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Learn the Art of Storytelling to Answer Tough Interview Questions

Learn the Art of Storytelling to Answer Tough Interview Questions

Do you use storytelling in the interview? Interviewing is a skill that can be learned. By coming into a meeting prepared to answer some of the toughest interview questions, you can show the hiring panel you have what it takes to excel in the available position.

This is your chance to stand out from the competition and create more of a narrative of the skills listed on your professional resume.

Preparing for a job interview can be a stressful time, but if you are willing to put in the legwork to overcome the most common interview questions, you will most certainly be able to prepare well-rounded answers to some of the most challenging questions.

Below you will find tips and tricks to overcome the nerves and anticipate some of the tougher interviews questions that give the interviewer a broader sense of who you are professionally and personally. By learning the art of storytelling to answer tough interview questions, you will form the skills needed to back up your experiences highlighted on your resume and prove your overall fit for the position.

Storytelling Response Format

When creating a narrative to answer interview questions, you want to keep it relatively short and to the point. Don’t start rambling and head off in a random tangent and get off topic. Stick to the basics of storytelling: who, what, when, where, and how. Relate these points back to the job you are applying for and elaborate on the results you achieved or the lessons that were learned. Study other interview tips besides responding to questions to fully prepare for a successful meeting.

Below are the key points you need to develop a balanced answer to those tough interview questions.

1.    Answer the Question

The most important aspect of answering the interviewer’s question is actually answering the question. This should be done right off the bat to set the stage for the elaboration and clarification of your response.

For example, an inquiry such as, “What is your greatest weakness?”, could have a response such as, “Organization hasn’t always been my strong suit as I have always been more focused on prioritizing tasks that directly reflect the bottom line, and maintaining a well-organized desk didn’t seem to result in a loss of overall productivity.”

From here you would continue on with how you overcame this “weakness” to thrive as an organized and productive employee.

2.    Expand and Provide Context

This next part of the storytelling process is to provide your interviewer with some context to the situation. There is no need to give irrelevant details, such as what the weather was; however, you will want to include information that is relatable to the specific question.

By expanding on your answer, you do not leave the interviewer wanting more, a one sentence response is not going to cut it with the problematic interview questions you are posed with.

Bring into light the particular problem or challenge you faced. You can begin this part of the story with, “I was fairly new to my role…”, “Everything was going according to plan until…”. Or “We were making headway, and then…”.

It is vital you connect the situation in your story directly to what the interviewer wants to know. You can always include words straight from the interviewer’s question to better relate your scenario to the subject.

3.    What Was Your Role?

After you have answered the question and provided appropriate context, it is now time to go into more detail about your role in resolving the challenge. Your skills and qualifications will come into the forefront in this part of the story.

Use your actions to illustrate better what you did to resolve the situation and show the panel what you will bring to their company in a similar scenario. This should be the longest part of the story as it describes your personal actions and relates your qualifications back to the question at hand, as well as, showcases your ability to overcome a particular challenge.

When developing and practicing your answers, think about specific duties and actions you took, and elaborate on your responsibilities. Entirely give credit to the team; however, the interviewer wants to know how you handle certain situations, so make sure to limit the use of “we” in your responses.

Another thing to remember is not to make excuses or shift blame to someone else, especially if you are asked about a mistake or conflict, take ownership of the failure and express what you learned and how you grew from the experience.

“After being promoted to district manager, I realized that my leadership skills were not up to par when my first evaluation came out. I was rated lower than I have ever been, and lower than what I had expected.

After reading through the evaluation, I realized that I needed to learn a lot more about the responsibilities and expectations of my new role. I took it upon myself to further hone in on my leadership skills through online courses, peer feedback, and delving deeper into the role requirements.”

4.    End Results/Clear Ending

When finishing up your story make sure to highlight the results. Pull it all together by explaining the overall outcome of the example you chose to answer the question. End with a strong correlation between your response and how it applies to the new position.

5.    What did the Experience Teach You?

Some questions and answers are meant to show less than favorable results. Take this opportunity to share the results still, but add in what you learned from the experience. Your take away from the unfortunate outcome will be the focus of a less than favorable situation and shows that you are willing to take constructive criticism and build from your mistakes.

Take this opportunity to elaborate on how the experience drove you to improve as an individual and made you an over-all better employee in the end.

For example, an ending to a question asking about your biggest failure could look something like this: “While it was not my intention to rush through the demonstration prep, and the mad dash at the end was definitely not my favorite part, making this mistake proved the importance of keeping a close eye on my calendar.

Now, I have it scheduled in to go through every week and double check the commitments scheduled for the company to ensure that I never miss another important engagement”.

Research Company and Specific Position Qualifications

Knowing what the company is looking for in a successful candidate will go a long way in preparing for the overall interview process, as well as creating meaningful answers to some tough interview questions. Scour the job posting and look into the company website. This research will help you to create a more rounded presentation of yourself to the interviewer, as you will know exactly who they are looking to hire.

When going over the job posting, jot down each trait and qualification that is requested. You may discover you don’t have every single skill the organization is looking for a new hire.

Do extensive homework to allow you to elaborate, without lying, on the skills and attributes you do have and tie them back to the position and potential questions in the interview. Remember, especially if you are changing careers, that some, if not most, of your skills, are transferable.

By making a physical listing of the qualifications, you can pinpoint where you need to focus and will be better able to formulate professional stories that intrigue the interviewer to know more.

Practice Answering Interview Questions

Imagine you are auditioning for a play. Would you sit down on the couch and only read and re-read the lines? No. You would stand up, play the part, and read those lines with a friend.

The same goes for preparing for an interview. Yes, there are the basic interview questions that you can get through with a single sentence, and you could rely upon your charismatic personality to get you through the rest, but why not be fully prepared to create and tell your story in response to the more difficult questions you will inevitably be asked.

Take the extra time in preparing for the interview to run through a mock meeting with a friend to ensure that you correct any stumbling points in your answers and get your storytelling ability down pat.

It is one thing to mentally answer the question, “Why should we hire you?”, but it is an entirely different challenge to say it out loud and in front of someone else.

By practicing your answers over and over, you will become more confident when you finally have the opportunity to relay them back to an interviewer. It will help with pacing and will ensure you do not go off track. Keep in mind your answers should present the situation, introduce the challenge, describe your individual role, and what the outcome was.

Interview Body Language

No matter what job you are interviewing for, no matter how much preparation you have done, and no matter how good you are weaving your resume into a well-balanced story, if you go into a meeting without a displaying a sense of confidence, it will all be for not. When sitting across the table for the interview panel, sit up straight and look into the eyes of the interviewers when relaying your answers.

Possible Questions and Important Traits

A popular interviewing style is one that helps determine if you have the specific behaviors the company is seeking. Sharing your unique selling point well answer the questions will be important.

Behavior-based interviews ask questions about your experiences and how you handled particular situations. This is where the art of storytelling comes into play.

Some behavioral questions you may be asked include:

•    Tell us about a time you made an unpopular decision.

•    Describe a time when you were forced to make a call without all the information.

•    How do you handle stress?

•    Tell me something you would have done differently at work.

Other tough interview questions you may be asked are:

•    What motivates you?

•    Tell me about your dream job.

•    Why do you want to change career paths?

•    What did you like least about your previous job?

•    Who was your worst boss?

•    Why should we hire you?

•    What do you expect from a superior?

Some critical traits to remember to focus on, especially if they are mentioned on the job posting, include your ability to problem solve, how you overcome challenges and bounce back from mistakes, how you make decisions, and how well you work with others.

If you can work your answers around these qualities, you will be able to show the potential employer that you have what it takes to succeed in the position.

Bring Your Resume

The basic premise of your story-like responses is based on your qualifications, skills, and accomplishments outlined in your resume. When you are putting together answers for your interview prep, you will most likely be using your resume as guidance.

In most cases, it is common for the candidate to take a copy of their resume along to the interview in case an extra copy is needed. Always have a copy in front of you for reference purposes. If you find you are beginning to stumble through an answer, having the information in front of you may deem helpful to get you back on track.

The best interview stories accomplish two things: they give a more detailed explanation of your resume points and intrigue the interviewer to know more about you. Keep in mind going into the interview three to four points that show that you are the best candidate for the job, your best selling points.

An interview is a perfect time to show off your skills and how you will bring success to the company. If you can show you have been in similar situations to what they are asking in their questions, the interviewers will plainly see you have what it takes to fulfill the position requirements.

By anticipating some tough interview questions and preparing engaging answers through compelling storytelling, you will score a successful interview and quite possibly the job!