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When Heroes tell Stories: Storytelling in the Job Interview
Campfire – Employer Branding Tools 3 May 2016

When Heroes tell Stories: Storytelling in the Job Interview

The employee as hero - storytelling in PR
The employee as hero – storytelling in the job interview, background image: © Benediktv CC BY-SA 2.0

Whether during an interview or feedback session, as an interviewer or supervisor I often have the feeling that the person I’m talking to can’t really open up and I therefore don’t find out much about the person I’m talking to and their needs. Logically, a CV, for example, is more than just a list of facts and figures. But if you ask about this in a personal conversation, I often just hear the same list of previous stations. As an HR manager, however, I actually want to get to know the personality behind the CV, to hear the exciting story about the journey that has led this person to us. Especially in job interviews, but also in feedback interviews, many people are initially inhibited and don’t know how to package their experiences and strengths in an entertaining way.

Storytelling as a conversation method can therefore provide a remedy for such a conversation: In this case, the (potential) employee must put himself in the role of the hero and ask himself important questions, such as:

  • Where am I in life right now? In the valley, in the middle of the ascent or just before the summit?
  • Where do I come from and what have I already experienced along the way?
  • What tools do I carry in my backpack that are useful for the company?
  • What goal do I want to achieve at the end of the journey?
  • What are the next hurdles I need to overcome to reach my goal?
  • What opponents do I have on the way there?
  • What tools do I need from my mentor to overcome these hurdles?

The answers that come to light through such a question differ significantly from those that you get when you ask about possible problems, challenges, etc. in the normal way. Perhaps this is because such a list of questions sounds like an exciting story and the candidates and employees suddenly have the courage to answer openly and honestly. The change of perspective certainly helps too. If I visualize which colleague or customer is standing in my way and blocking my career, or what the company has to provide me with to help me reach the top, it is easier for me to define my goals and find out what I am actually missing on my way there.

At first I was also unsure whether it might come across as strange if I suddenly drew a path in the interview or feedback meeting and asked the questions in exactly the same way. But I noticed from the answers that this method can be really helpful in getting to know people better or that they suddenly come up with completely different answers to the usual questions.

And this type of interview also has a (hopefully positive) effect on applicants. For example, when I had to turn down an applicant because she didn’t have enough knowledge for a consultant position with us, she wrote me back that she also had that feeling after our interview and added:

“My backpack of experience is not yet filled well enough to hold my own with you.”

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