What’s Your Story? The Importance of Explaining Your Experience the Right Way

Interviewing for your first job or internship can be quite stressful. There are so many variables that can play a part in meeting with a prospective employer, but the one consistent objective is to establish WHO you are and HOW you can help them meet their goals. Employers cannot read your mind (wouldn’t that be great?) or just your resume, and then hire you without a meeting. On an interview, a common request by employers is “walk me through your resume” or “tell me about this role.” This is not an invitation to recite your resume line by line, but an opportunity to share something about the role that shows your understanding of the responsibilities and where you will fit in at their company. Employers really want a STORY… to hear about your experiences, how you added value, and how you can help them. Not too much and not too little… just right!

Its natural to be nervous on an interview, but with the right preparation, you can practice your ‘STORY’, and avoid the pitfalls of rambling about an experience, or alternately, not saying much at all.

Here are 4 tips on how to tell your story:

  1. Give a Brief Overview of the Role. Explain your role and what your responsibilities were in that job function, club or volunteer opportunity. What company did you worked for, what was the task you were assigned, and where did you fit in? Very often a candidate jumps into the middle of explaining an experience without explaining the context of where they were working. For example, “I had to enter product data and verify maintenance data records for upcoming contract expirations”. Set up the situation of what you were doing at the start. For example,

    I was a Research Intern and worked for a Fortune 50 data communications company in NYC focused on providing technology solutions to large companies. My role was to verify and input maintenance data into a client database.”

  1. What is The Problem or Task You Had to Focus On? Explain what problem you were trying to solve or what specific goals you were tasked with accomplishing. For example,

    “I was tasked with identifying client maintenance contracts that were going to expire in the next 6 months. I collaborated with three Account Managers to help them identify the clients that may be the most likely to renew the maintenance contract and had the greatest revenue impact if the contract expired.”

  1. And How Did You Do It? Every opportunity requires you to utilize skills. The key is what skills did you learn and how did you demonstrate your competence. For example,

    “I used Excel and an ACT Database to sort, summarize and input data. I collaborated with team members and shared information. I also demonstrated leadership by proactively communicating with Account Managers about pending expiration of large contracts.”

  1. So, What? What Happened as a Result of This Effort? The answer to this question should show your ability to understand how your work impacts the business and solves a problem for the company. You need to understand where you fit in the big picture.

    “As a result of this experience, I was able to help the Account Managers identify ten key accounts worth $300,000 in maintenance revenue that was in jeopardy. My analysis and team work enabled the managers to work effectively with their clients in a timely fashion and to ensure that they would renew the maintenance agreements. I was praised for my effort and was asked to present to upper management.”

Ultimately, a company wants to understand if you can help them be more successful. Telling a compelling story keeps the interviewer engaged and it makes it easy for them to understand how you could add value at their company. If you want to learn more about how to tell your story, visit Next Great Step.