Once Upon a Job - Story Tell,
Success Stories Steer Seekers Toward Employment
By Craig Harrison, www.ExpressionsOfExcellence.com
Nothing succeeds like success! And in job interviews, experts believe that
nothing succeeds quite like success stories. Are you sharing yours? Why
not? The secret is in how you share your successes.
I coach job seekers to develop their thirty-second success stories. During
interviews, a quick-hitting story can make or reinforce a point in memorable
fashion. Success stories may be told in response to a question, to punctuate
a credit on a résumé, or even as an aside. Did you know you had
a storied past?
Success stories can show an interviewer how you resolved a workplace problem,
innovated or grew on the job. Stories can showcase your acumen, demonstrate your
facility with others, or profile your leadership qualities. Each story shows
you succeeding in a work context, which is the purpose of your interview. Remember,
the person interviewing you is trying to envision how you'll do in their work
environment. Past performance is often the best predictor of future success so
it behooves you to share your successes. Stating just facts or statistics leaves
interviewers dry. Telling your story adds the color, context and realism to help
your interviewer appreciate your skills and experience and how you applied each.
Stories work for several reasons. For starters they're more memorable than
numbers, names and dates. Stories also work well because we enjoy the drama:
a problem followed by a solution, a mystery solved with a twist, or a creative
workaround to a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Also, the listener can find
him or herself in the story as well. A good story will resonate with listeners.
According to professional storyteller Gay Ducey, a past president of the National
Storytelling Network, "we're wired for stories, individually and collectively.
Since the time of Odysseus we've been told stories. Since we were little kids
we've been read and told stories. This is how we've been conditioned to learn;
our morals and our values are taught through stories."
Look at your résumé and pick out an accomplishment. Now tell
your interviewer the story behind the accomplishment. It states that you increased
sales 60%. But tell how you did it; Give us a “before vs. after” description.
What was the secret? Stories that reveal secrets captivate their listeners.
Your vita indicates you streamlined production time 40%. What was the key
to this success? Why hadn't others done this already? What personal quality helped
you succeed at this task where others before you hadn't?
The Three S's of Success Stories
Success stories offer a setting , a situation and a solution . Remember, you're
the hero of your stories. Your decisions, actions and insights made a difference
and it's OK to say so. You don't have to be boastful, but make Howard Cosell
proud: tell it like it is!
Here is an example of how one candidate summarized his most recent employment
for a competitor:
"In my last job I was hired to manage a production department at war
with the editorial department. I walked into an environment full of distrust
and resentment, built up over years of animosities and recriminations. Through
my implementation of cross training between departments, initiation of mutual
social outings such as picnics and scheduling of project post-mortems we were
able, after 6 months, to convert resentment into understanding and competition
into cooperation. As each department began to understand how the other one worked
we were jointly able to improve the workflow and consequently shorten time to
market with publications. Even quality improved as we better understood how best
to work together. That showed me the importance of internal communication and
how hard it can be, though not impossible, to change an existing culture.
Not only does this success story demonstrate the candidate's ability to solve
problems, but it shows interviewers the candidate's understanding of interoffice
politics and the human side of operations.
Stories can demonstrate your detail orientation, dedication, leadership, independence,
researching ability, creativity or problem solving inclination. Remember that
employers want well rounded hires so make sure they see evidence of your varied
skill set. Here are a few examples:
• Your conversion of old equipment into
new uses shows you can think outside the box and are resourceful.
• The non-monetary ways you recognized
your staff shows your creativity, abilities as a leader as you demonstrate your
understanding of how to motivate others.
• The weekly internal E-letter you created
for employees not only boosted morale, it gave evidence of your strong communication
• The canned food drive you initiated
at your last job not only showed your commitment to your community, it also raised
visibility for the company and improved their public relations.
• By forming a lunchtime jogging club
you helped bring employees from different departments together while improving
the health, and mental health, of employees who participated. Your leadership
and team building skills were further evidenced when your runners club formed
a Centipede in the recent Bay to Breakers race.
• Your multilingual skills helped aright
a project suffering from miscommunication between subsidiaries from overseas.
Not only could you translate phrases and idoms of speech, your insight into cultural
differences bridged a gap and corrected a wayward project. More than showcasing
your knowledge of languages, you demonstrated the ability to liaison between
different groups, negotiate and turn an important project around.
Story Tell, Story Sell. It stands to reason that when employers hire candidates
with such skills and experience, similar stories will ensue. Your continued employment
makes yours a never-ending story. Review your past work history and identify
the stories within each accomplishment. Now tell it to others. Tell us a "U-Done
It" story! Optinally, you can include the moral to your story. What is the
point the story tells about you, your skills and credits? And remember, it's
never too soon to tell your story: "once upon a job…"
Craig Harrison is a SF-Bay Area based motivational speaker, corporate trainer
and communication coach who founded Expressions of Excellence to provide sales
and service solutions through speaking. Contact him at (510) 547-0664, send e-mail
to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his web site at www.ExpressionsOfExcellence.com