“Show, don’t tell.” If you like to write or you know a writer, you’ve probably heard this time-worn storytelling advice. But what works for writers works for other types of storytelling as well – like the type you’ll do in an interview.
When a hiring manager asks a candidate, “Tell me about a time that….,” answering with a story that illustrates the quality or skill described is often more effective than merely stating that you possess the skill or quality. By “showing” with a story instead of “telling,” you’re demonstrating in a concrete way that you have what the hiring manager is looking for.
To “show, don’t tell” in your next interview, try these tips:
1. Plan ahead.
Good storytellers always generate and jot down ideas before they launch into their next writing or performance. You should do the same for your interview. Before your interview, think about your professional past, as well as your volunteer work, schooling, and hobbies. What are the three to five top moments in which you and your work really stood out? What skills, qualities, or actions did you need to realize those accomplishments? These achievements, and the characteristics you needed to reach them, will become the basis of your interview answers.
2. Employ the CAR method.
When answering an interviewer’s question about a particular challenge you faced or skill you employed, use the CAR method:
- Identify the challenge: “Our company was switching to a new software platform, and I was asked to take over the implementation team only three weeks before launch.”
- Describe your action: “I immediately sat down with the team and worked out a schedule that maximized our use of available time.”
- State the result: “By sticking to the schedule, we were able to ensure the platform was up and running a full two days ahead of the deadline.”
This method allows you to demonstrate your skills by “showing” an example of when you used them successfully, while also keeping your answer concise and to the point.
3. Cover ground the interviewer missed.
In some interviews, the interviewer’s questions and your answers will fail to touch on some key skill or trait you have that is important to the job at hand. If this happens, don’t hesitate to fit in this characteristic when the interviewer asks if there’s anything else you’d like to talk about. Start by introducing the topic briefly, then telling your story about it. “We didn’t touch on it earlier, but I believe that effective communication is crucial for an IT team manager. For instance, when our company switched to its new software platform…”
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