“Story telling is about connecting to other people and helping people to see what you see.”  Michael Margolis,  Author

Storytelling is an important tactic for the job interview.  It can differentiate an applicant from dozens of competitors and in todays employment market, differentiation is not just essential, it is critical to success.

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For some, the concept of storytelling evokes a mental image of a “once upon a time” narrative that can be off-putting to the interviewer.  Absolutely true.  If your stories are not focused to the point of the question you will essentially shoot yourself in the foot. 

The important take away here is that effective stories do not have to be a long winding road to a less than relevant point, but when they are focused, brief and to the point, shut the front door, there is true power at work.

Scott Monty, an executive coach and speaker used two brief stories in a recent blog post to illustrate this point:

There’s a legendary story about Ernest Hemingway betting every member of the Algonquin Round Table ten dollars that he could create an entire story in just six words. They all took the bet, and Hemingway collected when he jotted down:

Baby shoes. For sale

Never worn.

Comedians are experts in telling short stories with impact.   Scott included this famous George Burns quote:

“The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible.”

“The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible.”

George Burns

In that spirit, a Catholic priest, Fr. Frank Fabj once explained that he was taught in seminary that a good sermon should be short and to the point.  To paraphrase the good priest, if you can’t say it in 10 minutes or less, it is probably not worth saying.  I always liked Mass just a wee bit more when Fr. Fabj was the homlist.  

In one of my last interviews before I shifted from executive search to coaching (I still do some searches for a select group of clients) I asked a CEO candidate in the video portion of the interview a fairly standard CORE question: “Tell me about your weaknesses.”  This inquiry is a good way to catch a peek into an individual’s emotional intelligence.  In this case the candidate smiled, confidently leaned forward and replied:

“Maybe we better call my wife first.”

“Maybe we better call my wife first…”

When the board heard his answer as they were watching the video of my presentation of candidates, they all laughed.  With that one answer, the candidate built a powerful link with the board.  

Brief, to the point and effective.

Teaching storytelling for the job interview is what I do.  Some of my clients are skeptical at first but when they see the results, most become converts. They also become better communicators across the board.

Interviews Skills Course Schedule For ACHE Congress

Join Chrishonda Smith, CCDP, SHRM of OhioHealth and John G Self, an author, blogger and executive career transition coach, for a dynamic MASTER COURSE on interviewing skills at the American College Healthcare Congress in Chicago, March 23- 26.  This is one of the more popular and highly rated sessions of the Congress.  The session is at 2:15 PM on Wednesday, March 25.