Telling Good Stories Can Win You the Job!

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By Skip Freeman

Looking for a workable approach that can effectively set you far apart from other candidates who are vying for the same positions as you and help you become the candidate of choice? Crafting and effectively telling good stories that visually illustrate what is unique, professionally, about you can accomplish precisely that! Why? Because most other candidates will not take this approach. As a matter of fact, most won't even think about taking it.

Whether the result of anxiety, nervousness or simply a case of being ill-prepared (or unprepared) the typical candidate tends to take a ho-hum, "just the facts, Ma'am" approach to answering a hiring manager's questions during most job interviews. Not only does this approach brand the candidate as boring, boring, boring, it can also prove to be a sure-fire route to the nearest exit. After all, who wants to hire a bore?!

Savvy candidates tell stories when appropriate (and as long as they are kept relatively brief) that illustrate and highlight their skills and accomplishments when answering a hiring manager's questions. Let me illustrate my point here by telling you a story.

Our executive recruiting firm, The Hire to Win Group, was coaching a candidate we wanted to present to one of our hiring company clients. The candidate was in industrial sales and one of his significant recent accomplishments was that he had registered a phenomenal sales increase of $800,000 the previous year. Now that was something we were excited about. It was also something we knew the hiring company certainly would be interested in learning more about!

How did you accomplish that? we asked the candidate. "It was simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time," he said. "I made the sales call and the company told me they weren't happy with their current supplier. They asked me to write up a proposal, which I did, of course, and I got the business."

Certainly not a very exciting or worthwhile story for the candidate to relate during a job interview. Why? Because his accomplishment appeared to be based upon nothing more than mere luck, which of course is not able to be replicated time after time. But, as is so often the case, that was hardly the end of this story.

After some 'Digging' . . .
After some digging and further questioning, we learned that the candidate was definitely selling himself short and leaving out quite a few vital details regarding his recent sales accomplishment. Here is what we learned:
  • Since his new client company was in his target market, the candidate had actually been consistently calling on the company for the past three years! And even though he kept getting a "no" each time he contacted the company, he stuck with it. (Shows persistence and resilience.)
  • Because he kept getting shut out time after time, he said he was constantly having to come up with new reasons to revisit the company and try to earn the business. (Shows persistence, resilience and creativity!)
  • Each time the candidate visited the company, like any good salesperson, he said he also asked lots of questions, constantly probing to learn more about the company's needs, desires and expectations. Soon he learned of the company's growing dissatisfaction with its current supplier because late deliveries from the supplier were increasingly making the company late on delivering to its customers. With that bit of knowledge, the candidate said he was then able to develop what he believed was a very workable plan to win the company's business. (Shows persistence, resilience, creativity and good planning skills!)
"The plan I put together illustrated how our company's 'just in time' inventory management system could virtually eliminate the problem of late deliveries," he said. "That sealed the deal."

So, as it turned out, it was not really a matter of the candidate being in "the right place at the right time." Actually, it was a matter of his being able to win a lucrative new sales contract because of his persistence, resilience, creativity and ability to plan a strategy that ultimately won him (and his company) the new business!

Once we showed the candidate how to put together the elements of the true story of how he was able to register such a significant sales increase during the previous year, he was then ready-and able-to tell that story during the job interview and ultimately win the position!

What is Your Story?
Do you have a story (or stories) you can effectively (and briefly) relate when you go in to your next job interview? Will you be able not only to tell a hiring manager about your various accomplishments and achievements but also to make her actually see them? Sure you do, because, despite what most of us tend to think and believe, rarely does anything significant happen overnight. Usually it takes many, many "nights" to become "an overnight sensation."

Before going in to your next job interview, take the time to analyze the individual elements and events that went into your significant career achievements and accomplishments. Then, craft a brief story to illustrate and highlight these achievements and accomplishments, as well as showcase the professional attributes and skill sets you can offer the hiring company. Just doing that, alone, will make you stand out from the vast majority of other candidates vying for the same positions as you. They will continue to trudge along, interview after interview, responding to a hiring manager's questions with monosyllabic answers ("yes," "no"), answers that obfuscate rather than illustrate, answers that simply will be boring, boring, boring.
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