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Interviewing: Becoming an Effective Storyteller

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A while back, I came across an article in which a recruiter was asked to describe what makes an effective interview performance. Her answer was simple, yet compelling: storytelling. From her perspective, interviewees who can master the art of storytelling make the best interviewees. Consider the most memorable lessons you have learned from teachers, speakers, or mentors. My guess is that what comes to mind for most people involves a personal story. As teachers know best, concepts most often come alive when they are put into meaningful or relevant context.

So, what exactly does "storytelling" look like in an interview? As you may expect, there are a variety of standard questions asked of teacher candidates during the interview process. Therefore, the chance of answers sounding redundant to the interviewers is pretty high. Most teachers would likely characterize themselves as strong communicators, student-centered instructors, and organized planners. There's the "what," but what about the "how"? Here is where the story comes in! Consider the core competencies and expectations for teachers. In fact, make a list of them on a piece of paper. Next, reflect on and write down a specific moment in which you demonstrated the particular competency. Provide just enough context for it to make sense to someone who wasn't there. Utilize the S.T.A.R. strategy (Situation, Task, Action and Results) to guide the elements of your story. Keep in mind, however, that this should be a short story, not a novel! Provide details that are unique to your personal experience, and not something so generic that it could be said by the 99 other candidates.

What's the moral of this story? We all have had a variety of experiences inside and outside of the classroom that have and continue to shape us and our respective journeys. These are our stories. Whenever making a claim ("I'm very creative") about yourself in an interview, back it up with a story ("During my student teaching in an eleventh grade social studies class, I developed a lesson which utilized Facebook as a medium to learn about historical figures. Students developed a profile of their chosen person, and they were expected to get into the mind of that person through various forms of research. What would be found in their 'about' section? What conversations would be found on their 'wall' with their peers? Because this is a medium students relate to, they loved the assignment and the learning objectives were met"). Not only will this make you more credible, it will make you a more memorable candidate.

Christy Hanson
Director of Career Development
Messiah College
Grantham, PA

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