Preparing for an interview can be a daunting task. However, with proper preparation you can greatly improve your interview performance and chances of success. In the latest careers article from Go Zambia Jobs we suggest why you should prepare stories before an interview. We also suggest 5 stories that you may want to consider preparing.
Why Prepare Stories?
There are a number of good reasons why you should prepare stories in advance of your interview.
- Most interviews will contain behavioral questions (or situational questions as they are also known). These questions require you to demonstrate your suitability for the role based on your previous experiences. In order to answer behavioral interview questions you will need to tell stories about your past experiences that demonstrate your suitability for the role.
- In the pressure of an interview it can be difficult to recall and recite suitable stories. Preparing stories in advance will ensure that the story you tell is relevant and demonstrates your suitability for the role.
- Preparing and practicing stories in advance will increase your understanding both of your own skills and experience and of the requirements of the role. It can also help to calm nerves and boost confidence.
Remember the 5P’s – Proper, Preparation, Prevents, Poor, Performance
How to Prepare a Story?
Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. The good thing about preparing stories is that you will know each section of story in advance. There is nothing worse than starting a story and forgetting what happened or remembering that the end does not reflect you in the most positive light! A couple of useful acronyms to remember are SOAR (Situation Obstacles Actions Results) or STAR (Situation Task Actions Results). Set out the situation, talk about any obstacles or tasks faced, outline the actions (what you did) and explain the results.
NOTE: Remember that just because you prepare a story in advance doesn’t mean that you have to use it during the interview. Only use stories that are relevant to the question asked! It is better not to use stories than trying to squeeze them all in.
5 Stories to Prepare for Interviews
Interview Question: How would you describe your personality or working style?
This is an open-ended behavioral question. Think about the requirements of the role and look for hints in the job description. For example, is there a specific reference to a team player or someone who is highly organised? What is the ethos of the organisation? Explain your personality or working-style and provide a story that evidences your explanation. For example, if you are a hard-worker tell a story about how you went the extra mile to complete a task. If the organisation ethos demands someone who is passionate and caring demonstrate through a story how you meet these requirements.
Interview Question: Have you ever faced a difficult problem? If so, how did you manage this problem?
The interviewer is interested in your ability to solve problems – a common requirement in most jobs. Pick an example that illustrates a significant obstacle that best demonstrates how you work and that had a positive, tangible outcome. Consider the acronym SOAR defined above. Explain the situation and the obstacle(s) faced. This might include a difficult task or customer or a lack of resources. Once you have your example, explain the actions you took and the result(s) achieved.
Interview Question: What experience do you have that makes you suitable for this role?
This is a great question for you to really highlight your suitability for the role. There are a couple of different ways that you could produce an interesting an engaging story that would demonstrate your suitability for the role. You might explain your background and summarize how it has prepared you for this job. Alternatively, you may list some of the requirements for this job and then describe how you meet or exceed each one. Always focus on relevant experience and remember to provide information on results.
Interview Question: What is your great professional achievement or accomplishment to date?
This is a common interview question whereby the interviewer gives you the opportunity to outline your greatest achievement or accomplishment to date. It is vital you give them an organized, articulate story with a clear result. An example would be “exceeded annual performance target by 75%”. Set up the story using SOAR or STAR. Remember that they are asking about you and your role so do not spend too much time dwelling on the roles of others.
Interview Question: Why should we employ you rather than other candidates?
Here the interviewer is asking you to articulate why you are special and why you deserve the job. This is a great opportunity for you to summarize your main selling points related specifically to the job requirements. To prepare a story to this answer, start by considering what you have to offer. For example, any previous directly related experience, specialist knowledge and demonstrated commitment and enthusiasm for the sector or profession. Preparing a dazzling, well-thought out story that reflects your suitability for the requirements of the job will give you a great chance of securing the role.
The list of potential interview questions is almost endless but a few other questions you may want to consider are: How do you react to failure? Have you ever faced an ethical dilemma? How do you deal with conflict? Are you able to work as part of a team?
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