Listen Up, I Have a Story to Tell – How to Create a Winning Narrative for a Job Interview


To be absolutely certain, the most prolific hip hop artists in history display the innate ability to tell vivid stories – the art of storytelling as many call it. The Notorious B.I.G. Nas. Scarface. These artists were able to lyrically weave a tapestry of detail throughout tracks that transported the listener directly into the song. Undoubtedly, the experience leaves an indelible mark on the listener’s memory. Effectively describing the most minute facets and capturing the emotion of a situation; artful storytelling is a powerful tool that engenders engagement. That being stated, communicating an engaging story is not only a useful device in songwriting, it can also elevate a job interview above a fellow job seeker. When I have sought job opportunities, my interview style is conversational, detailed, and personal. I want the interviewer fully invested in my answers and my narrative.

And that is exactly what a candidate should be constructing – a compelling narrative; something not easily forgotten. Now, I cannot assign a hard number to the amount of job interviews that I have conducted or been involved in, but well into the hundreds is not unlikely. I have noted, over the course of many years and varying interviews, there are two distinct areas in an individual’s interview that tend to be flawed: the interviewer’s questions are not directly answered and the level of detail is severely lacking. The result is a bland, underwhelming experience that renders the interview forgettable, or alternatively, memorable due to the overall awful performance. Today, I want to offer some simple advice that may prove to be helpful while improving how you execute your interview.

6 Essential Tips for a Winning Interview

  • Without a doubt, the daily grind of employment will grant the gentleman a wealth of material for proper utilization during an interview. It is this information gathering that will lay the foundation for your interview preparedness. The gentleman would be wise to document specific work events that highlight teamwork, effective communication, critical thinking, and leadership. Microsoft OneNote is an excellent choice of software to gather and store this type of pertinent information. A manila folder, an electronic folder on your desktop, or Word document – whatever your choice for information tracking; ensure you are saving your notes.
  • Now that you have gathered all relevant information that demonstrates why you deserve the position, it is time for the next step in your job preparedness. A gentleman must now organize his thoughts, commit those selected work events to memory, and practice his delivery to an audience. I am a strong proponent of employing the STAR method – Situation, Task, Action, and Result. This technique allows the job candidate to provide structure to thoughts and articulate them in an organized fashion. Responding to an interview question that is intended to assess job viability; the candidate will first describe the situation at hand, what task or objective was proper for the situation, the action that taken to achieve the objective, and the concluding result. Bonus: A candidate can add another R for reflection, which basically captures what the candidate learned and how they matured professionally from the experience.
  • The job candidate must ensure that the emotion of the situation is addressed and articulated. Now, keep in mind, this is not the time to be overly dramatic and theatrical. Your heart doesn’t have to race faster than a cheetah across the African wilderness hunting prey. Rather, it was a tense situation and you were slightly anxious as you addressed the pressing issue. A candidate should clearly represent the stakes at hand so the gravity of the situation is completely understood.
  • As a candidate is describing a certain event in detail, it is paramount that the story contains specifics. Be sure to take advantage of adjectives and proper nouns. Again, please note, now is not the time to break out the thesaurus. However, the addition of a few small details can allow one candidate to shine brighter than another. Please see example below and note the differences.
      1. One night, I had to place an overnight order right before cut-off time for delivery. There were a lot of items on the purchase order that I had to place, but I was able to successfully get the order in with the vendor.
      2. One late evening, approximately 30 minutes before Medtronic’s cut-off time for shipping, I had to place an order for 100 items for overnight delivery. Given the large amount of items that had to be ordered, I asked the customer service representative if I could fax or e-mail the order to the vendor. Unfortunately, the order could only be placed verbally over the phone. That news was a little disappointing and stressing, but it had to get done. Therefore, I had to place the order accurately and efficiently with the CS rep to beat the cut-off time. So, item by item, I read off the manufacturer number to the CS rep and in turn she read it back for confirmation. To save time, she would only notify me of any back-ordered items after the order was loaded into the system. In the end, we were able to get all but 5 items placed for overnight delivery, and I notified the hospital regarding the 5 items on back-order with their release date. I also provided their sales representative’s contact information for a follow-up if a substitute item was required.
    • A candidate should ask thoughtful questions. Yes – salary, benefits, and shift are all credible inquiries. However, a candidate with a genuine interest regarding a position should ask questions that put the interviewers back on their heels. What challenges are they facing as a department or company? Do they promote a culture that rewards and retains its quality employees? Do they promote growth and development within the workforce? Of course, your questions will be tailored to suit your company of choice. For example, I applied for a position a few years ago, and I posed a question somewhat like this: With the Affordable Care Act reducing the rates of reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid; how aggressive are your standardization projects for med. surg. products to help offset that potential monetary loss for the organization? I did my due diligence researching the position I wanted. Serious, thoughtful questions illustrate an honest curiosity that will surely garner respect and appreciation.
    • As a job candidate, it is vitally important that you provide a brief summation of your qualifications and attributes as a future employee. You must present yourself as an asset that adds value to the company. This is your closing statement. At this point, the company’s mission statement and vision should be intimately familiar. Definitely, you should fully understand the role and responsibilities of the open position being sought after. Now it is time to deftly connect your best qualities to those areas and confidently argue why you are the best candidate. I highly suggest identifying 4-5 adjectives that best describe you professionally. Be thoughtful, sincere, and open. Remember: Craft an engaging narrative that answers questions directly while displaying critical thinking and showcasing your best traits.

Well, there you have it; just a few key pointers that I have extracted from experience over the years. I hope the information will be beneficial to job seekers reading this post. Good luck!

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