Know Your Narrative

A recent story on Fast Company offers a good tip for those engaging in job interviews: Have a consistent story of your background work history. That’s especially true when making sure the version of events you’re sharing in an interview follows the same points you’ve laid out in your resume.

That’s also true, I’ve found, when it comes to engaging in multiple interviews. Over the last year I’ve had several interviews where I share my history and background and have whittled it down to what I think is a compelling and concise narrative. It’s easy for me to share and hits many of the points I’ve found those I’m talking to are interested in hearing. Yes, there are adjustments to make depending on a specific position or person I’m talking to, but the overall story stays consistent.

The thing is, that took time. Looking back at it now, it almost seems akin to an oral history that was passed down from generations. Each one is beholden to the core story but adds details and elements that will make the story more interesting to the audience. It’s polished and refined as it’s told over and over again.

My story also evolved from one telling to the other. In the beginning I was largely unsure of myself, uncomfortable in the situation of having to talk about myself and my accomplishments. I wasn’t sure what the right approach or presentation was or would be. I’m sure I came off as tentative and lacking confidence in those first few months. I still thought a full-time job would be magically delivered to me one day simply because I was awesome, like it was going to land on my doorstep after my application was sent as if I was ordering something through Amazon Prime.

That’s not to say I wasn’t serious about the job search. It’s just that I thought it wouldn’t be a long-drawn out process. I figured one would be offered to me in no time, that my reputation would precede me.

Instead over the last year I’ve applied to hundreds of jobs, from full-time in my industry to part-time retail to freelance and contract work. And I’ve had dozens of interviews, mostly on the phone, where I’m asked to share a bit about my background and experience. That’s necessitated an approach that values efficiency. When you have 30 minutes on the phone with someone you’ve never met and are working to make a good impression, every sentence is important. So what might have started out as a 12-minute tale has been distilled down to a tight five minutes that still hits most of the high points.

What I’ve found is that this also has the benefit of allowing me to address specific areas that might come up later in the conversation. If I’m not going into every detail right off the bat, then I can respond to points that are made later on with additional information about myself that’s pertinent to the particular job I’m being considered for. It allows for more conversation.

How about you? Have you not only made sure your interview story is consistent with your resume but that your story is as consistent and efficient you can make it from one interview to the next?

Author: Chris Thilk

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist with over 15 years of experience in online strategy and content marketing. He lives in the Chicago suburbs.