Getting Ready To Tell Stories at Interviews


  • Tell me about a time when you had to get others to do something that they were reluctant to do.

Business and Results Orientation

  • Tell me about the best business move you have made.


  • Tell me about a time when you proposed a new idea or way of doing things.  What was the outcome?

When you tell stories at interviews, what specifically does the hiring manager want to know about your Communication skills? Likely, she is checking to see if you have the ability to persuade others.  And, if a team pushes back on your ideas, how well could you handle it.  Did you ask for your team’s ideas to get their buy in?  Did you talk individually with each team member before the meeting to get their take on your idea?  Did you have a strategy in place to build your case for the new initiative?

A poor answer:  I had a new idea of several ways our department could save money.  I presented the idea at the meeting, but people didn’t buy into it.  I wasn’t sure why because the new idea would have saved quite a bit of money.  I decided to drop the idea if others weren’t in favor of it.

A good answer:  I had done my homework and was sure that several new initiatives would save our department money. Before our team meeting, I met with individual team members to get their ideas.  They really had good ideas, so I adjusted the initiative to include their ideas.  Then I asked several team members to help in the presentation at the team meeting.  We still had push back from two team members, however.  They simply just didn’t want to make changes.  But instead defending the new initiative, the other team members responded with their reasons for supporting it.  The two opposed to the idea changed their reaction and got on board.  I find that once a team has had input on initiatives, they own it and support it.

You can likely see how much better the second response is, providing the hiring manager with tangible understanding of how the interviewee not only presents a new idea, but also the leadership style and evident wisdom and respect this potential employee brings to the company.

Many people nervously head into an interview hoping they will be able to recall meaningful stories to tell.  In fact, they may not be able to remember an example on the spot.  Preparation before you tell stories at interviews.

Step One:  Study the job posting carefully and list the 5-6 required competencies that the posting mentions.

Step Two:  Think thru each competency and recall a time that you have actually demonstrated the competencies.

Step Three:  Now, either write out a paragraph for each story you would like to tell, or drop in bullet points for the story.

Step Four:  Practice telling the story out loud by yourself a few times until you are comfortable, and you have timed it to just 2 minutes, the right length for any response.  If too long, or too short adjust your story.

Step Five:  Now, ask a family member or friend to pretend to be the hiring manager interviewing you.  Tell stories at interviews and ask them for feedback.  

Step Six:  Label each story by the competency it reflects.  That way you know when you will tell each particular story.

You can even utilize a simple 3 point outline or called PAR to tell your stories:

P = Tell the situation or problem first

A = Tell the Action steps you took to solve it

R = Tell the Results of what you contributed. 

Now you are prepared to tell stories at interviews and practiced with stories that truthfully tell the hiring manager just what your experience represents about you.  And, you will be less nervous the night before.

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Hi, I’m Jan Shurtz

jan shurtz

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