Over the last two months I’ve had an influx of interviews and business startups I’ve been tasked to assist. In these I find myself talking to individuals about their backgrounds, histories, trials and successes. Honestly, I was very surprised to see that most individuals in each of these pursuits lacked a common skill: the ability to develop a well told story and relate it to where they wanted to go.
In the interview process, most organizations will ask behavioral or situational interview questions. This is a great chance for you to frame your past experiences with people, challenges and opportunities as a story. For a business pitch, this is the chance to relate what you learned by researching and talking with 50 to 100 of your closest potential buyers. In both cases, storytelling is a chance to share your life experience and communicate where you were, what you learned, and how it got you here today.
These recent candidates and entrepreneurs had solid experience. What would have set any of them apart was better storytelling. It’s all about telling the tale of the challenge, the outcome, and what you learned. Here’s a thought, when all candidates are good, equal, and have the same years of experience, what do you think an interviewer would use to make a distinction? How would an individual then pick among equally competent candidates?
Many businesses compete in a crowded environment so which one stands out? The one that best differentiates! So the key here is how you tell your story and what you present. Most business pitches I see don’t really distinguish themselves from competitors, which means the only thing left to compete on is price. And a race to the bottom doesn’t really have winners.
The most valuable thing you can do is to tell a compelling story to set yourself apart. To successfully do this you should:
1. State the problem you encountered and describe the situation by including who the players are and what was at stake. To do this really well, create a vivid picture of the individuals involved so those interviewing you can relate better.
2. Recap the actions and share why those specific actions were chosen. Many situations have options and constraints. Walking through the reasoning is a great way to showcase your approach and philosophy.
3. Finally, state the outcome and share how it all unfolded. It ultimately doesn’t matter whether it was a success or a failure. The most important thing is to share the lesson learned and the value behind it. This way, it gives the interviewer insight into the process and trail you have walked. There is little chance a cover letter or resume can do this. An executive summary of a plan will not do it either.
Remember, the application, resume, or phone call gets the meeting, but the story makes the impression. If you don’t bring the details to life through effective storytelling, the other party is left to imagine it for themselves, and that is no way to make business decisions. The value of telling your story is far greater in business and career than you think. It all revolves around the pitch, the sale and standing out. Tell your story. Share where you have been and the value it brings.