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Erina Jamieson | 2 November 2022

Interviewing and the art of storytelling

"interviewing well is a skill that can be learnt".

Some people are really good at interviews. They’re able to share just the right amount of info with just the right amount of charm and personality.

I am not one of those people. My natural state sits somewhere more on the awkward end of the spectrum, and I’m likely to slip in a random reference to Drag Race or Star Trek - true story!

Being a recruiter with an enquiring mind, I’m fascinated by how people engage and interact during interviews. I often meet talented, capable people who are excellent at what they do, but just can’t articulate their abilities well. I hear post-interview woes of people who talk too much, ramble off topic or settle firmly into monologue territory. Happily, interviewing well is a skill that can be learnt.

Enter the art of storytelling.

These days, interviews are more likely to be comfortable two-way conversations where both parties can learn about each other. You’ll share your experience, how you learn, what you’re curious about, and what’s important to you. They’ll talk about the team, the role, and ask smart questions based on your application. Thankfully we’re starting to move away from rigid “Tell me about a time when…” interviews. By sharing the right story at the right time, we create common ground and shared understanding. In an interview setting, applying storytelling tools will help your answers be succinct and relevant to the role you’re applying for.

You’re one of the main characters, so make sure you know your backstory.

Going into the interview, it’s unlikely you’ll know what questions you’ll be asked. By chatting with your recruiter and becoming familiar with the job description, you’ll get a clear view on what’s really important in this role vs the nice-to-haves. The interviewer’s questions should be designed to explore the big gnarly stuff they want to know about; that’s where you focus your prep. Spend time re-familiarising yourself with your CV and the stories that align to the role.

Focus and simplify. What’s the essence of your story?

Once you’re clear on this, you’ll be able to apply your story where it’s most relevant, not crowbar it into conversation where it just doesn’t fit. Not sure? Chances are you’ll end up rambling.

What’s the genre of the story you’re telling?

Is it a happily ever after where everything landed on time and on budget? Or is it more of an action / thriller where things really didn’t go to plan, but you learned some great lessons that you’ve since successfully applied.

Keep in mind what your audience wants to hear, not just what you want to tell them.

Listen to the question you’re being asked, and form your answer around it. This is not the time to go off on a tangent or sidestep the question with the finesse of a politician, telling them what you want to say instead. And if the interviewer starts leading their questions with “Briefly…” That’s a big flag that you’re over-talking.

There’s no one way to tell a story, so tell it your style.

You might have heard about the STAR or CAR technique when answering interview questions, and while these techniques might help you keep your story moving along, it can also be inflexible when stuck to religiously. So be your fabulous self. Why would you be anyone else?

I’d love to hear what you’ve learnt about your interviewing style that works well for you. Let’s share our stories!