No Lie! Effective Storytelling during an Interview Can Land You the Job.

July 5, 2017 Steven Watson, PhD, CPRW Interviewing

There are hundreds of books and other resources online and on the shelf that provide sound advice to people on preparing for job interviews. However, there is one job interview technique that is often downplayed or not even mentioned—the art of storytelling to highlight important points.

Storytelling as an Effective Job Interviewing Tool

So what is storytelling in relation to job interviews? A traditional approach to answering interview questions is to provide short, direct, and fact-based responses. Doing so, though, prevents you from using the question as a platform for providing a more in-depth, compelling picture of your offerings.

Instead, use the opportunity to construct a short storytelling response that starts with the accomplishment or challenge addressed, provides a few details on the situation, and then describes how you responded, along with the outcome.

For example:

Question: How do you handle difficult people in the workplace?

Response: “I have learned to remain calm even when I may be angry and let the person know how I feel without provoking more negativity. For example, I had a co-worker who always seemed to want to challenge the people around him which created difficulty for everyone. When I saw the opportunity, I approached this person and told him how I felt about his comments and asked him to be a bit more supportive with others. It worked because he seemed to become more patient with me and others.”

A more traditional response to the question may have been to say “I may approach the person and try to help him understand the impact he has on his co-workers, including me. Otherwise, I would contact my supervisor and ask her to intervene.”

Successful storytelling during a job interview hinges on:

  • stating the primary point early in the response and then
  • providing a short example that reinforces the primary point, along with an outcome that is consistent with the original question.

No interviewer wants to suffer through a long response that does not get to the primary point until the end and then describes an outcome not connected to the question asked.  Keep the story to no more than two minutes and try to mirror the interviewer’s words contained in the question while providing the story narrative.

Benefits of Job Interview Storytelling

People have been telling stories for about as long as they could live in groups and converse with each other. Most everyone seems to enjoy a good story and this is certainly the case in job interviews. Storytelling puts people in the same place and thinking about the same issues which can become a bonding moment. If you can help an interviewer view you as a real person and not just the next person in the interview line, you have done a lot to separate yourself as a candidate.


Storytelling does not necessarily come naturally to people and will often take practice and role playing to get it right. However, it should become a part of every job applicant’s interview preparation process.

Before each job interview, anticipate the type of questions that will probably be asked and that are suitable for storytelling. This includes questions, such as:

“Tell me about yourself?”

“How do you handle failure?”

“How do you manage a project given to you to complete?”

Storytelling has become a basic concept used in most successful sales, marketing, and branding strategies and interventions. A job interview is really nothing more than an applicant’s opportunity to sell herself to the prospective employer. By adding storytelling to your arsenal of interviewing tools, you are enhancing your chances of landing that great job!

Job Interview, job search, storytelling,

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