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by Joe Turner, | March 10, 2009


Many years ago when I hated what I was doing for a living, I was encouraged by my career coach to write down several short stories about times and events in my life when I influenced the outcome. I was stumped at first, but after a few days, I came up with over 15 pages of stories of times in my life when I influenced the outcome and either grew myself and/or bettered the existence of others or myself.

So what does this have to do with a job interview?

If you read other books on job interviews, you'll notice they feed you lists of interview questions to prepare answers to. An interview is not an interrogation. Instead, it's a conversation. To have a conversation you need to come armed with a multitude of small stories about both your business and personal lives.

When you enter the interview, you need to leave your nerves at the door. The best way to prepare is to be you. The best way to do this is to tell your own stories. So before the interview have your stories ready to tell.

Here's Why

Competency-based interviews are being used more often today. In a traditional interview, the interviewer will ask you questions focused on whether you have the skills and knowledge needed to do the job. A competency-based interview goes further by asking you additional questions about your character and personal attributes that can better determine whether you fit their corporate culture. These are called "behavioral competencies."

A competency-based interviewer will spend about half the interview on your job skills, and about half on your behavioral competencies. He or she will be looking for evidence of how you have acted in real situations in the past. Having your stories ready to tell plays very well for this type of interview.

A Company Wants to Find Out:

1. Are you an asset or liability? In other words, will you either make money or save money for the company?

2. Are you a team player? Will you fit into the corporate hierarchy or be like sand in the gears? Can you take and give (if appropriate) orders?

3. Will you fit into the company culture? Companies don't want prima donnas.

The best way to sell yourself is to take the initiative and prepare several personal stories that you can tell, taking maybe 30 to 90 seconds each.

You may want to start by developing your stories around these areas:

  1. Times where you either made money or saved money for your current or previous company.
  2. A crisis in your life or job and how you responded to or recovered from it.
  3. A time when you functioned as part of a team and what your contribution was.
  4. A time in your career or job when you had to overcome stress.
  5. A time in your job where you provided successful leadership or a sense of direction.
  6. A failure that occurred in your job and how you overcame it.
  7. Any seminal events that happened during your career to cause you to change direction and how they worked out for you.

Actions speak louder than words. Your actions in the past will tell a company much more than any generic response. Since you already know the questions that a company wants answered, it's now an easy process to answer these questions with actual examples of your past actions.


Your job interview should not be an interrogation. You should always think of it as a conversation between two equals. When you accomplish this, you arrive a step closer to your goal of landing the job you really want, because ...

It's the conversation that wins an interview, and
It's the conversation that wins the job.

To have a real conversation, prepare beforehand and have your stories ready.

As a recruiter, Joe Turner has spent the past 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their careers. Known on the Internet as "The Job Search Guy," Joe has also authored how-to books on interviewing and job search. He's been interviewed on several radio talk shows. Discover more insider job search secrets by visiting:


Filed Under: Interviewing