When it comes to interviews, there are some standard question you should always expect: “Tell me about a challenge you overcame in work”, “What is an example of a project you ran that was successful, and even “Why are you interested in this position?” are all opportunities for you to illustrate your abilities, and connect with the interviewer on a personal level.

A good candidate will prepare answers for these questions. A great candidate will use them to turn their experience into interesting and persuasive stories. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done for most of us. So if you feel you have room for improvement, following these few steps could help you turn those mundane answers into compelling stories

The Initial Reality

The initial reality where you set the scene for your answer, giving the listener the context they need to understand the rest of the story. Instinctively, you may be tempted to start your story at the most exciting point, but failing to provide proper context at the beginning means that you’ll spend the rest of your time breaking the flow to explain what’s going on.

The Incident

Once the scene has been set, you can move on to the incident. This is the curveball that was thrown and turned whatever you’re talking about into a story, rather than something that went off without a hitch. An incident can be any challenge or realisation that changes the current reality, whether that’s accidentally deleting your big presentation or realising that you are no longer satisfied in your current position.

The Choice

Whenever there is an incident, you will be faced with a choice: should I use the version from two weeks ago? Should I just be honest with them? Should I blame Steve? The choice is a valuable stage for you to show off how you assess a situation, and decide on a course of action. And remember, sometimes the things you didn’t do are more important than the things you did do. Explain why you didn’t choose any of the other choices you had, so the interviewer can gain a better understanding of your judgement.

The Action

Walk the interviewer through the steps you took to deal with the situation. Detail your initial reaction, and how you took charge of the situation. Explain the role you played, and how you worked with others to address the issue at hand. This should be the easiest step, but make sure you stay on message and answer the question. Remember, you’re telling this story to get the job, not because it’s so interesting.

The New Reality

This is the end of your story. It’s been an emotional few minutes, but this is where you wrap it up. This stage of the story should compare against the first, and serve to show how the situation changed based on the action you took. This is where you offer up the results of your work, and show the interviewer why you decided to tell them this story.

There are much better ways to respond to a question than to simply answer what you are being asked directly. Interviews are a unique situation, but they are also normal conversations. You’re not under investigation, so don’t be afraid to extrapolate and give some detail. Following the above steps will give you the structure to do this, and help take your answers to the next level.

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