Writing your success stories for effective interviews

With small businesses following Fortune 500 companies in the hot trend toward behavioral interviewing, it’s critical that job seekers be prepared to deliver fact-filled stories when responding to the query, “Tell me about a time when you… ” Many interviewers prefer that job seekers be prepared to deliver fact-filled stories when responding to the query, “Tell me about a time when you. . . ” Many interviewers prefer that job seekers deliver interview responses, or stories, using the CAR or STAR method (acronyms for Challenge, Action, Result or Situation/Task, Action, and Result).

These 10 tips can serve as a guide for writing SMART stories.

  1. Use the “it’s about them, not me” perspective when describing your stories. This means that, ultimately, your SMART stories must be related to “them” the employer and their needs. Think in terms of what will motivate the employer to buy, the return-on-investment you offer, and your benefits vs. features.
  2. Write SMART stories about your work at each of your past employers. The heaviest concentration of stories should be about your current or most recent experiences. Pen a SMART story for each recent accomplishment on your résumé.
  3. Assign themes to your SMART stories that underscore competencies for the target position. For instance, competencies for a customer service rep might include customer-focused orientation, interpersonal judgment, communication skills, teamwork, problem solving, listening skills/empathy, and initiative.
  4. Write SMART stories for non-work experiences if you are just entering the work force. It is fair game to draw on volunteer work, school experiences, and general life incidents. (If you sense you need additional experience, identify and quickly act on how you can best prepare yourself through reading, attending a course, job-shadowing, volunteering, or taking a relevant part-time job.)
  5. Regardless of what point your career life is at, everyone should recollect influential or life-altering events throughout youth and adulthood. Write SMART stories about these times.
  6. Numbers speak louder than words! Load the stories with numbers, dollar amounts, productivity measurements, comparisons, and the like. (Be cautious about conveying proprietary or confidential company information.) Be specific and offer proof. Instead of saying, “I learned the program quickly,” make it crystal clear with language like, “I studied the manual at night and, in three days, I knew all the basic functions; in two weeks I had mastered several of the advanced features; and by the end of the month, I had experienced operators coming to me to ask how to embed tables into another program.”
  7. Include emotions and feelings. Yes, feelings. When describing the situation, don’t be afraid to include details such as these: “the tension among the team was so serious that people were resigning”; “the morale was at an all-time low”; or “the customer was irate about receiving a mis-shipment that occurred because of our transportation vendor.” When writing about emotions or feelings, be mindful NOT to whine or disparage anyone, even if through a veiled reference.
  8. Avoid personal opinions. You can, however, include the opinion of a supervisor or another objective party. Instead of saying, “I believe my positive outlook really helped keep the customer happy,” rely on someone else’s opinion: “My supervisor commented in a memo how my outlook helped us save a key account that was in jeopardy of being lost. I have a copy of that memo if you’d like to see it.”
  9. Pace the stories so that each is approximately 2-3 minutes in length. Set up the story briefly with facts, place the greatest weight on the action portion of the story, wrap it up with numbers-driven results, and tie it back to the interviewer’s needs. Occasionally, vary the delivery by dropping in a result at the front end of the story.
  10. Make the stories relevant. You have a myriad of experiences in your background. Sift through them and select the stories that best substantiate your competencies, knowledge, skills, and motivation to excel in the target job.

Source: Career Coach Academy

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