Interview with confidence – Tell Your Story

Is there anything to compare with the task of convincing someone they should employ you? Interviews are stressful and high risk and yet we know that those on the other side of desk do want to employ someone. In this blog I share some thoughts on increasing the chances that they choose you – through the art of narrative or storytelling.

Remove the doubt and feel the love: tell your story

Why are you there? An employer once told me that the strongest candidates, those with a coherent narrative or story, give the best and most persuasive answers to this question. “It has to make sense to me why they are there,” they said, “And a strong narrative is a great way of removing any doubt in my mind.”

An interviewer is interested in your past, present and future. A good story connects all three. It explains how you got here. It explains that who you are now – your skills, qualities and experience – is who they need. And it explains that their future ambitions are yours, too.

And remember, an interviewer will have their own narrative. By weaving your narrative into theirs you create a strong emotional connection with them. This makes you memorable. Your potential employer LOVES what they do. They truly believe that they make the world a BETTER place. They have a great story. Make sure you have one, too.

Difficult questions

When it comes to difficult questions (are there any other type?) a good narrative can produce great answers. Rebecca came to see me after returning from maternity leave. Her confidence was low following two rejections, but she was given some useful feedback. She was advised to work on her answers to the deceptively simple, yet notorious: “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?’ When Rebecca told me this, she burst into tears. ‘I don’t know who I am,’ she said.

I asked Rebecca to imagine a target employer telling their story. What would they say? Much to her surprise, Rebecca gave a spirited account of the employer, one that naturally encompassed its past, present and future. The penny dropped. “An employer knows who they are, where they have come from and where they going. They want to know we have this in common!” she half-shouted.

Beliefs – Wasim’s story

‘I have a right to a job.’ These words were said to me by Wasim, a graduate student, shortly after failing his seventh interview in a row. Understandably his confidence was low, but he was also angry. Further exploration revealed a belief he had done everything required to gain graduate employment – a 1st Class degree in a relevant subject, a great C.V and Personal Brand. And yet he was not being successful. In our coaching he articulated a narrative, which reflected aspects of his upbringing, that said he was special. With honesty and humility, he admitted to bringing a sense of entitlement into his interviews. ‘I thought they were lucky to have me,’ he said. ‘I even decided their questions weren’t important.’

Putting his experiences into story form helped Wasim figure out where he was going wrong. Armed with a new narrative he approached the seven employers who had rejected him, and was asked back by three of them. Two of those offered him a position.

Taking the time to construct your narrative can reveal any problematic beliefs that can hinder you in an interview, especially any that reveal a lack of confidence in yourself. While this can be emotionally hard, as it was for Wasim, it can also be liberating.

Three Questions

A few years ago, I came across some great training material for interview preparation. One section has stayed with me. It stated that there are only ever three questions asked in an interview:

  • Can this person do the job?
  • Will this person do the job?
  • Will this person fit in?

A coherent narrative lends itself to a clear, persuasive means of answering these questions. It can create a clear image in your interviewer’s imagination of you in action. It can convey your qualities and attributes such as critical thinking, problem solving and resilience in the face of challenge and adversity. And it provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate how positive relationships have played a crucial role in your personal and professional development.

Mastering Performance Anxiety

Performance anxiety in interviews affects the best of us. The theme of this blog is that performance anxiety can be the result of a weak narrative. So construct a strong, coherent one and – Interview With Confidence.

If you would like to Interview With Confidence then coaching is a proven means of developing this vital professional skill. At Conversations With Impact we are experienced in coaching people to be the best version of themselves. If you are focused on your Personal and Professional Development read our blog on this related topic. For more details please get in touch.