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How to Answer Any Interview Question

28/09/2015 12:06 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Concept image with What's Your Story printed on an old typewriter.

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Once upon a time, an ambitious, clever girl was locked high up in a glass tower. She was shaking in her chair, with sweaty palms and fear bursting from her eyes. She was being interrogated. If she wanted to survive in this hostile, cutthroat Realm, she had to answer everything perfectly. Her future depended on it.

Sound familiar? I wouldn't be surprised, because you're definitely not alone if you've stressed out during an interview.

In a recent survey of about 1600 people by recruiting firm LaSalle Network, getting anxious about an interview is a very real thing. 58 percent reported "Saying the wrong thing" and 35 percent that "Selling Yourself" is what they fear most about these interrogations interviews.

Well, I'm all about overcoming fears -- I recently progressed to comfortably looking at images of snakes without having a physical reaction -- so I thought I'd give my two cents on how to take the fear out of "selling yourself" and knowing what to say in an interview.

Storytelling.

Answering questions through story is the most powerful way to make sure you're memorable and remarkable. Plus, it doubles as an excellent real-time example of your communication abilities.

And the best news? With a bit of practice, you can learn how to turn your experiences into stories.

Here's an example.

Suppose an interviewer asks, "Can you walk me through your resume?"

Not-great-at-telling-stories Candidate Response: "Hmmm, sure. So I went to Columbia University and majored in math. Once I graduated I interned at Company A for 3 months, which was cool, I really liked the people. Umm, once the internship ended, I took a job as an Analyst at Company B. I learnt a lot and stayed there for two years. I'm currently in the finance team at Company C and have been there for just over 12 months."

Compare that answer to...

"I'm sure you've noticed from my experience that there's a bit of a theme around numbers. I still remember playing with my Dad's calculator when I was a kid, trying to figure out how it worked. So it was no real surprise that I ended up studying a math major and working in the Finance team at Company C.

"My internship at Company A was an important opportunity for me to understand how my interest with numbers and passion for business could fit together. It was a great stepping stone into Company B, which has a much larger global footprint.

After working closely with Company B's European offices, I realised I wanted more hands-on experience with Asian markets. Company C has significant dealings with Japan and China, which is why I made the transition to their finance team. That's why I am so excited to be here today and speak more about this position -- from what I've researched I think my background could be a pretty interesting fit."

Which response do you think is going to have more of an impact on the interviewer? In the first response, the candidate is just listing out all their work experience in chronological order, without adding anything to the conversation that the interviewer couldn't have figured out from reading your CV. It's not often I feel sorry for the interviewer, but... ZZzzzzzZZZZzzzzzz

Telling stories makes you memorable.

When you're engaged with your story, your personality shines through, and your tone and body language change, making the interviewer become more engaged with you. You're creating a conversation. Given most people don't want to work with a robot, this is a good thing.

I know this is just one example, but give it a go and keep practicing. Try it on other common interview questions like, "What's your biggest weakness?" or "What's your best accomplishment?". How can you incorporate stories into those?

Don't stress, you don't need to be the next J.K. Rowling to stand out from the thousands of other applicants vying for the job. A little storytelling goes a long way. In no time you and your dream job will be together at last, living happily ever after.

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