Tell Me a Story

A skilled interviewer will ask a candidate questions to confirm information contained on the job application and resume, and then she will ask the candidate to tell her a few stories. Take, for instance, a typical opening question, "Please walk me through your employment history and tell me what you loved about each position and why you left." The interviewer is asking the candidate to tell a story. As each answer unfolds, so does the story of the candidate’s employment history." "Please give me an overview of your responsibilities at your current (or most recent) position. Again, a story will be shared and the interviewer will gain information about the position this candidate holds, insights into the work world this candidate currently lives in, and what he likes and doesn’t like about his job and his employer.

At some point during the interview, the interviewer will ask the candidate if he has any questions about the job or the organization. It is likely that questions will be asked to gain practical information that involves more specifics about the job and benefits. Now here is where the interviewer has a golden opportunity to open the door and tell a few stories—vivid stories that detail precisely what it is like to work at this organization. We are not trying to convince someone to come to work for us by sharing only the good stuff. He’ll find out the other stuff soon enough anyway if we hire him. So let’s share it—all of it—now. Let’s tell a few stories.

Think about what you would like to know about your company and what others may need to know before making an employment decision. If the candidate doesn’t ask the question, "What’s it like to work on this team," you should prompt him and tell the team’s story.

"Most of the members of this team have worked together for over five years. The position you are considering is a new position that has been added due to an increase in sales. When the team lead came to us to let us know several of his members were consistently extending their days to get their work done, we reviewed the workload and decided, after about two months, to add this position. The work of this team is central to the mission of the organization, and let me explain why."

Compare that answer to this one- "The position you’re applying for is new and we’ve added it due to increased workload." Period. No story. Which organization do you feel has given you a peek inside?

As the gatekeepers to our organizations, interviewers have opportunities to find people who like what their company has to offer.

During one of my recent classes, we were talking about just this; finding people who like what we offer. A woman in class said her non-profit is not well funded and providing competitive pay is nearly impossible. Their mission is critical to the health and welfare of their community. So she focuses on what she can provide—schedule flexibility, remote work opportunities, part-time and full-time employment, paid volunteer time, and alternate work schedules. She does not spend time interviewing people who are focused on making a high rate of pay because she can’t offer that. And she doesn’t apologize for not paying top-notch salaries. What she offers is extremely attractive to certain people. And those people are the ones she wants. So she spends time attracting people who like what her organization has to offer. Her job postings include this information and like any savvy interviewer, she discusses rate of pay during the initial phone screening. During class, she came up with a few stories she plans to share with future candidates and she tried them out on us. Many of us decided we’d really like to work for her.

Be who you are. Find people who like who you are. And do it by telling your stories.


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