The secret to a good interview

I’ve been on either side of the job/admissions interview table many, many times, and truly believe that the best interview (where both parties can explore ‘right fit’) is when the candidate is as relaxed as possible – being their ‘true selves’.  And the best way to share your true self is through storytelling. Perhaps it’s helpful to think about the interview as a gathering around the campfire!

The easy part is that the stories are yours. You know them better than anyone.

The tricky part is telling the right story at the right time and in the right way – so that you answer each question posed and demonstrate your knowledge, skills and values. 

Here are a few tips for interview story-telling:

  • Be strategic.  Prepare by developing a deep understanding of the organization’s mission, culture and values, and the specific job description. Then, create a collection of your specific stories that align with the organizational needs and that demonstrate that you can learn and do the job.
  • Stories can come from any aspect of your life –not just previous work experience. As long as each story shows evidence of the specific skill or expertise that is being explored, it is relevant.   Sharing stories related to your extra-curricular activities and hobbies, volunteer experiences, travels, situations with friends or family, your favourite book or article are all viable ways of ‘showing yourself’.
  • Tell your stories succinctly – there’s nothing good about your interviewer getting lost in your rambling. You should be able to tell each story in 3-4 sentences that get to the point yet give the audience a ‘visual’ and solid understanding of the situation. 
  • You may need to be explicit – don’t assume that the interviewer sees the link between their question and your story. Sometimes the link is subtle yet powerful, so you may need to spell it out.
  • Be real but don’t get too personal. Interviewers don’t want to hear about the gritty details of your fight with a sibling to explain how you deal with conflict or the unique way in which you set up your dating profile to demonstrate your creativity!
  • Use your sense of humour – when it’s appropriate but don’t overdo it or force it.
  • If there’s a story you really want to tell but that you don’t get asked about, find a way to tell it as part of your closing statement or integrate it into one of your own questions.  

Of course, it’s important to be yourself as much as possible in the interview – that is who they are hiring and remember, you are as interested in the long-term fit with the organization as much as they are.

Do you or someone you know need more interview tips? Or someone to accompany you as you navigate towards a meaningful career?  Consider a coaching gift for a recent grad, friend in career transition or someone interviewing for a leadership position!

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