Most practiced interviewers have a standard set of questions for each competency they are evaluating. Just as you might feel you have answered the same set of questions over and over again (sometimes even within the same day), the same thing happens on the other side of the interview desk. The interviewer can often get locked into a set group of questions, which can lead to a rather cold and stoic approach to interviewing.
Just as the job of a great interviewer is to break through the veneer of the practiced candidate, your job as a great candidate is to break through that stoic veneer of the practiced interviewer. How do you do this? By making a connection in the interview. And how do you make that connection? By letting your guard down, removing the veneer and being a real person. And how do you do that? By telling a story, your story, that human story of life and passion and love and romance. OK, maybe not the love and romance part, but definitely the life and passion part. That’s how we make connections as human beings, whether we have just met someone at a party or if we have just met them in an interview room. It is the stories that make us human. It is the stories that impart life. And it is the stories that make the connection.
Here’s the good news: stories are built-in behavioral interviewing examples that will make you a S-T-A-R in the interview. You do it by giving your Situation or Task, the Action you took and the Results achieved (S-T-A-R). Tell the story about the time you saved the day. The time that you stepped in when no one else could or would. The time that you made a difference. The time that you performed just a little bit higher than your peers.
Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn, as long as it’s an honest assessment. If you did well, say so. Tell what you did specifically to stand out from the crowd.
We all have stories in our lives. We tell them when we get home, we tell them when we get together around a table to share a meal, we tell them at parties. We laugh, we cry, we tug at the heart strings. We are emotional human beings. We are storytellers.
So how do you know when your story has made a connection in the interview? Simple. Eye contact and a smile. The interviewer will stop taking notes, make eye contact with you and smile ever so slightly. It is then that you will know you have made a connection in the interview.
What if the interviewer continues to look down stoically taking notes, no connection made? Ask a simple question at the end of your story: “Would you like another example?” That’s usually enough to break the ice. If yes, go on to your next best example/story for that competency. Know your stories and know where you are going to go for different types of questions. Most great stories have multiple elements in them, so they can be used for a variety of competencies.
One final note: at the end of the interview, ask for the interviewer’s business card. They may or may not have one with them, but if you have made a connection, the interviewer will typically offer to give you contact information (usually an email address) when lacking a business card. If you are working in a role, give your card in exchange. If you are a student or a new grad, no card is expected, but you can have a networking business card put together in advance to cover that gap. More info can be found on how to do that at CollegeGrad.com.