Story Time

In almost all cases, answering questions in the form of stories (real-life examples) is superior to merely answering questions with short phrases. There’s a balancing act though, because most of us are poor storytellers.  It’s either Dragnet’s Sgt. Joe Friday, “Just the facts, ma’am,” or “First I slithered from the primordial ooze, grew legs and lungs then walked fully erect.” Yawn!


Don’t you love the snappy, one-line comebacks in comedies? Much time is spent in their creation, presentation and timing. Putting together good stories is an art that needs to be learned and then practiced towards perfection.


Fortunately, there are many typical (dumb) interview questions you can anticipate and prepare stories for well in advance. Some include:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • What’s your greatest weakness (strength)?
  • Why are you interested in working for us?
  • Why did you leave your last position (Why are you seeking a new position?)?
  • Don’t you see yourself as over/under-qualified?
  • Tell me about your worst manager.
  • Do you have any questions?

Other questions you should prepare in advance for include:

  • Give me an example when you had a disagreement with a supervisor/subordinate and how you handled it.
  • Give me an example of how you ________ (about an accomplishment or other claim.

Starting with your Red Flags. Write down the perceived problem on the left side of a two-column document. On the other side, write everything about it. Now comes the “fun part.” Try exchanging negative words with positive ones. Minimize what you might be lacking by adding, but I have______ which is similar. “Although I don’t have that specific experience, I have worked in similar situations. In fact….” Then go on to lay out your STAR story that features something positive.


If you did something untoward, and they’re aware of it or ask about it, it’s best to admit to the offense then explain the situation from your perspective and what you learned from the experience. “Why did you leave your last job?” might be one of those hard-to-answer questions.


When you have a draft completed, you need to distill the verbiage into a shorter version then a shorter version still. Think Hemingway, not Faulkner! Get to the point; short stories, not novels.


Remember the K.I.S.S. system, “Keep it Simple Stupid!”

The next part of creating stories to practice, practice, practice. Record yourself. Ask the question or concern aloud, pause for a moment, then tell your story. Listen carefully to the replay and work on areas of weakness (and strength) until the story flows. Don’t forget, the interviewer puts their britches on the same way as you, so speak as if you’re talking to an equal (you are).


The above is an excerpt from my new book, HIRED! Every Employment Method