Get Over Yourself – How The Interview Should Tell Your Story

Hit on this article about how companies should stop talking about their products and/or services and instead tell their customer’s stories.

Brilliant – and also, fairly common sense.

Translate this into interviewing. How lovely would it be if the person you were interviewing talked less about themselves and more about how their clients/customers viewed their experiences with them?!

Tough to do as we all like to talk about ourselves.  As the author of the article wrote, “This… style of marketing has become woefully common in the post-Facebook era. People—particularly young people—seem convinced that business communication consists of telling people about YOU”.

When I’m interviewing a HR pro, I do want to know about him/her but will have a gag reflex if I can’t get the person to shut their pie hole and engage with me.  I want to know what their peers think about them, what their internal clients would say about their responsiveness and creativity or if their vendors like working with them.  I want to hear the real reference check as well as what they’ve done for their business.

With that in mind, here are three pieces of advice around impactful interviewing – or simply things to keep in mind if you ever talk to me:

  • Keep it high-level until otherwise asked – – If I ask you to spend 5 minutes on your background and 20 minutes later you’re still on job #2, we’re done.  Your ability to concisely talk about your resume, hitting the highlights, reasons for leaving and then move on, is golden.  If you get hung up on your own (likely uninteresting to anyone but your mother) bio you’ve not only sapped the life out of me, you’ve also wasted valuable time that could have been spent on learning more about the company/role/culture/team…
  • Tell stories vs. giving example – – You’re technically doing the same thing, but by telling a story about say, how you developed a global leadership mentor program, you can add your personality to the mix. The interviewer will get a sense for your passion, energy and cultures where you thrive. Examples are dry.  Stories are interesting. Examples sound rehearsed.  Stories are lively.
  • Take a breath – – If you’re taking more than a couple of minutes to answer a question, you’re not creating the right opportunity for dialogue.  Take a breath!  Let there be room for follow-on questions.  You can’t have an agenda when interviewing.  If you go into thinking you have to get “xyz” out about yourself, you’re screwed.  Breathe, inquire and then shut-up and listen.

Yes, interviews are about selling yourself and your capabilities.  You can accomplish those things by focusing on the impact you’ve had on the business and those you’ve worked with; tell the story, don’t recite the resume.

THEN you can go post a status update about how incredibly awesome you are at interviewing.  I may even “like” it.

FOT Background Check

Kathy Rapp
Kathy Rapp is the President of hrQ, where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent or HR Consultants to drive business results.  Prior to joining hrQ, Kathy booked more than 15 years of human resources leadership experience working for such companies as Morgan Stanley and First Data Corporation.  A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent issues can be addressed via the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen  (David Lee/Sammy and sadly, Gary Cherone).


  1. Cara Carroll says:

    I think part of is this message is true, it depends on what the recruiter is looking for in the candidate. I find often times when a candidate mentions a hobby or something we might think is unrelated to the job it can turn out that skill/hobby might give a clue to who this person really is. So for example, someone who likes motor-cross and has gotten hurt several times only to go do it again, might show that person is literally going try something (perhaps something even risky) dust themselves off when they fail (or get hurt) and go back to try it again. I tend to work with college students a lot and being a bit more casual and laid back can get the candidate to open up and reveal things they might not have otherwise.

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