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Storytelling Is Key for Competency-based Interviewing: 5 Tips to Improve Your Delivery

Most interviewers don’t want you to wax eloquent about your attributes in the abstract. They want to hear concrete examples of workplace situations you encountered and how you responded. The rise of competency-based interviewing means that you will have to call upon your storytelling skills. If you’re more comfortable presenting enrollment data to the board of regents than you are telling stories, we have five tips to help you hone your skills.

1. Have a point. Know from the outset what you are trying to convey with a particular anecdote. Bear that in mind throughout so you don’t get lost in unnecessary details.

2. Follow a structure. Your narrative should present the challenge you were faced with, what actions you took—specifically citing the skills and experience you used—and the result. This will help clarity and length. If you are too brief, the story won’t compellingly illustrate your point. If it’s too long, it will be hard to follow.

3. Set the stage. Many of us stumble at storytelling by starting in the wrong place or omitting key details. What does an outsider need to know? Sketch the essentials for your audience.

4. Show the characters, not just the events. Your story does not need to be an opus of a creative nonfiction monologue, but it should include the human dimension to the situation. Soft skills are more important than ever to employers. Your story should illustrate technical acumen and interpersonal savvy.

5. Practice. A trial run will help your storytelling skills. Consider some of the key competencies required for the position and situations that portray your expertise. Practice telling the story from beginning to end out loud. Identify a few experiences that may be useful to describe. While you want to be familiar with storytelling, don’t go as far as to memorize anecdotes: your responses will sound wooden and unnatural.