If you want to move to top of the candidate interviewing pool you must be an effective communicator, a well prepared storyteller who can weave career experiences and important accomplishments with supporting metrics into interesting answers that the interviewer will remember.
At the core of this approach to interviewing is having a formidable career brand, your story that you have written and edited. Of course, the source document for your career brand is your life story.
This is an important new twist to the interviewing process. Executives who master this approach and who successfully connect with the person or team making the hiring decision stand a much better chance of getting the job, even when they are competing with someone who may, on paper, appear to be better qualified. As I have written before, our own internal review shows that the best qualified candidate gets the job only 35 percent of the time. In other searches, the successful candidate is qualified but won the day because he or she did a better job telling their story, communicating their value and doing it in a way that made them memorable. I firmly believe, based on experience in conducting hundreds of in-depth executive interviews, that there is a strong correlation between a candidate’s success in a behavior and values interview and their deep understanding of their brand and life story.
Dr. Johnny Parker, an executive coach, speaker and author (Turn the Page: Unlocking the Story Within You), makes a great connection between the two. “Every day your life is made up of episodes that accumulate to tell a story.” We do this, Parker says by how we make decisions, how we treat our family, friends, colleagues, our customers and stakeholders. “Are you being fiercely purposeful in living out the story you want to create with the days you have been given?” Parker writes. In other words, are your days on earth composing the story you really want to tell? Or are you hoping that some brief summary of your professional life on LinkedIn will fill the bill?
When you form a deep connection between your life story and your career brand you can be more effective communicating those stories that illustrate who you really are. When done correctly, that can make you memorable.
One of the most commonly asked questions by clients in our career transition/outplacement practice is how can they adjust their interview style to be more effective in communicating relevant information and differentiate themselves from the 10 or 12 other candidates.
This is a concept that I have been fascinated with for years. It began following the publication in August of 1997 of Tom Peters FastCompany essay entitled “The Brand Called You” with the snappy subtitle “You Can’t move Up If You Don’t Stand Out.” The evolution of your career brand and your ability to excel with behavior and values interviews all tie back to your life’s story and your confidence in delivering well-edited (20 to 30 seconds) relevant stories about your experience, your skills and your successes.
Executives who master this approach will, I believe, stand out from the crowded field of candidates, especially from those who use the traditional reactive style — your are asked a question, you answer a question, hopefully in a succinct answer with relevant metrics. By contrast, a good storyteller, when presented with a critical question, will provide similar information but wrap it in the context of a 20 to 30 second story that will help the interviewer remember who you are.
In interviews, the candidate’s goal is to be memorable in all the right ways. Forgettable means being eliminated.
Most of the executives I know are hugely talented when it comes to the strategy and tactics to accomplish business goals. But when it comes to their own lives, particularly their own careers, they do not always take the long view in forming a career brand — their accumulated life/business story. For some executives their approach to their brand, their story, is haphazard — focusing incrementally without thinking about the consequences of all of their actions combined, the accumulation of all of their episodes/interactions/decisions. Then they are surprised when someone else writes their script for them and it is not the one they want.
To be a good storyteller in an interview, you must be mindful of your actions daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. You must be purposeful in recording your story in a journal and you must be a ruthless editor who knows which life/career events are important and which ones to leave on the cutting room floor.
If you are not deliberate in recording important components of life story and career story, and if you are careless or neglectful in how you manage your brand/your reputation, you are missing one incredible opportunity – personally and professionally.
© 2020 John Gregory Self