One of my clients was preparing for an interview recently. She was worried because a recruiter in Human Resources told her to expect situational questions, the kind that need to be answered with a story. This direction terrified my client. She said, “I can’t tell stories.”
Her panic is natural. Job seekers often wrestle with answering direct questions. How can we tell stories during an interview in a way that we can remember details? Keep it simple.
I suggest following this three step formula that will let you tell good, concise stories that will impress employers.
1. Describe a situation or problem that addresses the interviewer’s question.
2. How did you respond? What action did you take?
3. What was the result?
For example, if an interviewer asks to you describe a situation where you had to demonstrate leadership skills, start by framing the situation.
1. Our catering department lacked focus and received low customer satisfaction scores. As a new manager I had to turn this situation around quickly.
Next, describe your action.
2. My first action was to assess surveys and figure out what our customers needed. Once I determined what actions needed to be taken, I held a department meeting. I didn’t start by telling my team what they had to do. Instead, I asked them what they think we could go to improve customer service and wrote their answers on a flip chart. Then I wrote the answers from the customer surveys. My workers agreed with the customers. We set priorities, and everyone bought into the change.
Finally, conclude with a result – a success story.
3. When the next survey was taken in 6 months, our department’s customer service rating increased for 5.5 to 8.2. My manager complimented me and the team on a job well done. I am confident that I can bring similar success to your company and value to your customers.
Following this model will let you tell well organized stories and enhance them with strong examples and facts. Before you go on your next interview, practice telling 4-6 stories, and then be ready to adapt those stories during the interview. As you practice and get better at telling stories, you will be able to tell new stories during interviews when an interviewer asks a question you are not prepared for. Telling good stories is fun. It also helps convince an employer that you can do the job. Practice story telling!