Competency Based Interview Questions Mastered Through Storytelling

Competency Based Interview Questions Mastered Through Storytelling

Whats the ticket to guarantee that you will rock your interview despite challenging competency based interview questions? One word: storytelling. This communication technique captures the interest of your audience by appealing to modern society’s roots. In the days of old, before written records were widely adopted, knowledge was primarily spread through exhilarating stories that were memorable and insightful.

Just because we have infinite mediums to record information, doesn’t mean that storytelling has lost its edge – in fact, it has gained influence as a richer and more personable alternative to today’s email and documentation.


Why Storytelling for Mastering Competency Based Interview Questions

So why wouldn’t you leverage this as a way to rock your interview? In fact, they’re practically begging you to tell them a story. “tell me about a time when…” doesn’t mean name dropping a bunch of keywords or regurgitating bullets on your resume; it means illustrating your professional journey through a relevant experience, revealing what you accomplished, how you’ve failed (we can learn a lot from failing at omelettes), what you learned, and how you’ve grown as a result.

Thinking this way changes what you say in the interview room when answering competency based interview questions. Are you comfortable talking about failure and mistakes in front of the person your trying to schmooze? If you’re not, then you don’t know your own story; you’re acting like a director who takes an important chapter from the book and demotes it to the deleted scenes (don’t be the director who writes terrible emails, either).

Interviewers want the deleted scenes; these touchy subjects are the pivotal conversations that define your character. Pass that test with flying colors, along with a sense of pure espresso passion, and you’ll be surprised to see how flexible the surface level “qualifications” may suddenly become as you seriously rock your interview!


Switching to Story Mode

Nancy Duarte wrote an excellent book on storytelling called “Resonate“. Although it’s focused on public speaking and presentations, much of the material is relevant to interviewing and I highly recommend it.

Coming into the interview, we often feel like the resume is a cheat sheet for our best skills (make sure it’s Instagram-worthy). Instead, use it as a table of contents for an anthology of stories (Snapchat style). That means your interview preparations should be focused on mentally outlining a story for each section of your resume. Within each section, think of the individual bullets as chapters.

Don’t get hung up on literal story outlines, such as setting the environment. In fact, a common complaint among interviewers is that candidates spend too much time setting the stage and not enough on the takeaways. The focus should be on character development rather than plot development.

Through natural conversation, you’ll find that the stories will unfold “Choose Your Own Adventure” style. Try to have chapters that stand on their own, but can be laced together into a story on-demand.

This may mean taking chapters from different stories and coming up with a new one on the fly. The people who can do this genuinely are the ones who rock their interviews hardcore. They are seen as leaders.

The ultimate goal for this exercise is to become someone who is more personable and naturally conversational in the interview room when answering competency based interview questions. Less memorization; more personal. Bullets aren’t remembered, people are. Memorable people rock their interviews!


Bonus Points

What makes a story better? Pictures of course! What if your story read less like “the Iliad” and more like “Go Dogs, Go”? You would definitely rock your interview to a new level! Invest your time putting together a compelling portfolio that compliments your stories. Give the interviewer something to look at while you walk him or her through the chapters.

Just seeing something, even if it’s just a photo of you at the event you’re describing, makes the story concrete. It becomes more believable. It’s a “certified organic” sticker on your career produce (set SMART goals while your looking at that produce).

If your resume was an anthology of stories, what would be your title?


Photo credit: “Stories of Storytelling” (CC BY 2.0) by  cogdogblog 



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