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!

Gent Hints – The Office – Preparing Your Job Narrative

jobsRest assured, the cognizant gentleman fully comprehends that preparing for a job interview entails more than rudimentary touch-up of one’s resume. A gentleman needs a narrative that coincides with what your potential employer is looking for in a potential worker. Therefore, diligent preparation is paramount. Your job interview should convey a story  – your personal story. It should be a story that will compel a company to look to you as its newest, welcome addition that furthers their mission. In that interview, your presence must have a purpose. Otherwise – why are you even there? Here are a few suggestions that will help you craft a narrative that will leave an employer thoroughly impressed, and hopefully, ending with you being hired.

  • Let’s start with your resume because it is something that should not be dismissed. To be sure, correct spelling and grammar is important, however, a gentleman should have his employment history and job duties memorized. Reading off your resume verbatim will not only negate your much-needed eye contact, but it will also bore your audience and make you stand out for all the wrong reasons. If needed, quick glances should be okay, but one’s work history should be etched into your memory by now.
  • Familiarize oneself with not only the history of your potential employer, but also commit its mission and vision statement to memory. You have visited their About Page correct? If at all possible, educate yourself regarding company culture, as much as possible. Example: If the environment focuses on the team concept, but your strength is independent work, that may be a hard sale.
  • Peruse your targeted job description, focus your attention on the abilities and characteristics that the employer desires in an employee. Do you possess any of these qualities? You may not want to use the exact same words to describe yourself in your interview, so consult a thesaurus and craft your pitch as close as possible without blatant plagiarism.
  • Bear in mind, it is not enough to tout your abilities with artful adjectives. One requires concrete examples that fully and clearly illustrate your capabilities that extend beyond the well-thought words on your resume. A gentleman should enter an interview with at least 3-5 real life situations that challenged him in a fashion that showcased his problem-solving skills. I suggest you practice and commit them to memory.
  • It would be helpful if these real life situations were written down and studied. Currently employed? Even better; the challenges you face and resolve should be dutifully documented for upward job movement in your future. A mock interview with a friend can ensure that your dialogue comes across effortlessly. Preparation, preparation, and more preparation.
  • However, you don’t want to rattle off information like a robot. You want to be thoughtful in your responses. Take your time and answer questions in a measured, natural manner.
  • A gentleman should also enter an interview with examples that illustrate his initiative and how he goes beyond what is expected of him. You have to convey that you have the necessary drive to exceed expectations and not just settle for the status quo. You want to present yourself as a much-needed asset that the employer would be foolish to bypass.
  • A gentleman should enter an interview with both short and long-term goals. How do your goals align with the job description and company goals? Be prepared to answer these questions.
  • Be prepared to ask meaningful questions; questions that go beyond the requisite query regarding hours, pay, and yes – office aesthetics. Once I seriously had someone ask for a comfortable seat with good lighting preferably with a window – this was for an entry-level position. Bold, but not a good look. Company growth, opportunity for personal growth, company direction, job expectations not spelled out in the job description – these are questions that expand your conversation and demonstrate thought and character. Sure, pay and work hours count, but it shouldn’t be the first – and only – thing you address.
  • So, you may be asking: But I just applied for this job, and I don’t have sufficient enough time to prepare, what do I do? Well, try to employ as many of these points as you can, but don’t let that fact deter you from building a foundation for that next job interview.

Gent Hints – The Interview Timepiece

Longines HeritageIt is a rite of professional passage for any gentleman seeking employment. It is the rite of passage that calls upon the gentlemen to extol the merits of his expertise and character while being analyzed and examined for final judgement. It is the job interview. Whether or not you earn the position will hinge on a myriad of factors. Today, we’re talking about a small factor, but nonetheless, an important factor. During that crucial, pivotal job interview; credibility is an asset that is absolutely paramount during the hiring exercise. From your resume to your professional references, the totality of your presentation must articulate trustworthiness and a seriousness befitting of a future employee. So, let’s assume that the resume and credentials are all in place. Check, check, and double-check. The job is yours to claim, but one misstep can ruin a sure thing. And it can begin with a misstep with a small accessory – your watch.

That being stated, I must implore the aspiring job seeker to leave the gaudy timepiece at home. This is a job interview and not a dance club. Potential employers will not be impressed by your obnoxiously over-sized timepiece. You know the one we are speaking about. It’s the one with the abundance of diamonds – real or imitation. It’s the one whose width is greater than your wrist. All attention should be directed solely on you and your credentials. Not that monstrosity on your wrist. Go dark and go discreet. Stainless steel. Leather strap. Black or dark brown. Your sartorial mission on this interview is to be understated – not overstated. Keep the accessories quiet and allow your credentials to speak the loudest. Afterwards, if you want to show out a little, go right ahead, but in moderation. But we’ll talk about that another day.

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