The Power of Making a Connection and Using Power Stories to Win Job Interviews

In the past decade, the interview process for job-seekers has changed radically, rendering many professionals who haven’t looked for a job in a while woefully unprepared.

It’s critical to stand out and have your interview discussion be meaningful and memorable. You can achieve this by following two simple rules:

#1 Make a Connection with the Interviewer.

It is important to develop an interpersonal connection with the interviewer early on during the interview to put everybody at ease. From there, the interview can proceed more like a discussion where each side learns about the other. The ability to develop a good rapport with the interviewer will also show that you would fit in the organization.

The candidate who gets the offer is the one who makes the strongest emotional connection with the interviewers while answering their questions. Yes, the hiring manager should match an applicant's skill set with the needs of the job, but it's equally important to feel comfortable with the person who gets hired. It comes down to communication and building an easy rapport.

#2 Utilize Power Stories.

In recent years recruiters and employers increasingly have adopted “behavioral” (also known as “competency” or “performance-based”) interview techniques. This approach holds that past performance—and the behavior that produced it—is a good predictor of future performance.

Interviewers seek specifics about what you did, why you did it, and how it affected people and the business. They look for candidates who best match the competencies their companies believe are critical. Astute interviewers don’t want promises of what you can do; they want proof of what you’ve actually done.

Ask yourself what the interviewer really needs to know, not just what it is they say they want. Because the difference between what people say they want and what they really need is called value. When discussing your experience, start your story in the strongest way possible. Provide high-value stories that serve you best and the interviewer can relate to.

A strong relationship between you and the interviewer can help you stand out as the better candidate when your skills and experience are similar to other candidates. Being a memorable candidate (as long as it’s a positive impression) is invaluable especially when interviewing with more than one person. Deliver your information so the interviewer relates to the experience and can recall your answer after the interview is over.

Connecting with the Interviewer

Show interest in the interviewer

Show interest in who they are as a person. Building rapport during your interview is important because it leaves the interviewer with a positive impression of who you are and can help you improve your chances of receiving a job offer.

One of the best things you can do to build rapport with anyone you meet is to show interest in who they are as a person, not just in what they can do for you. Try to take the time to show the interviewer you are interested in who they are and make them feel just as important as the interview is. Small actions, such as remembering the interviewer’s name, asking them about their day, and asking a question that relates to their position with the company can help show the interviewer you are interested in more than the position.

Ask the interviewer questions

While most of the interview will probably consist of the interviewer asking you questions to learn more about you, it is also important to make sure you ask any questions you have about the role or the company. At the beginning of the interview, you may want to ask questions about the interviewer themselves, such as “How long have you worked here?” or “What do you like most about working here?” Then continue to ask questions throughout the interview as they are appropriate. The key is to create a two-way conversation with the interviewer.

During the Interview: Pay Attention. Keep your ears and eyes tuned in to what the hiring manager says, and anything in his or her body language that indicates excitement. Pick up on it and make a note (written or mental). If the topic is something you feel knowledgeable about and comfortable in addressing, engage. But don't overdo it and don't fake it. Keep it sincere and within the context of the topic you're discussing in the interview.

Engage, Relate, Connect Using Your Power Stories

Prepare for your next interview by crafting a few memorable, personal, and succinct stories from your job experiences and accomplishments that will hold the interviewer's attention and help them think hard about offering you a position.

They already read your resume. That's how you got the interview. Use the interview to show off your communication skills and let them see you how you would mix well with other employees and clients. It's your chance to close the sale. A good salesperson sells customers on the experience, the benefits, how it will make their life better, easier, richer, and how it will meet their needs.

Begin with the End in Mind

Traditionally, the story strategy is to build your message, one chronological point at a time - in much the same way that a resumé would - from college up to yesterday. Stephen Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind”. What if you open with your values and describe how you can serve your next employer - then the stories support your point? Consider the authentic story that will serve your intentions: lead with your values and let your stories support what matters most to you. Think of a situation or circumstance that illustrates how you behaved under pressure, how you solved a problem, how you created a new opportunity. And be sure you share these experiences, so the interviewer has something to relate to.

Focus on Highlights Not Chronological Order

What’s the episode in your life that really illustrates who you are, what you can do, and what you stand for? Sure, you can walk someone through your career history in chronological order - but how will the Interviewer decide what the highlights are? Consider this prompt: “I’ll never forget the time when...” and access moments where you performed at your best, in the face of adversity and challenges.

Utilize Power Stories

With power stories, you can prove the abilities you claimed in your pitch/resume and the promise behind your personal “brand.” Power stories are effective templates that help relate examples of your experience in a way that is both easy to deliver and easy to understand. These power stories can highlight skills that are transferable across industry boundaries. Don’t worry if your stories don’t include an example of your curing cancer. Your story does not have to have worldwide significance. It only needs to highlight the skill you are targeting. Use the following rules to craft and deliver your stories.

Key rule #1: Don’t ramble. Remember, real-life examples are not “war stories.” They have a specific purpose. With just a dash of drama, everything you say should help concisely explain the decisions, behavior, or results that are relevant to your overall point. If it doesn’t, then take it out.

Key Rule #2: Relax and remember to listen. Power stories work best when they are relevant and seem unforced. Use them not only to respond to an interviewer’s questions but also to volunteer examples that address issues the interviewer has mentioned.

Key Rule #3: Deliver it with finesse. A power story should be written out in conversational language, then practiced aloud until it becomes effortless. Ideally, a power story should be less than two minutes long, and you should have six to 10 of them ready in your arsenal. After you’ve told your prepared story, STOP. The interviewer then can move on to other topics or ask more questions if he or she wants more details.

When asked questions, have a story, and deliver it with finesse. Real-life professional stories allow the interviewer to envision the scenario and if the example is interesting you secure the interviewer’s attention and keep it with every twist and turn of the story. Everybody loves a happy ending – and stories ending with a “win” are distinctly more memorable than bullet points. And what you want is for the interviewer to remember you and what you said AFTER the interview is over.

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