To Be a Job Interview Standout: Tell a Great Story

storyYou know the basics of interviewing: dress appropriately, show your positive attitude, and come prepared to convince your interviewer that you want this job.

But what steps should you take to prepare answers to interview questions?

What strategies can help leave the interviewer with a lasting impression that she needs to hire you for your skills? The job interview tips and the sample question-response scenario below will help you knock your next interview out of the ballpark.

Identify Your Goals for the Interview:

Where should you start? Choose three to five points that you want to convey in your interview.

For example, no matter what, by the end of your discussion, your interviewer will know that you are: 1) a creative problem-solver who overcomes challenges through innovation; 2) a team player who thrives doing collaborative work; and 3) an effective communicator who persuades others to join your cause.

Prepare a Story to Illustrate Your Skill-sets:

Now, how do you ensure that you are able to communicate your three points during the interview? The best way to illustrate your characteristics to your interviewer and maximize your limited time is to tell a story that attaches each characteristic to a specific action.

Simply telling your potential employer that you’re a team player and creative problem-solver isn’t terribly convincing.

And pulling up a multitude of unfocused examples from swim team and debate and your magazine internship can leave a muddled or overwhelming impression. On the other hand, presenting a single narrative that encompasses your various skills will help your interviewer digest your message. Here’s how it’s done:

Interviewer: “In your cover letter, you wrote that you are a great candidate for this job because of your creative problem-solving skills. Can you elaborate on that?”

Star Interviewee: “Yes – and in fact, I remember a specific experience in college when being a creative problem-solver helped me make a real difference on campus. After I moved into a dorm far away from the campus library, I noticed that many of my classmates in my dorm building were upset at having to trek to the library late at night to check out the books they needed for research. They complained that the distance was a hurdle to completing their homework.

“I started wondering what could be done to solve this problem and eventually thought of creating a book-delivery service. I thought that students could check out their library books online and other students could deliver the library books to right to their doors.

“I pitched the idea to a group of my friends and recruited five peers to help me execute the project. Together, we brainstormed about making the best book-delivery service possible.

“When we solidified our vision and next steps, I wrote a letter to the Office of Student Life asking for the administration to support my idea. By the end of the semester, the administration agreed to post book-delivery positions as campus jobs on the college’s student employment database.”

Why Is This a Great Response?

The interviewer asked you about your creative problem-solving skills. You not only elaborated on your innovative idea to help students access library books by starting a delivery service. You also conveyed your great teamwork and communication skills by talking about how you recruited peers to help implement your project and persuaded the administration to support you.

Meanwhile, you left your interviewer with a clear story that will jog her memory when she reviews candidates or speaks about you to co-workers. You are the girl who took initiative and created the library delivery service to address a problem at your school. Your interviewer and her fellow recruiters know that you’ll be able to detect marketplace demands, work effectively with colleagues in a team, push your ideas through to superiors, and achieve results.

What a great set of transferable skills packaged in a memorable story!

You may not have invented a new book-delivery service, but even a story about organizing your sorority’s tutoring program or starting a dorm-wide recycling challenge showcases your abilities to future employers. Don’t be shy about using non-traditional examples that still say a lot about your character!





For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Levo League!



StephanieAbout the Author: Stephanie Newman was a Business Development Intern at The Levo League. She studies at Harvard University, where she was the Publisher of The Harvard Advocate, the oldest continuously published collegiate literary magazine in the country. You can follow her at, and follow Stephanie on Twitter!


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