Wednesday, May 12, 2010

3D Juggling 478 Finding the right story

Jane writes: "Imagine that you’ve done all the hard work needed to present a winning job application, and you’re getting ready for that all important interview. What are you thinking about? Maybe what to wear, how to get there on time, what they might ask, and what your answers could be.

Maybe you could think about the stories you will tell. Not lies, or exaggerated truths, but stories about real things you have done. When we talk about things that have meaning for us and that we own we are authentic, and this is visible to others. And as it will be the real you that goes to work for them, it makes sense to offer this to them from the start. When you offer them something else, maybe what you think they are looking for, you may end up in a job that you can’t do or a place where you don’t fit very comfortably, and either of these things can make you unhappy, or even ill.

So, how do you find your stories?

Start by looking at the information you have about the job – the job description, person specification, competency framework. Look at what you have found out about the organisation – its values, activities, contribution. What do these tell you that they are looking for? Make a list of the five or six most critical things you find. If you’re not sure what these are ask someone else to help you to identify them, or put all the information to one side and listen to yourself – you probably know.

Then ask yourself ‘What is my best evidence for each of these?’ The answers will be your stories, the things you have done that demonstrate that you have the skills and experience that they are looking for.

One of my clients identified that her interviewers would be looking for evidence that she could deal with conflict. At first she didn’t think she had a story, so we explored what conflict might look like and times when she had witnessed or experienced something that looked like this and done something about it. Start your story with a brief description of the situation. What was happening?

Then we explored what she could have done in that situation – her options. The next step was to describe what she actually did – the action she took. We followed this up by clarifying what happened next, and what the final outcome was. And that provides the structure for your stories: situation, options, action, response and result. And use lots of ‘I’, not ‘we’. This will happen comfortably when you are telling your own story.

Through this approach my client found a powerful story that she hadn’t realised she had. You may need to find several stories before you’re happy that you have one that is relevant, safe and powerful for each critical thing the interviewer may be looking for. Choose your best one for each, then practice telling them until you can tell each one with confidence in a few minutes. You don’t want to tell stories so long that the interviewer falls asleep.

And don’t forget that a job interview works both ways – you are assessing them as well. What are you going to ask them?

We’d be happy to help you find your stories, and your questions."

Love this? Do us a favour and send it to five people. Who thinks like you? You could send it to someone who has an interview coming up.

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