Gather Around the Campfire—it's Interview Time!
The Career Center explains how telling stories can enhance your interviews and help you land the job you want.Oct 31, 2022
It can be difficult trying to remember all the things we have done in our life. Especially when emotions are high, and we need to communicate these experiences, skills, and knowledge in an interview. At least, that’s how one student felt walking into her Career Center Interview Assistance appointment. Luckily, the Career Center is here to support students with exactly this!
Interviewing is all about sharing our stories with employers. These aren’t fictional stories, but rather our academic, professional, and life experiences that give listeners a glimpse into who we are. But it can be difficult identifying these stories of ours when we feel like we have limited experiences. During her practice interview appointment with the Career Center, one student was feeling very self-conscious about what she would share in her interview with the Federal Government. I noticed these feelings emerging for the student during our mock interview interview and decided to switch gears away from interview questions and into reflecting on all the amazing things she has done instead.
When I realized this student was struggling to share her stories related to her position of interest, I paused the mock interview and decided to move into a casual conversation about the student’s experience. I moved away from the formal tone created in an interview, and asked questions like, “What was your favorite thing you learned about in your degree? Tell me about your job experience as a care provider? What is one thing you found easy in your degree or work experience? I wonder how being a care provider relates to following procedures and protocols?” My goal was to have a casual conversation with the student about her experiences and help to get her talking about herself. What I didn’t realize through this was how many amazing things the student had done and how excited she was to share it.
I took the opportunity to take what the student shared in our casual conversation and connect it to the essence of the job she was going to be interviewing for. Sharing insights into what I heard her say, how I think her responses connect to her position of interest, and how she possesses all the skills and experience needed to be successful. This was a profound moment because I saw the lightbulb turn on in her head; she was realizing that she had a wealth of amazing stories that illustrated her professional identity. However, this was only the first step. Because we ran out of time in our first conversation, we scheduled a follow up appointment to put the pieces together in a mock interview appointment.
What a difference spending a little time casually talking and reflecting about her background made. During the mock interview appointment, you could feel the confidence the student had as she shared her stories about managing conflict, following procedures and protocols, and being able to respond to emergency situations. Her stories were smooth, concise, and provided a detailed picture of her in a way that was missing in our initial appointment together. I truly felt like I better understood this person and what she is capable of because of the stories she shared about herself.
Yet, that understanding didn’t come from jumping into an interview unprepared. It was the result of intentional reflection about her background and connecting these rich experiences (or stories) to the job of interest. We need to give ourselves time to reflect and the opportunity to share what we have learned with the world around us. John Dewey stated, “We don’t learn from experience… We learn from the reflection on experience.”
We all bond and connect over stories; it’s human nature. Tales around a campfire, the books we can’t put down, and the movies that make hours feel like minutes are examples of human nature resonating with stories. However, if you are like many of us who don’t feel like we have much to share with employers, come chat with us at the Career Center. We would love to help you reflect on all the amazing things you have done and shape your stories that inform the world who you are.