Storytelling: It’s a little trick savvy candidates are employing to up their interview game.
Not only do stories help bring your skills and experience to life, they also engage the interviewer and leave a lasting impression. And with all the competition for media jobs these days, it’s important you be remembered.
“We can read up about your skills and experience from your resume and LinkedIn profile,” says Nicole Williams, career expert and CEO of the career website WORKS by Nicole Williams, “but to get a true sense of the interviewee’s character and communication skills is something you cannot always draw from a resume or cover letter.”
So to be the candidate the interviewer can’t forget about, here’s how you can develop stories from some common interview questions.
1. Tell a Little About Yourself
“Tell me about yourself” is an interview classic, and you can pretty much rely on it being asked the first thing. And for that reason, you should treat it as the awesome opener it has the potential to be by developing a storified answer.
Ali Mercier, marketing content manager at The Leadership Program, says to answer this question truthfully, showing who you are as a person, what excites you, your values and strengths and how you’ve operated in previous positions.
“[Y]ou’re not there to prove anything—you’re there to present who you are and why you think you’d be a great candidate for the position the most compelling way possible,” says Mercier.
The interviewer isn’t asking for a synopsis of your resume. The best bet here is a minute-long elevator pitch that frames how your experiences make you the candidate for the job.
2. Tell About a Time You Made a Mistake
Your interviewer may very well ask you about a mistake you’ve made on the job. If prompted, this is your time to recount it. The good news? You can spin the snafu to make it work for you.
“Nearly all work-related mistakes can work in a candidate’s favor,” says Mercer, “as long as they were able to move beyond it in a positive direction.”
So take that shameful slip-up and build it into a quick story detailing the mistake you made, how you took responsibility for your actions and what you learned from the experience.
3. Tell About a Time You Worked on a Team
If there’s one thing to get across in your next interview, it’s that you can work on a team.
“Nobody wants a Debbie Downer or worse an employee who can’t play nice in the sandbox,” says Williams. “Employers want to know that you will be a good fit and add value to the culture of your workplace.”
For this reason, it’s important you develop a story that explains a time you worked extra hard to support your team. Think of a time where maybe you stayed late, took on extra work or did something to up the morale of the team.
4. Tell About a Challenge You Faced at Work, and How You Overcame It
This question might seem intimidating, but if you prepare for it—and you should—you’ll be able to show the hiring manager your ability to learn and adapt to a difficult situation.
Williams wants to hear an articulate example that gives insight into how the candidate handles a crisis. “Do they freeze, pass the buck, fixate on the negative? Learning how people handle pressure is a powerful part of the interview process,” says Williams.
Develop a quick story of a time you faced a challenge at work, how you rose to the occasion and what you learned from the experience.
5. Tell About a Time You Showed Leadership
If you’re a seasoned media professional, you shouldn’t have a problem developing a story for this question. It can be as simple as talking about a time you led a creative project or led an aspect of a project.
And even if you’re at the early stages of your career, you can develop a story where you’ve shown some form of leadership, whether it was in an internship or even on a project in college.
“You might not have manager stamped on your business cards but there are moments when you have taken initiative, increased positivity and productivity,” says Williams. “It could have been for one project, one day, one instant but there is a moment when you needed to think on your feet and motivate others to do the work you set out for them.”
6. Tell About a Time You Solved a Problem
Showing that you’re a problem solver is going to help you score major wins in your next interview because everybody wants to know you can identify issues and create solutions for clients and your team.
And Mercier says being able to talk about your problem-solving abilities is essential as it provides “a gateway to see how you do when the professional situation you’re in isn’t ideal.”
To develop a story for this question, Mercier recommends touching on three main points: how you addressed the problem, the result and what you learned from the experience.
7. Tell What You Are Passionate About
Hiring managers want to know you’re passionate about the work you do; in the field of media, where hectic deadlines and long days are all too often occurrences, it’s important to know you’re there for your love of the craft.
“Passion is probably the single most important factor for a successful candidate looking to join my team,” says Victor Tang, director of online marketing at corporate software developer Sage. “People who join my team should be passionate, excited and want to be on my team.”
While your story doesn’t necessarily need to be work-related, it should relate to an aspect of the job. For example, if you’re interviewing for a content writing role, you might tell a story about your passion for storytelling, adding in a concrete example, like how you develop a weekly short story for your blog.
8. Tell About What You Do for Fun Outside of Work
Here’s a great opportunity to tell the story of who you are outside of your career. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to weave in how your outside passions make you a great candidate for the position. Rather, answer honestly, sharing a story about what you love to do.
For example, if you’re a runner, tell the story of how you got into running, why you love it, the big race coming up and how you’re preparing. Keep it brief, compelling and lighthearted. The point of this question is simply to get to know you more as a person, so be sure to have fun with it.
“I’ve interviewed individuals who have told me all forms of responses from teaching yoga to ghost hunting,” says Tang, “The fun in the question is never knowing what to expect from the answer!”