When someone suggests that you tell stories in your job interviews, they're not talking about a tale from a book or a "this guy walks into a bar" story that makes you the life of the party. The stories you must be ready to tell are about things that took place in previous jobs, things that back up the skills and qualifications you wrote about in your resume.
This type of storytelling is also called behavioral interviewing, and you need to expect it in today's highly competitive job market. As unemployment rises and job growth remains as slow as economic experts predict, employers hold the advantage in the hiring process. Since hiring managers have plenty of good candidates to choose from, expect them to ask tougher interview questions as they try to reduce candidate pools and ensure they hire the right people.
What does this mean for you?
Be very careful of how you sell your skills and abilities in your resume. For every one you write, be sure you have at least one story that can support it. For example, if you write in your professional summary that you have a "strong record of meeting critical project deadlines in spite of unforeseen obstacles," be ready for the hiring manager to ask you a behavioral question like: "Tell me about a time you encountered an unforeseen obstacle. What did you do to overcome it?"
That's when you tell your story, which might go something like this:
"My team was finishing up a multi-page report for the board of directors when we discovered new information that forced us to radically change two of our four recommendations. The board was scheduled to meet just three days later, so I called an emergency meeting of the team. We addressed the new information and its effect on the report. I made it clear that this was the top priority for the group and that everything else had to take a back seat so we could hammer out the report in time for the board meeting. We got it done the night before the meeting, and I presented it the next day and got rave reviews."
If you're not a natural storyteller, start practicing. Don't just write it, recite it. When the hiring manager asks for an example of a time when you used a particular skill, you don't want to stutter, stammer, and sweat your way off the list of finalists.
Stand Out in a Rough Job Market: Part II — Interviewing
Interviewing Tips: What Hiring Managers Really Want from You
If You Say it in the Resume, Prove it in the Interview
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