Storytelling during Interviews

One of the hardest things about interviewing is balancing the need to get across your stellar qualifications with building rapport with your interviewer.

The good news? The best way to achieve that balance is to do something you’ve been doing most of your life: Tell a story.

Stories, it turns out, are more powerful than you may know. Jennifer Aaker, professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, explains that stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts alone. Our brains are just more active when we’re listening to a story. In fact, if you can tell a good story, you can actually synchronize your listener’s brain with your own. You can literally share the experience with someone else. Talk about making a connection!

You can tell stories when asked specifically—e.g., “Tell me about a time you worked with a difficult person,” but you can also do it when you're not. It’s worth noting that many interviewers don’t conduct interviews for a living, so not all of them will be great at asking you questions that that let you show off your skills. In other words, if your interviewer asks you, “How do you handle stress?” rather than “Tell me about a recent challenge you overcame,” you can still find a way to transition into a story. Try starting by answering the question quickly, then segueing into a story that backs up the statement you just made.

So, how do you do it? Follow these pointers to tell a good—and totally compelling—story in your next interview.


This article was written by Lily Zhang who serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.