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Tips from Storytelling to Take into your Next Interview

Over the past few months, more people than I can count have added the "open to work" frame to their LinkedIn profile pic. As a career coach and self-pronounced "job search junkie," I help people prepare their job search strategy. Resumes are often the initial focus and while important (required to get in the proverbial door), you don't want to overlook the importance of preparing to tell your story in a live interaction. 

Pre-Covid, I was an active member of the Chicago Storytelling community. I spent time writing, practicing and LISTENING to others at open mikes to work on my craft. What was clear about the good storytellers? They had a driving theme from the first word to the last breath that held your attention. If a storyteller recited a laundry list of jokes, they are likely to be a better stand-up comedian. If they try to pack in a tale that is too detailed for 8 minutes on stage, we may have a budding author in our midst. But a really talented storyteller has a way of escorting the listener through a series of seemingly unrelated events without leaving the audience hanging.  

Long story short, those in job search mode need to be the best orator of their story. And contrary to popular belief, you have to put the time in to do this with grace – to be clear, concise and genuine all at the same time. Don't worry. You just need a bit of practice and a few nuggets of advice from storytelling 101 to help you stand out.

1. Be prescriptive - focus on those past experiences that play into the value you bring to this new role. Don't waste time relaying the fine print on that one job you had that doesn't speak to what you bring to the table. You get to pick and choose! Be the storyteller - highlight what is important. 

  • Tip at work - Carrie was a senior Visual Design Manager for a mega department store. She found herself spending interview time giving equal sound bites to all parts of her current role even though she wanted to move into a merchandising heavy role. Carrie "flipped the script" and focused on her merchandising projects.  

2. Connect the dots - insert your "driving theme" into what may look like unrelated experiences on paper. Don't wait for the interviewer to make the connection - link your career history for them.

  • Tip at work: Mike was hitting an interview brick wall. After some career direction work, he identified relationship building as his driving theme. Mike used this in his narrative to connect his prior sales job to his successful transition into the HR field. 

3. Spot your red flags. Bringing your A-game involves more than pointing out a common theme, it also involves identifying potential pitfalls. Ask a friend, “What questions would you have about my resume? What doesn't make sense at first glance?” Instead of avoiding these topics, confront them head-on and address them in your narrative. You have the opportunity to control the direction of the dialogue.

  • Tip at work: It was apparent from Lucy's resume that she had never managed a team in a professional setting, and she wanted to make that jump into a managerial role. Instead of waiting for the elephant in the room to be called out, she led her personal story with her team leadership examples from her theater and volunteer experience.   

You deserve to be the author of your story in your next interview because you are more than a list of dates, company names and computer skills. READ THAT AGAIN. You are more! So check in with yourself and put in the fancy footwork to nail that Zoom interview because preparation leads to confidence, and confidence takes the cake...err, job!

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