How to Tell Your Life Story in an Interview
If you’re preparing for an interview, there may be some nerves on your end.
There are thoughts along the lines of:
- What should I expect?
In 2012, when I was applying for internships, a couple of my college advisers said:
‘Just study the company’s biography and you will be good to go!’
So, that’s what I did.
But I was not good to go.
In the interview, they didn’t ask me about the founding date of the company or anything like that.
Instead, they wanted to know more about me.
Who was I?
That’s when I learned that storytelling and job interviews go hand in hand.
This article will share some key points on how to tell your life story in an interview.
Getting to the Point
When someone says:
- Get to the point.
What does that mean to you?
‘They want me to speak fast.’
Eh…that’s a sloppy definition. Try again.
‘They want me to be interesting?’
Nope, you can do better.
‘Okay, I give up. What does it mean?’
- Give me the relevant information to the question I asked.
Picture that most human beings have a big sticker on their forehead which says:
This will allow you to give them relevant information vs getting caught up in irrelevant details that do not push the story forward.
‘But how can I spot what is relevant information?’
Context vs Content
Average storytellers start off with the content and pray the context will present itself.
Great storytellers start off with the context and the content presents itself.
To spot the context, you need to know a variety of factors:
- Parties you are dealing with.
- The intended action you want the recipient to take.
‘Damn, that sounds complex!!’
It can get complex, so let’s dumb it down.
To seamlessly find the context, simply ask:
- What is the GIST of what I’m trying to say?
When you ask that question, it helps you get to the point.
You can even be more hyper-targeted.
- What is the GIST of what I’m trying to convey for the job interview?
This further filters your mind and allows you to choose relevant information from your database.
You can even get more targeted if need be!
- What is the GIST of what I’m trying to say to show the hiring manager that I am a competent engineer?
Start with the context first for the content to present itself.
How to Tell Your Life Story
Often, the interviewer may say:
‘Tell me about yourself.’
That’s a vague command that can cause you to ramble.
Where there is a vague command, there is a vague response.
When someone wants you to tell them more about yourself, that’s code for:
‘Tell me more about the journey that led you here.’
When I was getting hired as an engineer for my first internship, my story was of a moment from when I was 5 years old!
I was always known by my family to fix stuff.
I didn’t only fix stuff for kids.
I’d fix stuff for adults too.
At the early age of 5, I wanted to be an engineer or deal with engineering in some way.
The interviewer started laughing and was like:
‘You wanted to be an engineer at age 5??’
That insight tugs at the heart.
This emotional impact would not have been unlocked if I just started parroting off my resume.
That’s not to say that listing out competency in skills is not important for the interview.
However, the skills do not always matter when someone wants to know your story.
There will be other questions they ask where they want to know your skills.
But when they want to know about you, that’s code for:
‘Tell me more about the journey that led you here.’
Exercise to Craft your Story for the Job Interview
Time for a fun exercise.
I want you to role play with someone. Or if you are alone, just pull up a picture of someone who looks like an interviewer.
Sit far away from them.
By yourself, think about what the interviewer wants to know.
They have a big sticker on their forehead that states:
Your goal is to find the BIG points from your life that led you to walk to the interviewer’s office.
What are those moments?
These BIG moments do not require too much cognitive effort to recall.
They will stick out!!
Write those few moments on a sheet of paper.
75% of the work is done.
Once you have listed those moments, your goal is to find creative ways to transition among them.
Big moment 1 – Fixed stuff as a kid.
Big moment 2 – Didn’t have friends, sought refuge in the lab.
And big moment 3 – The alone time in the lab made me a quality engineer.
“As a little kid, I used to fix stuff all the time. As I got older, I was painfully shy and didn’t feel comfortable hanging out with other kids, so I sought refuge in the lab. I learned how to build circuits, program them, and troubleshoot them. Due to my self-education, I was so much ahead of my peers in the classroom that I was able to teach them. Teaching them helped with my social skills and taught me how to work in a team.”
This is a creative exercise.
So, get creative.
Rule your Job Interview!
Humans process information through stories.
Stories are just an interconnection of ideas assembled to make a point.
When you make a point, all parties win.
You feel good for being simple and concise.
The other person gets a chance to know you better.
Stories make an impact that dry numbers never could.
Dominate your upcoming job interview by learning the art of the tale.
If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about storytelling, then be sure to check out my book:
- Art and Science of Storytelling: Learn How to Tell Better Stories in Conversations, Business Communication, Leadership & Brand Building
This book will teach you how to:
- Address the person you are speaking to for maximum engagement.
- Tell powerful stories packed with wisdom.
- How to get to the point.
- And you’ll get storytelling exercises to craft tales with ease!
Grab a copy here: