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Engage Your Interviewer with These Storytelling Gems

If your job history was a movie, what would be the most compelling way to unveil it to an interviewer?

We’re taking a handful of storytelling gems tweeted by Emma Coats (a story-boarder formerly of Pixar) and translating them into ways to keep your interviewer engaged, and even enthralled with your story.

You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

Your success stories are great, but perhaps more interesting is sharing a time you took on a calculated risk, or ambitious project. Maybe you didn’t reach your goal, but you certainly learned something along the way.

You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

In general, talking about yourself is super fun and gratifying. But think about the hiring manager across the table. When was the last time you wanted to sit through a chronological history of someone’s life? It takes extra work, but try to tell the parts of your story that impact the company with which you’re interviewing.

Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

How did you get here? The golden rule of writing is show, don’t tell. Showing is an action. Show the action points in your career that have molded you into the professional you are today.

Once upon a time there was a bored graphic designer. Everyday, she created graphics for web developers, but felt they were being mishandled. One day, she decided she wanted to have more control and creativity. ecause of that, she taught herself to code. Because of that, she created her own mobile app. Because of that, friends began asking her to create more apps. Until finally, she had enough experience to make the switch from designer to developer.

Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

Don’t expect to interview once and be handed a job offer. Perfecting your pitch takes practice, and the stars don’t always align for job seekers right away. Think of each interview as a chance to practice telling your story, so that when the right opportunity arises, you’re prepared to seize it.

Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

You know why you’re a perfect fit for the opportunity, but a generic resume doesn’t always get the message across. Which parts of your experience are integral to the job you are interviewing for? Which parts don’t make sense? Create a job-specific resume, and rehearse talking about it. Get your story out of your head and onto paper to help smooth over complicated story lines, and explain imperfections before you’re face to face with the hiring manager.

Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

Does something in your job history make you cringe? Find a way to turn it around and reveal the silver lining. Did you develop a new passion during time away from work? Did you not fit into a company’s culture, but find ways to challenge yourself despite it?

You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

Put your interviewer in your shoes. No one’s job history is perfect, so help them identify with you. What would inspire someone to change careers mid-life, like you did? What could cause one to part ways with an employer? What would motivate someone to take on a lesser role at a better company?

What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Time is valuable, and you only have a few precious minutes to get your story across to your interviewer. Skip over the boring or irrelevant parts and focus on developing the compelling nuggets of your employment history that make you a perfect fit for the job.

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