Are You a Good Story Teller?

story telling, EntertainmentImage via Wikipedia
I know - you're likely thinking, "What does story telling have to do with getting a job or education?"  It just doesn't seem to fit.  Or does it?

Think about the last couple of job interviews you have been on.  How many times were you asked a questions like, "Tell me about a time that you..." or "Tell me how you handled a situation like..." It likely happened at least 2 out of 3 times, if not every time.  Employers want to know about real life situations that you have been in and how  you handled them.

Sound like a story?  Maybe not at first but if you think about it, you'll see that it really is just a mini-story.  It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  There is usually some sort of conflict involved.  And it has a resolution.  It's a story.  And if you are not a good story teller the interviewer will get bored.

The first thing you need to do to be a good storyteller is be prepared.  By the time you tell your story at an interview, you should know it inside and out.  You don't want to have to back up to fill in details that you missed, otherwise the listener may have a hard time following along.  Practice telling your "story" in the mirror and practice on real people, too. Record yourself and listen to it so that you can hear what you sound like.  Do you sound like a drone?  Then you'd better put some feeling into it.  Can you understand your words?  The more you practice, the better your story will get.

In an interview it is important to keep the "story" short.  You need to remember that there may be other people waiting or the interviewer may have other appointments so keep only the most important details in your "story".  The interviewer likely doesn't really need to know that the co-worker that was involved just got through a bad divorce.

When you are telling a story you need to keep it interesting by not only choosing the right words but by using other tools. You can change the tone or pitch of  your voice, talk faster or slower, louder or quieter - all of these things change the meaning of your story just a little bit and it make it that much more interesting to listen to.  You can also use hand gestures and movement to get the listener excited and feel what you felt.

Finally, remember that while you are essentially telling a story it is NOT a fictional story.  Don't embellish the story with little details that you think will make it better.  Tell the truth, always.  You're in an interview after all!