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  • Writer's picturePGAA Tax

The key to a great interview: storytelling

Updated: Sep 27, 2021

When we prepare for the typical questions that come from each round of interviews, we often start with thinking, "What strengths and past experiences do I need to highlight in order to convey that I will be an excellent fit for the job?" That is a great place to start! In fact, we recommend going through every bullet point in the job description and linking your strengths and experiences relevant for each duty. However, if you've made it to an interview, that means the hiring team expects proficiency in most of these duties. So what do interviewers really want to hear in order for them to know and feel confident in who you are? Tell them stories.

Story telling is an art form. As a child, we were captivated by a good storyteller. They were animated, provided tangible details that allowed our budding minds to paint a visual picture as the storyteller walked us through a journey. It became real through the story arc. Rusty on the elements of a story arc? Here we go:

  • Introduce characters., Remember you are the hero in all of these stories it is an interview after all! Still acknowledge teamwork if there was any, and make sure you shine.

  • Describe the incident or obstacle to overcome. Be careful not to blame or demonize your previous company.

  • Actions taken: go back to that time and dig up details of how your process led to a success

  • Climax/pinnacle moment: where you deliver a solution/aha moment/true shift in the story

  • Resolutions/Results: what were the lasting improvements, give data on results of your actions

  • Concluding theme: review how this story answers the core theme of their question and highlighted a key competency or characteristic in you that they need.

Don't mess with this timeless story structure. It works!

Building stories takes time, so when you are reviewing the job description, think of stories for each of the duties/skills listed. Practice out loud or write notes of your example story with this arc in mind. Stories can get long-winded without practice and each question usually expects 3-5 minute answer, so make sure your story packs a good picture.

Finally be honest. The reason why behavior based interviews work so well is that interviewers can tell if the story is made of fluff. It is hard to make up a story in the moment and have the words and images flow naturally. You want the interviewers to have a clear picture of who you are professionally, so show them through past experiences. Past behavior is the greatest predictor of future behavior; they want to know what you've done in order to trust what you will do.


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