5 Steps to Turning Any Interview Answer Into a Memorable Story
There are a few select phrases that no job seeker wants to hear in an interview. “Go ahead and see yourself out,” is one of them. “Did you know that your fly is down?” or “Please, stop crying,” are likely others. But—let’s face it—those aren’t exactly commonplace (at least, I certainly hope not).
However, there’s one dreaded set of words that’s sure to crop up in any job interview. Words so terrifying that they immediately cause your leg to twitch and a nauseous feeling to wiggle its way up from your stomach to your throat.
Tell me about a time when…
“Oh, crap,” you think to yourself. You were more than prepared to spin your weaknesses into strengths and talk about why you’re the best fit for the open position. Heck, you can even recite the company’s mission statement from memory—in three different languages.
But, this? This part you’re not adequately prepared for.
Let’s face it—having to think of specific examples from your professional history is already challenging. Add in the element of needing to transform them into captivating and relevant stories to engage and impress your interviewer? Well, suddenly you’re tempted to just stand up and walk out.
Not so fast! These inevitable behavioral interview questions are definitely nerve-wracking. But, they’re nothing you can’t handle.
The first step is to make sure that you already have a few key interview stories queued up and ready in your back pocket. Once you have a solid roster of examples ready to go, it’s time to polish up your delivery. Here are the five key elements you’ll want to incorporate: Put them to good use, and you’ll be sure to save yourself the embarrassment of rambling on without a point or purpose.
1. Answer First
Yes, being prompted to tell a story in an interview is enough to send you spiraling into panic mode. But, there’s one important thing you need to remember here: These prompts are called behavioral interview questions. Emphasis on the word questions. This means you need to provide an answer to something specific, and not just launch into a long-winded explanation about something that’s completely irrelevant.
The best way to ensure that you drill down to the meat and potatoes and give the interviewer exactly what he’s looking for is to start your story with a concise, one-sentence response, before elaborating on those nitty-gritty details. While you’re telling a story, you don’t need to weave in tension and suspense the way an award-winning author would. Your main concern should be answering the question.
For the sake of example, let’s assume that your interviewer asked you to talk about a time when you made a mistake.
What This Looks Like
“A professional mistake that still sticks in my memory is when I mixed up the date for a large meeting my department was hosting.”
2. Provide Context
Now that you’ve given a brief answer, it’s time to expand and provide some background information. After all, a one-sentence response won’t be enough to satisfy your interviewer. She’ll be left wondering exactly how you managed to goof up that date. What was the fallout from your blunder? What did you do to fix it?
So, it’s time to give the context of the situation. Don’t get so bogged down in minor details here. Your interviewer doesn’t need to know that it happened on a rainy Tuesday or that you were feeling particularly groggy from that huge burrito you ate for lunch. Instead, zone in on what’s important and actually helps to provide some clarity to the situation.
What This Looks Like
“My department was coordinating a training session that our entire company was set to attend in order to learn about a new process we were implementing. We had tentatively scheduled the large meeting for the middle of May. But, when we changed the date to a week earlier, I neglected to make that change in my own calendar. The meeting was a week sooner than I thought, forcing me to scramble to get things pulled together in time.”
Credit : themuse.com