your career until you feel very comfortable with it. Don’t stumble by lingering on any negatives – for instance, the time you were laid off – the more you talk about a negative, the more it is reinforced in the interviewer’s mind. You want your story to be a positive story.
- Think about involving other “characters” (also know as colleagues or teams!) in your story. Imagine how boring a book would be if it had only ONE character. So, when you talk about your career, feel free to comment on how a boss was supportive, or how lucky you were to have a great team.
- Think about the “chapters” to your story. In an interview, the “chapters” take the form of WAR stories: What was the challenge, What Actions did you take, and What were the Results you achieved. Measureable results work best in your career story. Make sure you prepare 8-10 chapters – WAR stories – in advance of an interview. I always suggest writing them out because the act of writing can help you clarify the “chapter” and will highlight any “chapters” that don’t fit into your book.
- Make sure your story is clear and true. Your story is not a fictional novel; it is a NON-fictional narrative that others will be able to verify. Especially in this age of the “non-reference check” (by that I mean that interviewers will go beyond the folks you have listed as references and do an informal reading of your performance. Often this will be based on Linkedin colleagues you have in common.) For instance, you want to be sure that when you say you “led” a project, the others on the project team who may be informally tapped to talk about you will recognize you as the team leader.
There is more to the need for truth in your story… interviewers are pretty savvy at noticing when you may be expanding your role or defending the indefensible. They notice when you are not telling the truth on a non-verbal level. And, as we all know, up to 90% of the meaning of your story may be communicated non-verbally.
- Make sure that the ending to your career story enables the interviewer to see how you would add value to his/her company.
Finally (and stretching this metaphor to the limit!), make sure that your story has a happy ending. Enable the interviewer to “see” you in the position for which you are interviewing.