storytelling for career success

Storytelling and Job Interviews

There is a popular saying: “A picture says more than a thousand words.” There is another, less popular one: “A story says more than a thousand pictures.”

You want to be a powerful communicator, learn to tell stories!

Storytelling differs from storywriting in one crucial aspect: this is the act of telling the story itself. Stories are not told in a vacuum: storytelling always occurs in a specific context with a specific audience present. The message always has some specific objective: it may be a call to action, or creating suspense, inciting desire to learn more, or simply distraction from more important things, yes, this happens in business as well!

The act of telling influences the story and gives the storyteller the opportunity to change it, cut it shorter or highlight specific moments, depending on the reaction of the audience.

Let‘s take a step back first!

Storytelling started out as an oral tradition. The first stories of mankind were epic traditions, told and retold and enriched with elements and details over centuries. The professional storytellers of previous times hired for entertainment services had only a handful of stories under their belt. These stories could be told in anything between two hours or two days or even two weeks depending on the time constraints and the gage on the table. The hero of a story could go from point A straight to point B, just like they could go from point A to point C first, stay for a while, go to point D, learn something new, defeat enemies, go on a quest and only then go to point B. After all, you can go from Zurich to Rome by direct plane; you can also go to Paris by train first, board on a train to London, fly to New York, go by ship to wherever and take the plane to Rome. You may also wish to include other vehicles and destinations along the way.

Here is the thing though: a good story is not about the points and junctions along the way! It is about the hero‘s transformation during the journey! Good stories are not simply travel reports, they always come a full circle back to where they started, to the hero. Good and memorable stories end with the hero transformed, having grown and evolved, on a different level of awareness and learnings.

What does this mean in a business context and more specifically, in recruitment?

Well, a job interview is a storytelling situation (and whatever comes out of your mouth will be associated with your face so be mindful of how you talk about others, particularly former employers or colleagues).

You have provided a background story in your CV (an example of storywriting); you have provided side perspectives in the form of work certificates (these better match the self-image you created in your CV!). The real story however, the one that matters, is about your transformation and evolution along the way. What have you learned, how have you grown, what competencies did you develop along the way? What mini-stories illustrate these competencies?

If you get invited to a job interview, it will be all about your stoytelling! You will be asked questions like “Who are you?” or “Walk me through your CV!” and you better be the hero of your own journey! Most importantly though, the information you provide must be linked to the self-interest of the listener! Without this last bit, they will start checking their i-phones! I will repeat: do your homework, be clear on the self-interest of the audience, the What-‘s-in-it-for-me factor through which your message will be filtered and plan your stories accordingly!

The good news is that in storytelling as opposed to storywriting you can adapt your message provided you are as keen on listening as you are on talking. If the recruiter tells you that they value soft skills over formal qualifications, for example, you can tell a story that addresses this rather than some story you may have planned originally to tell. And here is a piece of practical advice: when asked about your competencies, do not proceed with a laundry list of attributes like „competent, confident, cooperative, communicative“. Prepare a set of real stories from your work history which exemplify these qualities and competencies so that when you tell them, without explicitly naming it, the listener hears „competent, competent, competent“, or „team-player, team-player-team player“.

In my next blog post I will show you a method of chunking competencies up and down and linking stories to these so that without labeling yourself in any trite and limiting way, you convey your competencies profile in a convincing and authentic way.


Teodora Rudolph

Blog Post Author: Teodora Rudolph

Sie ist eine Autorin –  „Schnelle Wege zur Leistungssteigerung: Erfolgsmodelling leicht gemacht“



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