Storytelling to Ace the Job Interview

Guest Post by Russ Hovendick


Are you memorable?

You may be asking why this characteristic is important. Let’s step into the interviewer’s shoes for a minute. Yes, the employer has a need, but the hiring manager wants to make sure that the hire is a great fit for the organization. He or she even would love to hire a veteran. Well, I’m a veteran; why wouldn’t they hire me, you ask yourself. But, I would challenge you to ask yourself why the employer should hire you.

The interviewer has just interviewed 10 people prior to interviewing you. All the other candidates stated that they were dedicated, accountable, and hard workers. Suddenly, all candidates quickly became a blur. Now, in you walk, ready to declare that you, too, are dedicated, accountable, and a hard worker.

InterviewStory2.jpgDoes this scenario have a familiar ring? Unfortunately, this pattern is followed by the majority of military and civilian job-seekers, with very limited success.

What’s missing? Your story – the “You Factor” and, the very thing that will set you apart from your completion, if presented correctly.

The old adage that facts tell, but stories sell, is true in sales world, and it certainly holds true in interviewing world, too. Yes, your resume is impressive, but it’s only words, and only you can bring it to life by capturing your audience.

You may say that you have led a group of 30 soldiers. True, but just a fact. Now, let’s introduce the “You Factor.” This time you say:

I have the unique ability to capture the hearts of the people I am leading, instill in them the importance of the part they play in the overall success of our effort, and to engage them in a manner that creates within them a desire to reach goals they never thought possible.

Then you proceed to give a very quick narrative of a success that you attained through the people that you have led.

Powerful stuff, but it will take effort on your part to prepare so that you have your story on the tip of your tongue. For each additional point or characteristic that you want to demonstrate, use the same format, introducing a very short story, demonstrating success in each area you want to  cover.

Let me provide an example of a veteran that I worked with who at first claimed to not have a story to tell. He had been on 17 interviews and not one had produced a positive result. I suggested that he probably wasn’t connecting and that he needed to tell his story. He said that he really didn’t have a story and that he was just a grunt. I mentioned to him that everyone has a story and I that I was confident that he had one, too.

After probing, I found that as a teenager, he had lived on the streets and had numerous run-ins with authorities. Even though he was on the streets and had dropped out of school, he felt that he was better than his circumstances. While being pursued to join a gang, he chose to pursue an education instead and received his GED. He also started reading self-improvement books. To benefit himself further, he chose to join the military and raised himself to the rank of platoon sergeant. I asked what he was proudest of. He replied that he brought every one of his guys back from Iraq. Not letting his story end there, I asked what efforts he took to make this safe return happen. He said that he was tough on his guys and quizzed them constantly on preparedness issues and responses. I then asked him how his troops responded. He said that at first they thought he was a jerk – until they had a life-and-death incident.

One of the precautions he drilled them on so many times saved many lives. I then asked what they thought of him then. He started to cry and said they loved him; in fact his troops drilled these very same things into new members of his unit. He said that when he leads, he leads with every ounce of fiber within his soul, and people believe and follow.

Bingo! I was sold and so was the next employer that I had him interview with.

Final Thoughts on Sharing Your Success Stories

Sharing your story brings to life who you really are and makes you memorable in the eyes of your interviewer. Now you have separated yourself from your competition using the power of storytelling.

For more information, see also these sections of Quintessential Careers: Job Action Day 2014

This article is part of Job Action Day 2014.



Client Staffing Solutions, Inc., President Russ Hovendick

Russ Hovendick is president of Client Staffing Solutions, Inc., a national search and placement firm specializing in the food and beverage industry. He has been a national award-winner within the recruiting and placement industry. He is also founder of Directional Motivation, a Website providing no-cost materials to help people advance their careers, with a special section devoted to transitioning veterans seeking civilian employment. He has authored three books: Deployment to Employment, How to Interview, and How to Get a Raise. He is also a frequent guest on Radio and Television programs and has been quoted in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, GX Magazine, Military Times, Woman’s World Magazine, Reuters, NFIB, Career Builder, and Yahoo.