Next time you have a job interview, try not to think of it as a question and answer session, but instead think of it as an opportunity to tell your story. Boring questions tend to lead to boring answers, so that’s what recruiters and hiring managers often get. Before reciting a canned answer to the question “How would you describe your leadership style?” or “What is your greatest strength?”, take a step back and come up with a story to explain your answer. You’ll come across as more charming, a great communicator and the interviewer will get a chance to know you better.
In general, the goals of an interview are to get to know candidates, determine their skills, figure out if they are a culture fit and assess the benefit they can provide to an organization. Answering questions in the form of a story will help your interviewer get to know you and will allow them to walk out of the interview having a good sense of who you are. It will also give them concrete examples of how you work, solve problems, interact with others, etc. Thorough, interesting answers will engage your interviewers and set you apart from the crowd.
It’s very difficult to assess the capabilities of a candidate who doesn’t provide a lot of information. As an interviewer it can be difficult (and exhausting) to have to continue asking questions to get a complete answer. What typically happens is the interviewer walks out of an interview like that without a good read on the candidate. Their feedback tends to be something like “I have no idea how organized they are or if they have project management skills”. The poor candidate may be an organizational whiz, but they sold themselves short in the interview with incomplete answers and, without knowing it, put doubt in the interviewer’s mind.
The good news is that telling a story is pretty easy. To prepare for an interview, start by writing down some projects at work or situations where you excelled. Practice telling a story about those instances, highlighting all the great things you accomplished and the problems you overcame. Typically those examples can be used to answer a variety of questions. If you were given a seemingly impossible deadline but were able to rise to the occasion, that story can be used to talk about how ambitious you are, how organized you are, how you can lead others, how you are willing to take on extra responsibilities when required, etc.
Here’s a concrete example of what I’m talking about.
Question: Are you more of a leader or a follower?
Typical answer: I’m definitely more of a leader. I like to lead projects and aspire to be in management in the next few years.
Excellent answer: I’m more of a leader. Recently I got asked to join a team to work on wellness initiatives. Everyone was very busy so I stepped up and started organizing meetings for the team to get together. I made sure the meetings were very productive by providing short pre-reads, agendas and then following up with decisions and action-items after the meeting. I sent out reminders to group members to make sure everyone was working on their piece of the project and in a few cases I was able to help team members with problems they were having. I kept the group organized with a shared Excel document outlining our goals, progress and deadlines and I created a SharePoint site for our shared documents. I thought the wellness initiatives were really exciting so I was happy to lead and I think the group was relieved that I was there to keep things moving.
Now it’s your turn. Think of some stories you can tell and remember them for your next interview!
Are you ready to tell your story? Check out career opportunities at Promega.
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