A great story is the key to get job offers because it helps you differentiate. That’s why sample interview answers or pre-written phrases for resume on Google won’t be helpful as hiring managers have heard this kind of answers hundreds of times and they get fed up with it. They want something unique about you. In the world where you study the same materials at school (business, computer science, engineering…etc.) and probably do similar part-time jobs at restaurants or local convenience store, how can you have an unique story?
The only thing unique about you is your journey including what you have been through, what you did and how you make decisions. Through the story you present to the hiring managers, she will assess your mindset and your skills to make hiring decision.
In this article, I would like to share with you a 3-step process that has helped hundreds of fresh graduates who have no work experience craft their own stories to get job offers. Let’s get started!
Before we dive in to how to write your story, let’s deal with the most common question I got asked all the time.
“What story? I don’t think I have any stories. I mean, I just studied and passed exams at school. I worked part time at a coffee shop, but I don’t feel like there is much to say.”
If this is you, please continue reading as I will show you that you actually have plenty of stories to tell, you just don’t realize it.
Let’s say a pair of friends – Mike and Dave – both work at a coffee shop and they both have an interview for the financial analyst role. Obviously, the hiring manager wants to know what they do and how they work at the shop, she asks: “What do you do at the coffee shop?”
“Oh, I take orders and I just make coffee, hand it to customers and I’ll answer any questions they have.”
To his best effort, he thinks: “It’s just a simple job right? I mean what else can I say?”
Dave, who does the same job as Mike, answers this way:
“At the coffee shop, my job as a barista is to make sure that customers are happy with our service. That’s why I pay very close attention to the detail to when I take their order and I will ask questions to clarify if I am not clear on something. I’ll ensure that I make the coffee exactly the way the customer wants. In addition, I will answer any questions they might have and sometimes I just have small conversations with them so that we can both get to know each other a bit better. I learned that small things like remembering their name is also a huge plus as they really appreciate this manner. To me, this job is not just a making-coffee job, it is a training for me to learn how to deliver excellent customer service and building relationship. It is because of this genuine relationship customers always come back to our shop everyday.”
I guess you can see a huge difference between these two answers. Now, we will deep dive into this example to learn how to write a great story for your own journey.
Step 1 – Generating ideas
Before writing a story, you need to know what you are going to talk about. The best way to generate ideas is to go through your “typical day” at work, volunteering events or school project and asking yourself these questions:
This is a brainstorming phase in which you should write down as many ideas as possible because each idea can be converted into a story.
In our example, Dave decided to talk about his general work at the coffee shop.
Step 2 – Setting up the structure.
Now, with an idea in hand, it’s time to build in a structure for your story.
You need to create a structure for your story to make sure that it is clear and easy-to-understand to the listener. Why? Because nothing kills interviews and job offers more than an ambiguous and disorganized answer (in interview) or work description (on resume) that confuse the hiring manager. Just like watching a movie, you don’t want to watch a disorganized and hard-to-understand movie with ambiguous scenes with no logic such as watching the end of the movie first instead of the introduction.
The structure we recommend is STAR which stands for Situation – Task – Action – Result.
Why do we need to follow this structure? Because this is the simplest and the most effective way to tell a story. Some of the largest companies in the world such as PwC explicitly recommends their candidates to use this structure to answer interview questions.
Dave’s story follows the STAR structure. Let’s go to step 3 and see how Dave writes his story with the STAR structure.
Step 3 – Writing your story
With a clear structure, it’s time now to write your story by filling up each section of STAR.
Although this sounds obvious, this is the section that 99% of candidates miss when starting to tell a story. You need to briefly tell the hiring manager what the situation is so that it is easier for her to follow your story line. In this case, it is possible that she has never worked in a coffee shop for her whole life so she doesn’t know much about the operation.
You need to be clear on what your goal is at your job. In this example, are you washing the cups and cleaning the floor or making coffee or making customers happy with the service? Without a clear task, you can’t show your value – which we will discuss in the Result section later.
In our example, Dave did a great job in introducing the Situation and Task which gives the hiring manger a very clear picture of the goal he’s trying to achieve.
At the coffee shop, my job as a barista is to make sure that customers are happy with our service.
Action is what you do to achieve the task assigned to you. The action part is where you will spend most of your time on as this is where you can show your skills and your mindset that will set you apart. As you can see in our example, both Dave and Mike do the same job, but Dave can make a great impression on the hiring manager with his story-telling ability. Let’s have a closer look how Dave successfully presents his relevant skills.
Relevant skill – attention to details is a relevant skill for a financial analyst. The idea is you need to present all relevant skills (keywords) that are required on the job description through a set of stories and this story is one of them.
Support Evidence – you need evidence to prove that you really know how to serve customers – customer service skills.
Growth Mindset – your unique perspective on how you see this job and what you learn from it.
Result is your confirmation that you achieve the task and how the company benefits from your achievement. Just like missing the Situation and Task, most people will skip the result. They simply list what they do in the Action part and stop right there.
It’s very important to include the result because the hiring manager is eager to know “What kind of results/achievement did you have?”. As job seekers, we sometimes forget the fact that employers pay us a salary to help them get something done. If we can provide the evidence that we are achieving specific results in our current job, they will have more confidence in hiring us.
Dave makes it clear that his service has brought customers back, which means more sales for the shop.
It is because of this genuine relationship customers always come back to our shop everyday.
A great story is the key to get job offers because it helps you differentiate.
This is just a simple example of story-telling your part-time job. You can apply the 3 step process we just share with you to write any stories, from simple to complicated, that you have such as: projects, internships, part-time jobs, volunteering activities…etc.
Here is the key takeaways from this article:
Storytelling is the only way for you to differentiate yourself and this is how you convince the hiring manager that you are the best candidate with the greatest potential. What kind of position can you get? How much salary can you earn? It all depends on one thing: how you tell your stories. It’s time for you to write your own stories.
As a final note, some people are gifted with the ability of storytelling and they can thrive and write great stories without any guidance. Yet, others would likely benefit from having a helping hand to get started and to really look back into their journey and pick out the best achievements in which they might not realize they have them. Everyone has a great story to tell, including fresh graduates, it’s just that we need to look at the right angle.
If you would like to save time in building your own story, you can schedule a 1:1 free consultation with us below.
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