Your ability to tell stories and convince your interviewers could be a career-defining skill. Back in the day, when you probably had the same job for most of your life, interview skills were not as critical as they are now. If you worked in manual labour, your physical attributes like fitness and strength probably kept you in work. My father had just three interviews in fifty years of work.
But now, in the information age, you might have 25-40 interviews. In addition, contracts are often short term based and project by project. In the higher-skilled sectors of the economy, your ability to persuade the panel that you’re the right person for the job is essential.
I have helped many students with their interview technique over the years, and one of the key skills to develop is the ability to answer certain types of questions when they invariably arise.
What attributes are you looking for in your new colleague if you think about the interview from the interviewer’s perspective? So hopefully, you’ll ask questions that will bring their characteristics to the fore.
One statement that I’ve always had written explicitly on my CV is that I’m an end-to-end problem-solver. Because that’s what you are: If you’re a doctor, you’re a problem-solver. If you’re a chef, you’re a problem-solver. If you’re a train driver, you’re a problem-solver.
Here are three standard questions:
- Give me an example of where you’ve worked alone on a project. The subtext of the question is – are you comfortable working unsupervised? Can you continually achieve exceptional outcomes? How hard do you find it to motivate yourself?
- Give me an example of how you worked as part of a team to overcome a critical issue. The subtext is – are you a good team player? Do you find it easy to collaborate and communicate with colleagues?
- Give me an example of where you took ownership of a critical piece of work that a senior colleague should have led. The subtext is – there’s a significant issue, and you’re the most qualified colleague available to step in. You don’t have any more authority than anybody else, but you have the desire, technical and communication skills to put this project back on track.
So, how can we answer any of these questions in a structured manner that will create an impression of confidence and competence? There’s a technique called STAR.
S – Situation – what’s happened/happening?
T – Task - what was your input to create/facilitate the fix?
A – Action - create an action plan with timing/people/resources
R – What was the result? Through your professional problem-solving skills, the result was that you pulled the situation out of the fire. However, if it was a team victory, give credit to all members for their invaluable contributions. But you harnessed the team’s activities.
Situation – It’s 16:30 on Friday, and you’re looking forward to the weekend. You receive a call from a director of one of your largest clients asking what’s happened to their delivery of champagne for tomorrow’s museum launch. What delivery, you wonder? There’s nothing on the database or activity tracking software. Your manager left at lunchtime to prepare for his wedding anniversary party in Scotland. He’s on the motorway, and he’s not picking up his messages.
Task – you request your colleagues to go through their emails/databases to find clues on the missing order. Then, you ask one of the drivers in the warehouse to standby as it looks like something has gone awry in the order/delivery process. Finally, you explain that it could be an all-night run, a stay over in a hotel, the provision of overtime, and other expenses would accrue. Unfortunately, your colleagues have no news on the original order, so you ring the client back to apologise and retake the order’s details.
Action – now you have a list of imperatives, and you build a plan to include people, resources and timings. Then, you oversee the shipment and even go to the cash machine to ensure that your driver can cover his/her out of pocket expenses. Finally, you write a detailed report and send it to your manager and their manager to keep them informed of the issue.
Result – You delivered the champagne on time, and the museum launch was a great success. The client is impressed with your organisational skills and expresses her thanks to senior management. You found the whole experience exciting. You’re an end-to-end problem-solver.
It’s a good story of confidence and competence. You’re a safe pair of hands. So long as you tick all of the objective criteria, you’ve created a great impression of your brand, excellent job, and good luck.
Storytelling for business, training and brands is big news. It's a market worth trillions of dollars every year. How can you help yourself and your company's staff share your history by telling compelling stories? Whether your brand is big or small, you can shape your company's ethos with storytelling.