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Connecting the Dots--Telling Your Stories in an Interview

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Congratulations!  You have made it to the interview!  Your application materials were successful and now they want to meet you.  How can you take your interview experience to the next level and get the job?  Since an interview means that you likely meet at least the minimum requirements of the job, interviews tend to be focused more on finding the right person for the job.  Knowing this, many employers tend to focus more on how you might fit with their team and the organization.  Expect open-ended questions such as:

  • Tell us about a time you showed flexibility and creativity.
  • What is your typical role on a team?
  • Describe a time you went the extra mile.
  • How do you manage multiple responsibilities at the same time?

The best way to take your interview to the next level is by telling stories to illustrate your personality and show your aptitude for the position.  For example, it is boring and does not show your personality to give short answers such as, "I tutored a ten year old boy who was struggling in math last summer."   It is much better to tell a complete story with a typical story arc.  For example:


  • Last summer, I tutored a ten year old boy with ADHD who was behind in his grade level in math skills.


  • I found it challenging to engage him. He had no apparent interest in math. Any workbooks or traditional methods of teaching math held no interest for him.
  • After discussing his interests outside of schoolwork, I figured out he liked playing outside and he liked video games. I developed a variety of indoors and outdoors hands-on activities using play money and video game scenarios and characters.


  • For the first time, he engaged with the concepts and was excited to solve the problems. He was able to increase his understanding and was prepared for the start of the new school year at his grade level.


  • In the end, I learned it was important to understand that students have different learning styles and that the teacher must understand and meet the student from where the student begins.
  • Since this position will be working with several students with ADHD and other issues, my skills of adaptability and creativity will serve me well in this position.

Stories should not be lengthy and should take only a couple of minutes to tell.  Primarily, they need to be pertinent to the question asked.  Even a very entertaining story does not serve its purpose if it has no connection to the position or to the question posed in the interview.  Be sure to make those clear connections as part of your conclusion!

The stories you tell can be examples of paid or unpaid work, volunteerism, practicums, coursework, projects, or any other experiences--even from childhood.  However, be cautious about including stories from your personal life--you do not need to reveal details such as family status, religion, and other personal details unless you choose to do so.

Overall, do not be afraid to show your personality in an interview.  It helps the interviewer to get to know you a little.  An added advantage is that when you tell the stories, you can gauge the reactions of the interviewers as well.  Are they friendly?  Stoic?  Engaged?  Do they seem like people you want to work with and around?  This will help you to determine if it is a good fit for you as well.

Leanne Ralstin, Career Advising Specialist

Career Center, University of Idaho

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