Everyone has a career story. You have a lifetime of experiences and expertise you’ve developed that you can leverage for the benefit of a company seeking your credentials. How you tell your career story during interviews is one of the components of standing out in a sea of candidates competing for the same job you are.
Telling your career story well requires an understanding of marketing skills. Below are a few basic marketing principles and a magical formula to help you tell a compelling career story that will significantly move the needle forward towards securing your next job.
First, the basic principles of marketing:
- Marketing is about getting people’s attention
- Once you’ve gotten their attention, you need to create a connection with them
- After the connection is made, you want the listener to take a specific action
The difficulty with marketing today is getting someone’s attention because there are a million ways people are trying to get our attention, all day every day. Recruiters, hiring managers, and HR Directors are no different. They have buckets of resumes to sift through, and handfuls of interviews to conduct to find the best person for the job.
You have to stand out in a crowded marketplace, and you do this by telling a good story. Stories are how people relate to each other. The better the story, the more the listener can relate to you, and the more likely they are to take the action you request.
There are magical ingredients to a good story. They are Know, Like, and Trust [KLT]. Comedians are masters of storytelling and using the KLT formula. A comedian’s number one job is to immediately establish his or her persona, set up a situation the audience can relate to, and create expectation. If you dissect a joke, it always follows the same formula:
- The comedian identifies themselves or creates their persona, then they
- share a struggle or challenge they had,
- followed by the discovery they made,
- wrapped up with the surprise, or what’s commonly known as the punch line.
You too can use this storytelling device to tell your career story. But first, let’s think about why stories are so powerful.
When somebody tells you a story, you remember it because there’s something about it that you relate to or found interesting. Whatever you related to or found interesting, you then go and tell other people.
One of the ways I used storytelling to differentiate myself in my previous career was sharing with customers that I lived in Alaska for three years. Here’s why that story works so well; because when I tell my story, these are the images they associate with living in Alaska:
People think Alaskans all live in igloos, take a dog sled or snow mobile to work, and have polar bears as pets. Telling a story about living in Alaska leaves a memorable impression with listeners, especially the folks here in Texas, where the weather is opposite and the wildlife won’t eat you.
Stories are how we retain information. When you tell vivid stories, the brain of the person listening will associate the memory of you with those vivid images. That’s why people would remember me as the lady who lived in Alaska, because they had unique images of me associated with images of The Last Frontier. Customers returned months, sometimes even a year later, or I would see a customer out in a social setting, and they would say, “You’re the lady that lived in Alaska, right?”
When somebody tells you a story, what might you be thinking in your head as you listen? You might be thinking, “Yes, that sounds like something that happened to me or someone I know!” or in my case, “I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska, it’s on my bucket list.” Storytelling is how we relate with others, share experiences, and create relationships.
So when you find yourself in an interview where you can tell your career story, you can employ the same storytelling device. Set up your persona or identity, identify a struggle, share your discovery, and instead of a surprise, you would insert a successful outcome or result.
When you employ Know, Like, and trust in your story, you increase your chances of compelling the listener to take action; inviting you back for the next round of interviews, or offering you the position.
Here’s how to create Know, Like, and Trust and tell a compelling career story:
- Establish your Identity. This is the easy part. Refer to the role you held and at what company for the story you’re about to tell.
- Describe a Challenge you faced. Talk about a situation, the difficulty you faced, and how you overcame the obstacle.
- Explain what you Learned during the challenge. Illuminate a discovery or observation you made that led to success or achievement.
- Wrap up with the Result. Illustrate the actual achievement or success and include concrete proof of how your company or team benefitted. *Tip: Keep the results positive! People want to hear happy endings, not sob stories.
- At the end of your interview, make sure you remember the every-important Call to Action. Ask the interviewer to take the next step; advance you to the next round of interviews or offer you the job.
Done well, this formula will help you get the attention of the interviewer and differentiate you from the competition. The interviewer will feel a connection to you that he can’t explain and will be more inclined to take the action you request because he feels he knows, likes, and trusts you are the right person for the job!