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17 November, 2016 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Management, Interviewing Skills
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Using Stories to Craft A Memorable Answer

Posted November 17th, 2016 | Author: John G. Self

Editor’s Note: Currently John posts three blogs and two podcasts per week. Our goal has always been to ensure that we provide our listeners and readers with quality, valuable content so we are re-evaluating the current posting several schedule to ensure we can continue to do so.  Once we finalize the schedule we will let you know and, as always, we invite your feed back.


As most of you know, I am a big devotee of appropriately incorporating stories into interviews to help the interviewer connect with the candidate in a meaningful way.

shutterstock_363829472Please note I used the term appropriately.  The use of stories, as is also the case with using business intelligence, can be a two-edged sword.  Done well, it can make a big difference.  Executed badly and it will significantly diminish a candidate’s chances of being taken seriously.

I recently heard a candidate make good use of two stories to address one question and it became a powerful answer that resonated with my client.

The candidate was asked a question about integrity in business.  It seemed worded in a way to allow for flexibility — a generic values answer, or a more personal response.  The candidate chose the latter.

“I look at the whole concept of integrity from two directions — it should govern our performance and our behavior,” he said.  “Let me give you an example.  Ted Williams is considered to be one of the greatest baseball hitters of all time.  One of the reasons he was so good, so respected, was because of his work ethic.  On a hot August afternoon in Fenway Park, when few fans sat in the stands, when the outcome of the game was not that important to the championship standings, Williams approached the at bat as if on this day, in  this game, with this at bat, it was as if the success of the whole year rode his performance.  Of course, it did not but he had the reputation for trying his best in every at bat.  That is a goal I strive for every day in my work and professional life.”

“When we talk about everyday behavior, I try to follow the advice of my father,” the candidate added, “Do the right thing even when it might in your personal self-interest, even if it might disadvantage you. Others may never know that you did not take the easy path, but you will know.”

It was short, it was sweet — ok, impactful, to borrow a weird consulting term — and, at the end of the day, the recruiter favorably remembered the exchange.  This answer differentiated this candidate from others who were perhaps more qualified.

What happened?  This candidate ultimately got the job.  Preparation and a sense of self propelled him from out of the pack to the top.

© 2017 John Gregory Self

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