Earn your turn!
Listen first. If there is dead silence offer your story as a little gift to get things rolling. Begin with an obvious link to their particular use for your story.
“I am particularly interested in…
- how you do X…because my interest in X started one time when
- your focus on X…because I had an experience that…
- saving us some time so I thought I’d share…
If your interviewer is already talking, listen carefully, for two reasons. One, when you give your attention first, they are more inclined to match it with a return gift of attention. Second, you can repeat back in their own language their exact words and link their words to your story bridging the conversation to your story.
Getting Away with it
Listen to a politician on TV or radio – no matter what question is asked the answer turns into the story they want to tell. You can do that too. Most questions are just probes to find out what you/your answer means to them personally. I think every interviewer has a future desire to hear “thanks” or “good job” for hiring well, as well as a present need to get the right person. If your story doesn’t address their desire or need, it won’t work.
People get irritated when you waste their time. If your story feels like a waste of time or a hard sell – they have every right to be irritated. So stop talking
Enhance “Yes or No” Questions
Avoid monosyllabic answers to “Yes or No” questions. If asked a direct question: “Have you worked overseas?” and your answer is “no” – for heaven’s sake add a story that tells a more complete and informative picture: “When I was growing up we lived in Germany and Japan. On my first day of school in Japan…” Or if you are asked, “Can you travel?” A yes answer can be coupled with, “One day last year, I had a flight…”
What about people who want me to cut to the chase?
If a picture is worth a thousand words a story can be worth an hour or two of interviewing. Remember you are there to save them time/money/frustration anyway. You may as well start doing that during your interview.
When you deal with someone who operates with a sense of urgency it is best to match their pace. They have the power and it is a big risk to force a slower pace or go deeper too soon. Your stories will have to be lean and punchy. However don’t edit to “just the facts.”
Edit to deliver an emotional impact with the least words. If the emotional impact is effective, they will ask for more of your story. For example: “I prefer to lead in a collaborative manner. But I can be directive in necessary …like the time my group’s budget was cut 30% and we had one day to decide how to deal with it. I had to push to get decisions.”
That two sentence “story” should invite a “tell me more” response.
I will be interested to hear your comments and particularly interested in responding to specific issues or questions.