Short and punchy storytelling is good – just make sure you saved the day


As a candidate, you should tell stories in job interviews that show you in a good light. Like a defendant in court, try to avoid incriminating yourself – rather, deliver evidence that will achieve the desired result, writes Pearse O’Donnell, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.

I find many candidates do not take enough time with their stories. They rush through them and thereby lose a great deal of the impact. A story should show how your intervention brought a major difference.

Therefore, it is essential to paint the scale of the problem that you resolved in the story. Let the interview panel feel the drama. Let them see the possibility that existed of something going badly wrong, or some good opportunity going to waste, prior to your intervention.

Without this, the story could die on the vine. If you saved the company from losing a major customer, talk about how that prospect was very real. Then, and only then, should you outline how you saved the day with your site visit to assuage the customer’s concerns.

Likewise, if you spotted a major typo minutes before the flyers went to print, and got to the printers before they’d pushed the button, put a figure on what it would have cost to pulp – and perhaps reprint – the flyers. That cost could be financial, or it could relate to the loss of a major advertising opportunity at a conference or fair, for example.

When you’ve outlined the context properly, your ‘knight in shining armour’ intervention will be all the more impressive. Before fixing the problem in your story, before becoming the hero, make sure they know the actual scale of the problem.

In this way, you will do a better job interview and hopefully give the panel ample reason to hire you.


Application forms: measure twice, cut once

Q: Next week, I’m going for a job as an Assistant Principal in my school. I’ve been knocking on the door for a while, and I would dearly love to get it this time – like a lot of other teachers, I have worked hard in the school for many years and I believe I’m due some reward.

I’ve already been called, but, upon looking back on my application form, I did not do myself justice in it.

There are some spelling errors and I completely omitted two good examples where I demonstrated beyond all doubt the very competencies they are seeking. My examples in the form are nowhere near as strong. My question is: will they mark my application form as part of the interview? (ER, email).

A: In short, almost certainly not. For Assistant Principal positions, the application form is generally unmarked. There tends to be no place on the marking scheme for it. However, the completed form does make an impression on the panel and it can be used to draw up questions that they may wish to ask you. It pays to put some serious thought into the completion of the application form in order to get off to a good start.

There may be some regrets on your part that you didn’t prompt them better with those two examples you left out, but you may still be able to work them into your answers on the day.