One Simple Interview Technique That Consistently Works

There are a lot of articles on how to prepare for job interviews. But after you’ve prepped and done your research, what else can you do to give yourself an edge?

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A new study by Professor Bangerter and colleagues provides an answer to how to ace that job interview.

Why job interviews usually suck

One of the most common types of job interview questions is the behavioral question: asking job candidates about their actions in past situations in order to assess job-related skills. Research has found that answers to behavioral interview questions are great predictors of someone’s future work performance.

Behavioral questions generally start with the format, “Tell me about a time when you…” It might seem obvious that you should reply by telling a story. But the incorrect assumptions and misguided practices that surround job interviews means that you often spend a lot of your mental energy trying to figure out the interviewer’s intentions. Is telling a story to answer an interview question actually effective?

Let’s take a look at the data.

How to reply to a job interview – and how not to

Professor Bangerter and colleagues looked at videotapes of 62 real job interviews and found five different types of candidate responses.

  1. Story: a description of a set of events related to a specific past experience united by time or action.
  2. Pseudo-story: a summary of a generic situation or several events not united in time or action.
  3. Exemplification: a description of a specific part of a situation provided through an example.
  4. Value/opinion: a mention of a value or opinion you hold.
  5. Self-description: a description of a personal attribute (e.g., “I’m a good communicator”).

The researchers found the most frequent interview response type are pseudo-stories, followed by values/opinions, self-descriptions, stories, and exemplifications.

  • Pseudo-story: 76%
  • Value/opinion: 29%
  • Self-description: 29%
  • Stories: 23%
  • Exemplification: 15%

The results show that exemplifications and values/opinions have no effect on recommendations to hire.

Both stories and pseudo-stories significantly increase recommendations to hire, whereas self-descriptions significantly decrease recommendations to hire.

Why stories are effective in job interviews

Storytelling is an effective way to answer job interview questions for various reasons:

  1. Logically, a well-told story is perceived as a good method of showing off your expertise without directly stating so thus avoiding perceptions of arrogance or bragging.
  2. Pragmatically, a detailed story is considered difficult to fake by interviewers and thus seen as credible evidence of your skills.
  3. Emotionally, a compelling story creates a personal connection with the interviewer compared to just listing facts and figures.

The takeaways

Research has found that storytelling during the interview significantly increases your chances of getting the job. However, job candidates respond to interview questions with a story less than 1 in 4 times!

You want to give yourself an interviewing edge? Make sure you devote some of your job interview prep time to practice your storytelling abilities: figure out how to communicate your experiences as a detailed story that accurately displays your competence in a job-related skill. One of the best methods to do this is by using the STAR (situation, task/action, results) system.

This is especially relevant to sales roles because your ability to tell a story during a job interview directly maps onto your ability to tell a story with future prospects and customers.

63% remember stories after a presentation
Have you had success with storytelling during interviews? Let me know in the comments or tweet @ideal.

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Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices and data-based recruitment. She writes about trends and research in talent acquisition, HR tech, and people analytics.
Ji-A Min

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