The art of storytelling in interviews is an important skill for influence and persuasion. Since many interview questions require a candidate to recount a certain situation, showcasing your expertise through an engaging narrative can be quite compelling. In fact, it can make a significant difference between you and other applicants.

If you’re not a naturally gifted rhetorician, don’t fret! There are ways to master this craft. We’ve assembled a list of expert tips on how to tell your story during an interview, along with some concrete interview storytelling examples. Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways

  • Storytelling in interviews is the skill of presenting your expertise through compelling narration.
  • Practicing your communication skills is the key to successful storytelling.
  • The purpose of storytelling in interviews is to paint yourself as both professional and personable by showcasing both your hard and soft skills.
  • Mastering the five C’s of storytelling and understanding your audience are crucial aspects of impactful storytelling.
  • There are many storytelling interview questions, and they usually start with, “Tell us about a time when you…” or “Can you recount a situation where you used your knowledge of…

The Importance of Storytelling in Interviews

The importance of storytelling in interviews is threefold: it allows you to present your experience, showcase your hard and soft skills, and connect with the interviewer on a personal level.

When conducting a selection process, hiring managers assess candidates based on both their technical skills and compatibility with the company’s culture.

While an applicant’s resume can provide some insight into their qualifications and expertise, it doesn’t convey their values, personality, or growth potential. That’s why there are storytelling interview questions—to determine whether you’re a good fit for the company.

However, the real power of storytelling in interviews is elegantly showcasing your experience through narration. Simply put, you should employ your communication skills to recount a professional situation in which your expertise made a positive impact.

Using proven interview storytelling techniques makes you come across as both professional and personable, checking all the boxes on the job requirement list.

So, without further ado, let’s put theory into practice and examine the storytelling interview method in detail.

13+ Tips for Mastering Storytelling in Interviews

Here are some expert tips for mastering storytelling in interviews and perfecting the art of narrating step by step.

#1. Explore and Understand Your Audience

Exploring and understanding your audience is the first step to mastering storytelling in interviews. It’s also an essential soft skill for successful message delivery.

The “reading the room” portion of storytelling begins before the actual interview. As you may know, researching the hiring company is a crucial stage of the interview preparation process.

During this stage, you should pay attention to the people you can expect at your interview, such as the hiring manager and HR staff. Look into the company’s website to learn more about your interviewer and their position in the company. The point is to tailor your responses to your audience, so make sure your research is thorough.

#2. Come Up With a Strong Opening

13+ Tips for Mastering Storytelling in Interviews

You need to come up with a strong opening to hook the audience from the get-go. This will set the stage for your story, as well as its tone, so it should be a short and attention-grabbing statement.

A compelling work-related anecdote is a great way to introduce your story. Anecdotes draw people in and resonate with them on an emotional level, which is exactly what you want to achieve—to come across as personable and awaken interest in what you have to say.

For example, you can recount a situation where you sent an email to the wrong client and, instead of panicking, explained the situation to both of them, leading to a new partnership.

#3. Structure Your Story

To convey your message impactfully, you need to structure your story properly. As the narrator, you guide the listener through your experience, and you don’t want to realize you’ve left out an important part of the story by the time you reach the conclusion.

The best way to structure your story is with the STAR method:

  • Situation: Describe the setting and context of the situation you want to recount.
  • Task: Explain your responsibilities and role in the situation.
  • Action: Point out the actions you took that had a positive effect.
  • Result: Describe the outcome of the situation, focusing on your input.

#4. Emphasize Skills and Relevance

Make sure to emphasize your skills and their relevance to the situation you’re recounting, as storytelling in interviews is supposed to demonstrate your experience and expertise.

Of course, this should be done smoothly and subtly throughout the story and briefly touched upon in the conclusion. For example, if you’re interviewing for a C-suite role, highlight your leadership skills and describe how you used them to overcome a challenge or supervise a project.

When I worked on a workflow automation project, I managed a small team. My duties included supervising the progress and addressing any issues that came up. Since the deadline was tight, I created a communication channel to avoid any delays or misunderstandings among the team members.

Similarly, if you’re recounting how you used concrete professional knowledge to resolve a certain issue, make your problem-solving skills the focus of the story. Here’s how:

In my previous job, we hit a wall while working on a project because PowerPoint malfunctioned. I identified the bug and resolved it by installing the updates and addressing the add-in issues.

#5. Actively Listen to the Interviewer and Be Responsive

A job interview is an interactive experience, so remember to actively listen to the interviewer and be responsive. Pay attention to their feedback and expect follow-up questions from them. If there are some, seamlessly incorporate your answers into the conversation, building on the narrative of your story.

This part involves some improvising since you can’t predict the interviewer’s follow-up questions. That’s why you should choose a story you resonate with—one whose content truly interests you. Your emotion will be sincere, and the interviewer will recognize that and likely engage with the story.

#6. Balance Your Emotions

Speaking of sincere emotions, it’s important to remember to balance yours while telling the story. This is where you should employ your non-verbal communication skills.

Your story should convey your personality, but you shouldn’t bounce off the walls with excitement. Similarly, don’t get too personal and go about details that make you emotional or set a negative tone.

However, although a job interview is a formal occasion, your delivery shouldn’t be robotic, either. Find a middle ground and tell the story like you would to a colleague with whom you’re amicable but not friends.

Moreover, be mindful of your body language—for example, crossed arms make you seem unapproachable and guarded. On the other hand, maintaining an upright posture and eye contact makes you appear confident and approachable.

#7. Recognize a Natural Stopping Point

“Less is more” should be your motto regarding storytelling in interviews. This means you need to recognize a natural stopping point. Don’t ramble on and on or go into too much detail to avoid losing the audience’s attention.

A good rule of thumb is to keep your story up to three minutes long. That should cover a thirty-second introduction, a minute and a half of story development, and a minute to make your point.

According to the IRS model, a story should have the following elements:

  • Intriguing beginning
  • Riveting middle
  • Satisfying ending

#8. Remember the 5 C’s of Storytelling

Remember the 5 C’s of Storytelling

Since structure is important for your story, you should remember the five C’s of storytelling in interviews, which stand for:

  • Context: A difficult sales situation you’ve resolved can become context if you’re interviewing for a sales position.
  • Characters: You can feature colleagues to showcase your teamwork skills or talk about a situation with a client.
  • Conflict: The conflict part can be about an issue on a project or a coworker’s professional struggle.
  • Climax: This part should feature you making a difference for the characters.
  • Conclusion: Explain your input’s positive results for a project or client.

#9. Customize Your Story, But Be Authentic

Storytelling in interviews is a way to connect with the interviewer, so you should customize your story but be authentic—they want to see the real you.

The best way to achieve this balance is to reflect on your experiences and choose those that resonate most with the interviewer. However, don’t exaggerate or embellish anything—be honest about the challenges you faced, as that’s the best way to show character and build trust and credibility.

#10. Sell Yourself, But Don’t Oversell

Storytelling in interviews is a way to sell yourself, but you shouldn’t oversell who you are and what you can do. Simply put, you can make yourself the hero of the story, but don’t do it every time to avoid coming across as self-centered and unrealistic.

You can recount a specific situation that required some of the hard skills the interviewer wants to assess and describe how you contributed to its resolution.

However, you can paint yourself in a positive light as a mentor or coworker, too. There are many options when it comes to storytelling in interviews, so don’t limit yourself to one. Explore them all and bring diversity to your responses.

#11. Identify the Impression You Want to Make

A story must have a clear purpose, so identify the impression you want to make on the interviewer. Of course, you want them to see you as a suitable candidate for the job, but you can’t list all of your qualities in a single conversation.

Think of the message you want to convey and choose what you want to highlight about yourself, for example:

  • Your reliability as an employee and coworker
  • The ways you can contribute to the company with your experience and knowledge
  • Your resilience in stressful situations, such as short deadlines or conflicts
  • Your working style and values you bring to the table
  • The ways you use your analytical skills to think through a task or an issue

#12. Don’t Repeat Yourself

Try not to repeat yourself to maintain an organic flow of your story. While you may feel the need to emphasize your expertise and compatibility with the company’s culture, restating the obvious can only make the interviewer lose interest.

Remember, brevity is your friend, and the art of storytelling relies on conciseness. To keep yourself on track, employ one of the storytelling methods, such as STAR or the five C’s, to structure your interview responses and keep it in mind throughout the conversation.

#13. Practice Your Responses

Practice Your Responses

Impactful storytelling takes time and effort, so practice your responses before the interview. Whether you have a mock interview, stand in front of a mirror, record yourself, or ask a friend to hear you speak, practice as much as possible, paying attention to both your verbal and non-verbal communication styles.

A good way to keep your storytelling relevant and concise is to conduct the “So what?” test. When practicing your responses, ask yourself, “So what?” to ensure you don’t drift away from the point or go into unnecessary details.

#14. Know When Not to Use Storytelling in Interviews

Career storytelling in interviews is a powerful tool, so you need to use it carefully. Don’t tell a story simply to tell it, but choose the moment strategically.

A good way to know when to use storytelling and when not to is to determine the storytelling interview questions. They’re typically open-ended and investigative, usually starting with “Tell us about your experience with…

Conversely, concrete questions, such as those about your interest in the company, don’t require a story.

15+ Storytelling Interview Questions

Finally, let’s gain some storytelling experience. Examples of storytelling interview questions will help you determine the timing of your stories, so let’s take a look at some common ones.

  1. How has your previous job impacted your life?
  2. Tell us about a time you faced a tight deadline. How did you handle the situation?
  3. What was the most rewarding part of your previous job?
  4. Have you ever mentored a new employee? What was the experience like?
  5. Tell us about your volunteering experience.
  6. Can you recount a time when you had a difference of opinion with a coworker or superior? How did you handle it?
  7. Tell us about a difficult client you’ve encountered.
  8. How would you describe your learning curve so far in your career? Tell us about the biggest challenges you faced.
  9. Tell us about the first time you employed workflow automation. What was the experience like?
  10. Tell us about a time you contributed to the team’s overall performance. Have you made any significant improvements?
  11. What would you advise a coworker in a stressful work situation?
  12. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned since you started working?
  13. Tell us about when you used your improvisation skills to handle a workplace situation.
  14. Tell us about an important milestone in your career.
  15. Tell us about your hobbies. What do you enjoy the most about them?
  16. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Final Thoughts

Storytelling in interviews is a skill that takes time to learn and master. However, once you do, you’ll notice the difference in your delivery at interviews.

Storytelling gives a different tone to a job interview, making it more personable and organic. It’s a great way to showcase both hard and soft skills, emphasizing traits that make you a good fit for the job.

However, as with all good things, you shouldn’t overdo the storytelling. Remember—it’s all about timing and brevity.