One Thing to Rehearse Before a Job Interview


Regardless of how well you can anticipate the questions you’ll be asked in a job interview, you should still follow the adage to “tell a story.” This advice is repeated so often that many people believe storytelling is this innate ability that everyone has. But there are many ways to tell a story and it takes practice.

How then should you practice for a job interview?

First, you should know what a story is. While there is a certain strategy to presenting information on your CV or resume, it should not be the same approach to storytelling during an interview. Stories are not facts or assertions about your career. Stories are the emotional transfer of information through a narrative that follows a pattern of elements, such as setting, conflict, rising action, climax, and resolution.

Rather than practice shoehorning parts of your CV into a story arc, a better way to rehearse for a job interview is to work on your transitions.

That’s one thing Rob Jolles, a professional influence trainer, tells clients who are practicing for presentations, along with having strong openings and avoiding written scripts.

“If I spend my time working on how I’m going from Point A to Point B and sewing that body together, (…) I’ll probably give one of the best presentations I’ve ever given,” said Jolles, as a guest on the How to Be Awesome at Your Job podcast. “It has very little to do with memorizing the body (of the message). That’s not where success lies.”

Yes, a business presentation and a job interview are two different things, but they are similar in where the success lies: delivering your key messages to convince an audience — for interviewees, that’s convincing a hiring committee to offer you a job. Unlike a business pitch, the interviewers’ questions remove the opportunity for a planned, strong opening. But as a job candidate, you can take control by using your responses as segues to your key messages. Those messages can be telling a story — with a setting, rising action, conflict, and resolution — of how you’re able to solve an institution’s problem or by explaining how well you balance teaching, scholarship, and service with a quick anecdote. .

Practice keeping your stories concise. Jolles recommends a “communication shot clock” at around 45 seconds to complete a response, and if your audience wants to know more, they will ask. This will keep them engaged and prevent you from drowning.

To help cue your transitions, identify and emphasize introductory words and phrases like “For example” or “Similarly,” but just make sure you research the hiring institution so your story is a relevant comparison.

Don’t use these transitions as a verbal crutch but rather as a springboard to “sticking the landing,” which is how Jolles describes a strong, emphatic ending.

Also, use your authentic voice. Jolles said he notices how flight attendants change their voice from having conversations with individual passengers to a voice they think they’re supposed to have to conduct the preflight safety demonstrations. “Nobody wants that,” Jolles said. “People just want to believe.”

Speaking of air travel, stories have been called the “flight simulators” of the human experience. For a job interview, the destination of the flight should be where your hiring would take the institution — and not you, the protagonist of your career story. The institution is the hero. Avoid talking about how passionate you are and how this job is a great opportunity for you and instead use your transitions to focus on the benefits of the institution.

Steve Jobs once said that “creativity is just connecting things.” Storytelling is also about connecting things. Everyone is capable. And the transitions you rehearse is what makes the connected things stick.

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