Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Interview Tips: Backing Up Resume Statements with a Compelling “Story”

On May 26th I blogged about ideas from Carole Martin – “The Interview Coach” (www.interviewfitnesstraining.com) – after listening to the first part of her two-part teleseminar on good interview techniques.

Now I’m listening to the second part of the teleseminar, and I was particularly struck by this advice: Never put anything on your resume or say in an interview that you can’t back up. Sounds simple, right? Turns out it isn’t.

Martin gave the example that people often say on their resumes that they are hard-working. Yet, when asked in an interview to give an example of being hard-working, these interviewees have nothing to say.

She says that you must be able to “prove” everything you say on your resume. In other words, be prepared to give an example of when you were hard-working – a “story” that reflects this trait.

And I loved Martin’s formula for what makes a good interview “story.” Here’s her formula:

  • beginning – 20% (problem, situation)
  • middle – 60% action (what you did)
  • end – 20% (results)

The reason I truly loved this is because the same formula could be used for telling a good “story” on a college application essay. Many college application essay writers spend way too much time on the beginning, very little time on the middle (the meat of the essay), and snip off the ending of their essay.

(Recently, during a coaching session, I explained to the father of a high school junior that college application essays were NOT the same as what high school English teachers drum into their students – five-paragraph essays with the first paragraph stating the proposition that the next three paragraphs will support and then a concluding paragraph.)

Always be careful what you put on your resume (or college application) or say in an interview. Ahead of the interview prepare the “stories” that you will tell to back up your statements. Then you’ll have a good chance of saving yourself from freezing when asked for an example of, say, how hard-working you are.

Post in the comments below an example of a “story” that you used to support a statement on your resume or college application.

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