Tell me about a time when… This phrase is how many behavioral interviews begin. The interviewer asks you to tell him or her about a specific event that demonstrates a certain type of skill. If you are in a customer-facing role, the interviewer may say, “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer.” If you are in management, the interviewer may say, “Tell me about a time when you had a difficult employee with poor interpersonal skills.”
Unfortunately, many interviewees fail these types of questions because they are not prepared for them. Too many interviewees answer with generalities instead of specifics. To simply state that you have dealt with difficult customers before is not sufficient. You need to think of a specific instance in which you handled a difficult customer and talk about how you resolved the issue.
In preparing for an interview, you should have at least three stories that you can tweak depending on the question that is asked. All of your stories need to have the same elements:
1) Be specific. As was stated before, don’t talk in generalities. Give a specific example with enough detail to be compelling.
2) Be memorable. Your story should stand out. Even though you may have many stories that you can tell that speak to the specific issue that the interviewer is asking you about, you need to choose your most compelling story that best illustrates your point. For example, if you are a meetings manager and you are asked to tell the interviewer about a time when you faced challenges in terms of hosting a meeting, you should talk about a time when the challenge you faced seemed insurmountable. Then talk about the steps that you took to resolve the issue. And the end of the story should demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that you are capable of handling difficult situations with finesse.
3) Demonstrate competence. Only share stories that have a good ending and put you in a good light. Interviewers ask behavioral questions because they are trying to determine form your past experience how you would perform in the future. That means that your stories need to illustrate that you are competent and that you will be a great new hire.
4) Build credibility. A well told story can increase your credibility as a job seeker. Anyone can say that they are honest, dependable, and hard-working. And employers expect to hear this because it is how so many people describe themselves. But you gain credibility with potential employers when you share a story that shows instead of tells what type of worker you are.
So telling stories can help you make your case for why an employer should hire you. But don’t wait until you get into the interview to start thinking about stories that you can tell. In the moment you may draw a blank. But if you prepare appropriately ahead of time, you can win the interviewer over by sharing stories that illustrate that you would be a great addition to the team.
For professional assistance with refining your answers to interview questions so that you can land a new job, talk to a certified career coach at 877-743-9521 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.