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Interview prep: Tell your story like a boss

Team GradAustralia

How to bring your CV to life and talk about how your experiences have made you that special someone they’ve been waiting for.

Felicitations! You’ve made it past the first screening test and actually scored yourself an in-person interview! But don’t crack open the champagne just yet, although you’ve made it into the finals, you’re not up on that podium yet.

The challenge now is standing out from the other highly qualified candidates also vying for this role. No, you can’t do magic tricks. The only way to get a real edge is by weaving together an effective story of you.   

The first step in the interview prep is knowing your story

To an interview panel, you enter the room as simply another CV. They know your educational and work history. They saw your list of skills. Hell, they probably have it in front of them. But the point of an interview is to bring those elements to life. You’re there to give those details a human aspect as you talk about your experiences and what you’ve learned from them.  

This is where telling a cohesive story of who you are and what you’ve done is most important. You might have been matched to this particular employer and they might be interested enough to swipe right, but now it’s time to show them the real you.  

Where to start when someone says, 'Tell me a bit about yourself?'

It honestly doesn’t matter where you start when answering this question. You might want to leave out your entire childhood and begin with a retelling of your uni days. You might think that your upbringing in Dandenong is super relevant to the stories you’ll tell in the rest of the interview. The point is to choose something you’re comfortable with, something that really feels like a defining element of your life, and let that be your Chapter One.  

How your stories build ‘clout’

The most daunting part for many graduates is the fact that they don’t have extensive work experience from which to draw on during an interview.  But this shouldn’t make you nervous. The thing is, employers, know what they’re getting when they interview for a graduate position. They’re not going to talk to you about management challenges or corporate development. Instead, they want to know who you are as a bright young person, and how your individual profile might fit within the wider organisation.

You might not have a truckload of professional exposure (or any for that matter) but that doesn’t mean your life experiences to date aren’t totally relevant. Your stories in a non-work context are often just as important as the professional ones. What’s more, your ability to describe those learnings and show that you’ve sincerely actualised them will give you a serious edge against other young candidates.  

Examples of stories and their corresponding skills

There are quite literally thousands of different experiences that you could discuss from your life, but no doubt you’ve engaged in one of the things below.

Remember, the important thing is to tell a story succinctly and very clearly link it to how it shaped the next part of your life i.e. how it made you do or see things differently.

How to weave all of these threads together

When you talk about an experience, it’s important to finish with how it has shaped the person that you are.  It’s not enough to just say, 'I’m more responsible since travelling alone through South America.' Rather, why is it relevant to an employer? How have you gone that step further to actualise the learning?

An example might be, 'Since travelling through South America I learned to be responsible for my safety and my own enjoyment in a strange place. When I came home that experience made me think really hard about the choices I make and whether they produce the best outcome for me. I realised I didn’t actually want to be an accountant because I’m more passionate about community development. As a result, I changed my area of study and now find myself in this office, applying to do exactly what I love.'

5 points for getting your story straight:

  1. Choose a stage or starting point that you feel is a defining moment in your development.
  2. Create a table of ‘stories’ or experiences and the corresponding life skills you took from them.
  3. Think about exactly how this shaped the person that you are i.e. 'I learned to work as a team through Saturday soccer.'
  4. Write these stories out so that you’re not stretching them to fit a professional context during the interview.
  5. Link them to how you might operate in an organisation and make it relevant to your interview!

See, you are a storyteller!