Telling Your Structured Stories
by Michael Neece, CEO, InterviewMastery.com
Today we're discussing a powerful technique called “Structured Storytelling” and how to use it to effectively respond to most job interview questions.
The storytelling technique is not the telling of fictional stories. Structured storytelling is the telling of true stories about you. Telling structured stories is an effective way to describe events in your past and how these events demonstrate your multiple talents. It is also effective in describing how you would approach future situations. I'll elaborate on this shortly.
Interviewers ask you to tell them stories seeking proof of your abilities. It is not enough for you to say you have certain abilities. You must provide proof of your talents by telling structured stories that demonstrate each of your skills. For example, if the interviewer asks about your problem solving abilities, stating that you're a strong problem solver is not enough. You must provide proof by telling a story about when you solved a challenging problem.
Interviewers ask three types of questions: questions focused on the Past; questions focused the Future; and questions focused on Stupid Stuff. Stupid interviewer questions are also called "frequently asked questions" or "common interview questions. They include, “Tell me about yourself,” “What are your strengths?”, “What are your weaknesses?”, “How many airplanes are in the skies over the USA right now?”, and other overused, irrelevant questions that have nothing to do with assessing your abilities.
Questions about the past are called “behavioral-event interview questions” because the questions ask about your past behaviors during specific events. These types of questions are easy to recognize because they begin with phrases like “Describe a specific time…”, Give me an example …”, or “Describe a situation …”.
Questions about the future are also easy to recognize because they include the phrase “what if.” These questions ask you to describe what you would do if you faced a particular situation. The key to spotting future-oriented questions is the phrase “what if”.
When you're asked questions about your past or future, your response in both cases is to tell a structured story.
You tell your stories using the following structure: Before, During, After. Stated in more detail, you describe what the situation was before you took action; what you did during taking action; and what happened after you took action. For example, if your interviewer says, “Describe a situation when you solved a difficult problem,” you would describe the problem situation before you took action, then describe what you did during taking action, and finally describe the situation after you took action.
The Before-During-After storytelling structure is also called the Situation-Action-Results structure where you describe the situation, action, and results for a specific event in your past. I prefer the Before-During-After framework because it is very easy to remember and follows a time line.
To make your stories very compelling, conclude each story by describing what you Learned.
This is very important. Describing what you learned distinguishes you from other candidates and subliminally communicates that you assess what is learned from each situation in order to constantly improve your skills and value to your employer.
Putting it all together, your structured stories are told using the following framework:
Before, During, After, Learned.
Before your next interview, list each of the job requirements. Next to each requirement, write down the stories you will tell to demonstrate your qualifications.
The biggest mistake applicants make is spending more time on their resume than preparing for each interview. Most people spent 20 or more hours writing and modifying their resume and only 1 hour preparing for the interview. Some people spend hundreds of dollars on resume-writing services but still only spend an hour preparing for the only event that can get them hired - the interview. If you spend 8 to 10 hours preparing for each interview, this investment alone will improve your interview performance.
Remember, the job interview is the most important moment in your job search. Your resume may get you to the interview, but only your job interview skills will secure the job offer. The most qualified person rarely gets the job. It's the person who interviews the best who wins the job offer.
Good luck on your next interview. You're going to be awesome!