Simple life-changing hacks for using stories in job interviewsNov 19, 2023
Stories are one of the most powerful tools for leading change (see my blog post on The Power of Storytelling in Change here), but they are just as powerful in your job interviews (for Change Management, or anything else). In a nutshell, this is answering “behavioural questions”. You would know them as, "Can you tell me about a time when..."
CV vs Interview:
People are hiring you off your CV. If you make it to interview, they've already made the decision. They know from your CV what your skills and experiences are, and they know that you are adequate for the job. So in an interview, they’re not really testing competency (though they may want to validate you actually did that stuff or can talk with authority about things on your CV). Instead, what they’re really testing is cultural fit, your personality, and the kind of energy you'll bring to the team, such as making sure that you can actually communicate with people and carry yourself well. That's really what an interview is for.
The silver bullet of interviews
But the other thing interviews are used for is behavioural questions to show not “what” you’ve done like the CV, but “how” you work and “who” you are (see Zippia’s list of 75 behavioural questions here). Such as:
"Tell me about a time when you had to step up into leadership. What happened and what was the result?
“Tell me about a time when you had to take a creative approach to solving a problem.”
“Tell me about a time when…”
The STARL format
You don’t want to waffle or ramble too long when answering a behavioural question, so I coach my Leading Successful Change students to answer with a story they constructed in the STARL format (like STAR but with a Lata-twist). The STAR method of answering behavioural questions is super simple and easy:
- S for situation,
- T for thought or thought process
- A for action / the action you actually took
- R for result
Voila - the STAR format, S-T-A-R. Then I add L for "Lata" (kidding!):
- L for learning
- What was the situation
- What were you asked to do?
- What was the problem?
- What was the issue that arose?
You describe that.
- What did you think?
- What were the options that you thought of?
- What did you think you could do?
- What was your thought process?
And you talk through what you weighed up and what you were thinking about.
- What did you action?
- What did you actually do?
- What did you put into action?
- What action did you take?
- What was the result?
Ideally, the result is positive, like, "Oh, we were able to solve the issue within two hours and everybody was so happy and I won an award." Obviously, that's great, but you can totally use results that were maybe less than perfect because of the L:
- What was the learning that you had off the back of it?
You can say something like: "If I was to do this again, next time I would do X.” Or “I discovered through that experience that I have an innate leadership quality to lead people." Or whatever was your learning or “so what” of the experience.
STARL in action:
Let’s just take an example.
Q. “When's a time when you had to be creative in planning your change, Lata?”
A. "Okay, yep. I had a change where we didn't actually have a launch date but it was a really massive change that we've been working on for a while. But the launch date kept moving and it was really hard to actually figure out how to plan the change. I thought I can either plan the change traditionally with a Change Plan and just keep moving all of the activities every time that the launch date moved out. But I thought that would be a lot of work and rework. Instead, I took more of an experience mapping approach and I worked with the Operations Lead and the Product Owner and other key project stakeholders to map the experience for each stakeholder group. And we used those instead so that we could then lift those experiences off and put them into the Change Plan when we actually had a date. And so, that's what we did. I ran a series of workshops where we went through each role, mapped the experience for them. It gave everybody a lot of comfort. And we were able to iron out a lot of issues in the process. And everybody really became on the same page and aligned. And I learned then that sometimes you don't necessarily need to have a date. Sometimes because Change is so focused on the experience, the experience is actually what we should be focusing on more. And if ever I didn't have a date in the future, I'd probably take that approach again."
I talked through the Situation: We had no launch date. Thought pattern: I thought maybe I could keep moving it, but then that's going to be a lot of work, so how can I do it differently? Action: We mapped experiences, I got everybody involved. Result: Everybody got aligned and agreed and things came to the surface in the process. Learning: In future, I'd do that again. That's it.
Draft 6-7 stories in the STARL format that answer 1-5 themes from the behavioural questions list, practise them all ahead of time, and see what feels right in the interview to use. Keep it simple and let the interviewer ask more questions if they want to go deeper. And remember - behavioural questions are an opportunity for you to feel into the role and the company, too! If they’re asking you about how you deal with uncertainty… you might find yourself on an unplanned and under-resourced project!
Storytelling shows who you are, why you do what you do, and how you go about doing it. When you use these simple hacks for storytelling in a job interview, the offer will be yours in no time!
But you know what? You might still make some mistakes in your Change Management career when making the move to Change or stepping up in Change. These mistakes may be honest misconceptions about what’s really required, but can cost you a LOT in terms of time, confidence, and potentially even pay. My brand-new free video training “7 Costly Mistakes in Your Change Management Career” steps through the most common mistakes I see women (myself included in some cases!) make and how you can sidestep these to career success.
Watch my free “7 Costly Mistakes” video training today:
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