Storytelling is powerful. Whether you’re talking to a recruiter on a phone screen or to a hiring manager during a second-round interview, as a job seeker, it’s essential that you paint the picture from start to finish. Your story is likely near and dear to your heart, although the interviewer wasn’t there! Walk them through your story by setting the stage, highlighting what YOU did, and wrap up with the result accomplished or lesson learned. Leverage the job description to anticipate potential questions and prepare a few examples ahead of time.
My favorite way to help job seekers frame their stories is using the OAR framework to respond to interview questions:
For example, if the interviewer asks about your greatest strength, a generic response might be, “my greatest strength is attention to detail.” When you kick that up a notch and turn it into a story it might sound like this, “My greatest strength is my attention to detail. For example, I was the project lead on a large new sales initiative rolling out to 50,000 employees worldwide. Right before launch, I was asked to proofread the communication launch emails. So, I spent time reviewing them and noticed three spelling mistakes, one of them was the CEO’s last name! Because of my attention to detail, the project launched, and communications went out error-free — my eagle eye for editing saved the day.”
Can you see the difference? This story highlights a strength in a way that is relatable and memorable!
Many job seekers think they have to be “perfect” throughout an interview conversation. Or that the interview is a performance and they have to memorize their lines. This belief can cause a job seekers’ nerves to spike, and in turn, they come across as disinterested or, even worse, robotic.
An interview should be an engaging two-way conversation, not a solo performance with the spotlight on you. Hiring managers (AKA your future boss!) want to hire a human, not a robot! Approaching your interview as a conversation can help your shift your midset and calm your nerves.
Your goal for an interview should be for the employer to see you as a future colleague. Think about how to present yourself as someone who will bring more to the table than they ever imagined!
Typically, during an interview process, a hiring manager wants to know TWO main things:
You should be interviewing the company as much as they’re interviewing you. Prepare a list of questions you want to ask and have them with you. Yes, it’s completely okay to have notes with you during an interview.
If you’re meeting with multiple people, ask targeted questions based on their job title. For example, if you’re meeting with HR, ask about the performance review process or their retention strategy. When meeting with your future boss, ask about their leadership philosophy.
If all else fails, you can’t go wrong with asking about the other person’s career path. Trust me; people love to talk about themselves! And this gives you excellent content for writing a personalized thank you letter.
In my experience, most job seekers want to know about the company culture. Instead of asking a generic question like, “how would you define company culture,” define WHAT you want to know about the company culture and frame your questions based on what you genuinely want to know. Here are a couple of my favorites:
As an interviewer, if I save time at the end of the interview for you to ask questions and you respond to tell me you don’t have any questions, it’s very disappointing and sends the message you’re not interested in the job or the company. Prepping *good* questions ahead of time will emphasize your interest and differentiate you from the other candidates.
My favorite interviews are conversations — two-way discussions where the candidate shows as much enthusiasm for the role as I do about hiring for the role. Keep in mind, the interviewer will know you’re nervous, it’s okay, take a deep breath and smile — you should feel confident to present yourself as someone who will bring more to the table than they ever imagined!