You are ready for the job interview!
You’ve rehearsed answers to questions you know are going to get asked. You’ve researched the company, memorized the mission statement, can recite the company’s motto in French, Italian, and Swahili, and discovered the company owner’s enjoys yachting in the Indian Ocean when he’s not starting amazing companies like the one you’re trying to get a job at.
During the interview, however, you come across as a robot, giving the same tired strengths and weaknesses answers. The recruiter–who’s interviewed thousands of qualified candidates–has no idea who you are 47 seconds after you leave the office, and you just missed out on the chance of a lifetime.
Admit it, you’ve gone to several websites looking for how to answer job interview questions–the same websites the previous 12 interviewees went to, by the way. When you interview for a job, you don’t need to copy others’ answers. You have a unique story to tell, one that the interviewer will remember. Focusing on your unique story turns a job interview into an authentic moment to stand out.
Here are 5 steps for telling your story and distinguishing yourself during an interview:
- Come prepared. Decide on the theme of any narrative you’re going to tell the interviewer. Themes, for example, could involve how you are always looking to improve, that you’re detail-oriented, or that you work well with deadlines.
- Stay relevant. Just because you prepared a narrative on how you saved your boss’s quarterly meeting by recreating the quarterly report and having it printed in less than 23 minutes doesn’t mean you should tell it if it doesn’t answer the question. That being said, have in mind several narratives that support the theme you’ve prepared for the interview.
- Answer the question. When you’re asked a question that requires a more elaborate answer than “I’m a super-duper employee,” begin the answer with a concise statement that answers the question. For example, if you’re asked what’s one personal attribute you’d like to improve in the next year, you might answer, “I’d like to learn what exactly it is I’m getting paid to do, so I can focus on the most important parts of the job.”
- Support your answer with a story. Now that you’ve answered the question, support it with something that will stand out. Using the above example, you could tell about the time you stayed late organizing the filing cabinets when what you’re boss really wanted was a comprehensive report, organized neatly, that highlighted the company’s achievements over the past year that he could access easily.
- Show how the incident made you a better employee. Conclude the story with what you learned from the incident or how you became a better employee. Continuing with the above example, you could state how after the incident you made sure you communicated better with your boss and coworkers to find out exactly what your most valuable contribution could be.
Now that you have the basics on how to formulate a personal narrative for a job interview, be sure to keep in mind the following:
- Keep the story job related.
- Focus on how you solve problems.
- Highlight how you overcome challenges.
- Talk about how you bounce back after mistakes.
- Show how you make good decisions.
- Highlight how you work well with others.
And one last, very important tip: Be yourself. You obviously want to make yourself look good, but you don’t want to come across as a phony. When you’re prepared for the interview, you are confident and likely to come across as unique and authentic.