Job Interview

How storytelling can land you that job

storytelling job interview

Having the right skills, qualifications and experience for a job is crucial. However, if you constantly find yourself never making it to the second interview, then maybe it is time to brush up on your storytelling skills.

It is true that job interviews run the risk of being dry, clockwork and quite boring at times. This is especially true if the recruiters are conducting a mass-hire employment drive to fill multiple positions. In these situations you really don’t have enough time to properly demonstrate your capabilities and values, so you need to take advantage of what time you do have to engage with and beguile the recruiter. In nearly every interview you will hear those golden words, “Tell me about a time when….” This is your chance – don’t blow it!

Share more than what’s on paper

The recruitment officer conducting your interview will have your resume and cover letter to hand, so will have access to your skill-set and other relevant information. There is no need to repeat in person what is already written out, so take this opportunity to share not only work-related stories that are relevant to your prospective job, but also personal stories too.

There are generally four different types of storytelling techniques you can try. Depending on your personality, you may feel more comfortable adopting one type over another. Lets take a look at these storytelling types and how they can help you in your interview.

The ‘what I learned’ story

This can be work-related or personal, but is a story that tells the recruitment officer what you learned from a particular situation or experience. The whole purpose of this is to get across that you are open to learning new things and that you value gaining new knowledge and experience. Employers like to see this because it means you would be willing to take part in any workplace training needed for the job and you are not coming at this with a ‘know-it-all’ attitude.

The ‘literal’ story

Most interviewees already use this approach when given the chance. This is a work-related story that perfectly showcases a particular skill you have.  This is a good approach if you are applying for a similar job to what you already have. Literal stories can demonstrate how you have handled important elements at work and solved problems that arose. It is highly likely that you may experience similar issues at some point in your new role, so recruiters will be pleased to hear how well you coped with these situations in the past.

The ‘lateral alignment’ story

Office culture is a big thing with many large employers. They will be looking for candidates that would fit in seamlessly with the company culture and will be willing to adopt their values and work ethic. This is a great opportunity to use a personal story that can demonstrate a personal value you have that matches with their culture. For example, the job you are applying for may be in the vegan food sector, so if you are a vegan or vegetarian and against animal cruelty, then this is virtual gold-dust that you simply must share! Lateral alignment stories are probably the most underused storytelling techniques, so if you have one – share it!

The ‘likeable’ story

This is a storytelling technique that can be useful for those who are just starting out in their career or those wanting to switch direction, but lack the workplace experience. This should be a personal story that shows how capable you are at something and how adaptable you can be. It could also be a work-related story from a different work sector that demonstrates your transferable skills. This can also be for parents who are returning to work after a break to raise children, and could demonstrate your keen negotiating skills and time management experience. Basically any story that makes you likeable in the eyes of the recruiter.

Make your storytelling relevant

Overall, whatever story you decide to tell in interview should be relevant to the situation. Telling random stories that have no connection with the job you are seeking will leave the interviewer wondering what the heck you are talking about!

Always be truthful with your storytelling. Made up stories, no matter how compelling, can damage your credibility in the long run. It is easier for us to remember and re-tell actual experiences than try to recall a made up story. Everything is in the details – don’t let the temptation to embellish your storytelling get out of hand. It may come back to haunt you!

Use the KISS strategy

KISS is the acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid! Keep your storytelling to no longer than two minutes per story. This will encourage the flow of conversation back and forth between you and the interviewer. This can help keep the interview conversational rather than you dominating the time with lengthy storytelling.

Storytelling is also known as behavioural interviewing, and more recruiters are using it to assess the suitability of job candidates during interview. Offering up dry facts may prove you have the qualifications and experience for the role, but your storytelling ability is what will get your personality over and could be your crucial element for winning the job.


  • Freesumes Editorial Team

    A team of former HR employers, certified career coaches, resume writers, and designers on a mission to demystify and simplify job search. We offer no-fluff, up-to-date, and fact-checked career insights and... more

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