In Tuesday’s podcast, John Self told the story of a candidate who screwed up his interview because he told too many stories.  I always thought John was a big believer in stories.  What did I miss?

If you missed the podcast, we recommend you listen here first.

The central character in the Tuesday podcast was Robert, a capable, experienced CEO with a solid track record over the past 20 years.  His job was eliminated.  Robert turned down the company’s offer for ask the recruiteroutplacement coaching.  He opted for the cash versus the coaching.  Robert never had a problem getting a next job in the past and he felt he could take care of himself. What he failed to realize is that the job market has changed, fairly drastically, over the past three years. 

Robert didn’t adapt to the new realities, and he was struggling to find a new job.  He was frustrated.  If he did a better job convincing the recruiter of his value, he would be OK.

So, Robert thought he could use some great stories from his career to connect his experience and his impressive record of success to the needs of the client.  He felt that telling stories about his life and his experience would help engage the recruiter, allow him to control the narrative and show the recruiter that he knew a lot of people, and his vast experience would be a valuable asset for an employer.  The problem was his stories were not specific.  They were like old war stories, some interesting, some not.

Here is where Robert jumped the shark.  While stories can be very helpful to illustrate or reaffirm an important skill set, or an important experience in life or career, stories should never be used to establish experience and illustrate fundamental competencies.  The use of stories in an interview was never intended to replace concise answers which speak to a candidate’s relevant experience with examples of quantifiable success. 

Robert’s first mistake was not that he was not prepared for the interview.  He was over prepared.   When the first question was not the one he expected, based on conversations with friends and associates who had previously interviewed with the same recruiter,  he became rattled and he slipped off his carefully constructed  interview game plan.   Using too many stories, far too many of which rambled off point, became a huge distraction, an interview killing strategy.

Using great, on-point stories can be extremely helpful.  But too much of any thing is never a good idea.