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.

Stories for a Job Interview

“I think you need at least three stories walking in to an interview.”

Whether it is a formal performance review or a potential employer evaluating us in casual conversation we are constantly being interviewed.  I will be posting a series of thought starters that walk you through finding and telling great stories that might wow an interviewer, get a promotion, or at least set the scene for your next performance review.

I think you need at least three stories walking in to an interview.  First you need a “who I am” story that says a lot about who you are and who you are not.

You also want to have ready answers to the predictable versions of “Biggest Strength and Biggest Weakness” request.  Use Value-in-Action stories.  You can describe your strength/best quality by telling a story about a time you shined.

Your story about a weakness can be an “I Blew It” that shows how this quality got you into trouble one time. This kind of story simultaneously showcases your commitment to your strength as well as demonstrates you already know how this quality can be a weakness in certain situations.

How do you come up with a story like that?

You start by asking yourself: What qualities do I bring above and beyond my resume? Two years from now what words would they use to describe why they are glad they hired me?  Discern these best core qualities and then look for a story that showcases those qualities.

When were you really tested?  Think of an event where it would have been easier even cheaper to do something else, but you held firm. For the “I Blew it” story, find an event that nags at you still – a time you recall with thoughts of “shoulda/woulda/coulda” and you will find a story.

The Premiere of EPIC

I rarely watch a movie without identifying at least one scene that will work as a story. There is always a scene you can adapt for some future date when you are hunting for a story.

Epic – the movie – is all about the story! Or I should say: stories. There are many stories interwoven in this movie. It is based on children’s book author Bill Joyce‘s The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs. Actually the story isn’t even close. There are leaf men…and bugs…but that’s about all the new story has in common with the old one. Bill Joyce won an Oscar last year for the animation put out by his studio Moonbot, located here in my hometown. It makes it easier to live in Shreveport, La. knowing that he lives here too!

Watching the movie in 3D lifted me into a green, growing micro world with blooming flowers and speeding hummingbirds ridden by leaf men and leaf women in tiny saddles. It was fun. Moonbot’s animation team loves to dance with realism enough that fantasy is visceral and sensory.

This little video about our night is my latest attempt to play with digital storytelling. I made it on my iPhone using iMovie over two hours this afternoon. Tell me what you think!

Have a look at the characters, here:

Diversity is Inclusion – Telling a story so I can hear your story

Recently a client asked me to find and record the stories in their organization that demonstrate and promote diversity. Across 48 countries this organization interacts with people from impoverished to wealthy, from indigenous to expatriates, and they know they have a problem with gender inequality.

I’m not an expert in digital storytelling. So I asked for help from Beyond Measure a couple from Austin experienced in TV and documentary production. They used two cameras and integrated still images into this demonstration video. Tell me your experiences using digital storytelling to reinforce or change values within an organization. I’m very curious about measurements to track the success of digital storytelling. I’ll be doing research on this topic and will report my findings in future posts.

Lean In! Stories about Women and the Will to Lead

I want to talk about Sheryl Sandberg and her new book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” I share her story and a few stories of my own in this video. I believe that along with storytelling tips, sending you videos like this will help develop your storytelling talents by reminding you to continually look for stories. Listening to meaningful stories should trigger memories that can develop into great stories. I hope these stories are about issues that are important to you. Let me know what you think!

Lean In: Stories about Women and Work <<< CLICK HERE!