Storytelling Success: Ace Your Interview with Narrative Examples

According to Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”​

As global executive recruiters, the team at SRI Executive interviews thousands of fantastic candidates each year. We also facilitate interviews between our top candidates and our global clients to discuss exciting roles. We support our candidates throughout our process to ensure they make the best first impression during these interviews. This includes providing comprehensive interview training to candidates to help them “stop and think” about how they present themselves. We wanted to summarise the main part of this interview training, particularly regarding integrating narrative storytelling into your interview.

Power of Narrative Storytelling

The author George Packer has said, “The most durable narratives are not the ones that stand up best to fact-checking. They’re the ones that address our deepest needs and desires.” Humans are a story-telling species; for all of our history before the recent invention of writing, all of our customs were passed down through stories delivered verbally. Our brains are designed to process and understand stories more deeply than any other information. In fact, according to some studies, stories can be up to 22 times more memorable than facts. Narrative storytelling facilitates deeper connections, generates more interest, and can be more persuasive than any fact-based argument. Humans are story-driven, and you must incorporate storytelling into your career journey as much as possible.

Build Career Stories with the STAR Technique

The power of narrative storytelling is especially powerful during the interview process. Rather than presenting a dry list of data points or accomplishments, candidates can give vivid examples using narrative storytelling. This allows them to provide real-world examples of their work while standing out with striking and memorable examples of their accomplishments. The personal stories can transform a candidate into a dynamic and relatable person and forge a greater connection between them and the interviewer.

Given the focus people place on stories, you'll need to think about how to build one for your interview. Great narratives in interviews follow a very straightforward structure. Known as the "STAR" methodology, this structure can help you design a compelling story with the following components: 

  • Situation: All stories start with the setting and the larger context. Where were you in this story? What stage of your career were you at? What organisation were you working for? What role were you in? This stage-setting information is critical for highlighting where you made a difference in this narrative.
  • Task: After setting the stage, you need a central "hook" to draw the reader in. Many interviewers want to hear about when the candidate overcame a challenge or made a beneficial change for the organisation. The hook sets up that task or achievement. What compelling issue emerged that forced you to act? This is where you illustrate the critical issue and get the listener to sit up and pay attention.
  • Action: What action did you take? How did the task get completed? More importantly, how was this action different from what people usually do in such a situation? Was it unique, and did it challenge conventional opinion? Include details like how you sacrificed or innovated during the action. While you should also give credit to others where credit is due, make sure the action portion of the story highlights your contribution. No one wants to hear a story and afterward think, "I'm not sure what the person did."
  • Result: Discuss the impact of your action on closing the story's loop. How did it positively affect the organisation? What did you learn from the experience? You must mention the growth that happened and how you can bring that to your next role.

How to Prepare for Your Next Interview

Think about using narrative storytelling to transform your interview from a standard back-and-forth into a memorable and impactful discussion. Spend time with the STAR technique and build 5-6 core stories of 2-3 minutes that describe your alignment with the role. When you prepare your stories, make sure you’re going beyond the “who” and the “what” of your stories and focus on the “so what.” This means you need to focus on the impact of your work, the changes you’ve made, and how that shifted the trajectory of your team or organization.

How SRI Executive Can Help

As a global executive search firm with 25 years in the business, we aim always to find the best match between our clients and our candidates. You'll be able to learn more about our search practices and our experience here.

We also provide executive coaching to senior leaders to help them gain self-awareness and reach their full potential. What we bring: Our consultants are accredited leadership coaches and psychologists backed by a wealth of experience working with organisations and leaders in the international development space. We understand the complex challenges leaders face today. Our team offers a personalised and confidential service that examines why you may struggle to make a clear decision about the way forward. Click here to contact us and learn more about our coaching services.


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