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Rocking Resources: Responses to Storytelling Webinar Q&A
August 3, 2011 at 2:07 am #137140
Thanks again to everyone who attended the webinar. Here are the questions that I didn't get a chance to answer in the seminar.
1.What is the difference between the red and blue highlighted words?
The red words are the skills that the employer wants while the blue gives the context for those skills. Of course, use any color scheme that makes sense to you but make sure you do capture what skills the employer wants so you can best tailor your stories to those skills.
- I agree that stories are great for a cover letter but many employers do not ask for cover letter. For those that do, are they really read by HR?
Always assume that HR reads everything you send. HR’s purpose is to winnow down the large number of applications it receives so that only a few of the best-fitting applicants are presented to the decision maker. Thus, when writing your cover letter, make sure you demonstrate how well you fit the skills and requirements asked for in the job posting and then double-check for anything that may give HR a reason to put you on the reject pile. Leave that out or at least minimize possible reject reasons while still being truthful.
- Does your storytelling approach change in a phone interview as opposed to an in-person interview?
Yes, because you lose the nonverbal gestures and eye contact. You will have to work more in telling the story through painting a descriptive picture with words and your tone. This may also sound strange but it may help that you have a picture of the interviewer in front of you (or any picture of a person) so you can focus better. It’s a trick I learned when I was a board operator at a radio station in my undergraduate days.
- Great coverage and tips about story telling; one assumption though is that interviewer is full open. How can story telling help overcome pre-dispositions and prejudice of interviewer e.g aging?
This is where the “I know what you are thinking” stories can help. You may also want to address the issue in your “Who Am I” story such as talking about how you are the technology expert in the office and then even the younger employees come to you to learn about the latest technology trends. Or you could talk about how your previous employer saw your age as an asset because you were a great mentor to newer employees and helped to build them into high performers.
- How would you balance the self-promoting confident perspective versus the humble and compassionate individual?
“Teaching stories” are good way to demonstrate your skills by showing how you taught someone else that skill. You are recognized as an expert in that skill because someone recognizes your skill but you also demonstrate your humble and compassionate nature by your willingness to share your knowledge and skills.
- Does a story work if you are trying to explain that you are no longer employed because you had philosophical differences with your boss, such as a disagreement on management style?
A “Values Story” can demonstrate why your personal values compelled you to leave the previous job because of a philosophical disagreement. For example, I once worked at a consulting firm where I did research to support various public relations campaigns. I was initially recruited to work on a NASA contract but, because of my good work, I was put on a project to help a tobacco company fight Congressional legislation that would further regulate the industry. I did the best I could to be objective and fair in my research but I was increasingly concerned about how my work was being used. After expressing my concerns with my employer, we both agreed that I should look for another job. I have told this story to future employers and I believe it may have cost me some jobs but I feel that other employers appreciate my willingness to stand up for my beliefs while being professional about my concerns.
- If you have a 20+ year work history, what timeframes should you pull your story from?
I usually try to find the most current stories if they speak to the skills needed. Otherwise, I will use stories from jobs I have held in the past but be prepared to answer what have you done to keep that skill up. For example, I started off as a paralegal back in the early 90s but haven’t done actual paralegal work for the last ten years. Even so, I stress how my current skills at research plus my personal interest in the latest legal cases makes it possible for me to quickly come up to speed as a paralegal.
- I was asked in an interview once to talk about a situation where I "went outside of the normal procedure" to achieve a goal. I told a story that may have been somewhat damaging to the political leadership in my department had it been made public. Should you avoid this type of story? How do you when a story contains information that is too sensitive?
When in doubt, leave it out. You never know who your future employer knows and you do not want to gain a reputation for being too loose with your employer’s information. It would be best if you can find a story where you don’t put a former employer in a bad light no matter how you actually feel about former bosses.
- What kind of stories should we use for networking to help get a job? I imagine it's significantly different from an interview.
Actually, not that significantly different. The five stories that I mentioned are applicable whether you are networking or interviewing. “Teaching Stories” are the most interesting to networking partners so you may want to concentrate on them.
- Now that org's are so focused on diversity, do the story structures mentioned still work if your interviewer is asking about your experiences with people of different cultures?
Yes, they do. As we deal with other cultures, we often face the challenge of understanding another culture and how to appropriately deal with diversity. For example, you can talk about how you were in charge of planning a holiday party for your department and what actions you took to make sure that people of different faiths felt comfortable and included in the celebrations.
- What should the length of the story be?
When Abraham Lincoln was asked how long a dog’s legs should be, he answered “long enough to reach the ground.” So your story lengths should be long enough to fit your context and audience. For example, if you have just met a person at a networking event, tell a couple of very short stories to gauge the person’s interest before going on to longer stories. In an interview situation, try to keep stories between two to five minutes unless the interviewer indicates that they want more detail.
- If your work experience and stories are not from the government sector, will this work against you when interviewing for a government job?
No, because experience is experience no matter where you earned it. Be sure to demonstrate how this experience can transform over to the job that you are interviewing for.
- BILL - I left the government (GS-6) for a commercial job, but I am tired of layoffs every 4-7 years. I would like to get back into government, where I felt I was more valued and appreciated. I have been applying for GS-7 positions, but my experience should qualify me for a GS-9. Any tips?
Well, why are you not applying for GS-9 jobs? If you have done a thorough skills analysis of the job posting and can convincingly demonstrate that you should be a GS-9 then give it a try. At the very least, look for jobs where you come in as a GS-7 but the promotion level is up to a GS-9. That way you can demonstrate your potential and rapidly rise up through the levels.
- You mentioned that at least the first ten resumes that are sent to the Rock Your Resume website will be reviewed. So does that mean feedback will be provided? If your resume does not make it into the initial ten, will there be a service fee for review/feedback?
I will refer your question to the appropriate contact at GovLoop.
- Hi there. Great presentation! Recently find myself pursuing SES positions and so will complete ECQs. Can interview stories use the same scenario? Any advice on how to share that information differently?
Interview stories can use the same scenario but you will want to highlight a specific skill when you tell the story. The story structures that I listed will work great for constructing examples of the ECQs.
- how does a job portfolio differ in structure from a resume? Are they both needed or does the portfolio replace the resume?
A job portfolio differs from a resume in that you provide examples of your skills although you can use the same structure as your resume. I often suggest to students that they build a resume first and use that for applications and interviewing. They then can take the resume and expand on the sections and link to examples of their work. In some cases, you may want to take the portfolio with you to the interview or mention your online portfolio in your cover letter.
- If you are a seasoned person who has had many different jobs, can you match any experience you have had to the requirements of the job you are applying for?
Yes, especially if you can make the case on how that skill transfers to the current job you are seeking.
- How do you make your story not comical? I gained the attention, but my story referenced was working at a car wash for 5 years.
A few humorous stories are fine (just don’t overdo the comedy because that may convince the interviewer that you are not a serious person). I would work up some other stories that demonstrate a challenge, your action, and the results based on other work experience or volunteer experience you may have had.
- During an interview, should you just start storytelling, or hope a question is asked that ties to one of your memorized responses?
Wait for a question that is a appropriate and then you can say something like “that reminds me of a challenge I had at my last job” or “let me give you an example.”
- How much do you think the likability factor plays an important part in getting that job?
You never know what people will like. For example, I come across as a relaxed person in interviews and some people have told me that I act as if I don’t really care about the job while other people have said they like the way I relate to people. The best advice is to be your self (albeit your best professional self) because that will be easier on you if you get the job then trying to fake a personality you don’t have.
- What about when you have been working in your career for 20+ years and you are going up against younger employees when applying for positions? You've applied for multiple positions, got the interviews, got a second call back, BUT still did not get the job........
Do you have a job partner who can help you practice interviews? Are you taping your interviews to see how well you do? It may be well worth talking to a career counselor about your job hunt. Many colleges offer job placement help for alumni or you can check with the local library.
- Bill, I’m assuming you practice the stories beforehand .How do you prevent the story from sounding too canned?
For me, I just keep the main points in mind and never write out the whole story. That usually introduces some variation. Also, practice putting in some tonal variety so that the story sounds fresh. If the story still sounds too canned, maybe you need to retire it and find a new story.
- When do you tell the story of the gap in experience? Do you wait until asked to trot it out or deftly weave it into the "tell me about yourself” answer for example?
This depends. Is it such a large gap that you know the interviewer will have a question about it? Is the gap because you had to take care of a family member, did some charity work, or other example that demonstrates a strong value you hold? Then you might want to mention it briefly in the “tell me about yourself” story and then have a more detailed story if the interviewer wants to know more. If the gap is because of something you would rather not mention, I would not bring it up unless you are directly asked. Then answer truthfully and briefly so you can move on to something positive.
- How do you feel about asking the interview panel questions? I have heard to never do it and others say to do it?
I am a firm believer in the “always ask questions in interviews.” Research has demonstrated that most interviewers think that candidates who don’t ask questions are not really that interested in the job. But be careful about the questions you ask. Don’t ask about salary or how much vacation time you get because that could give a wrong impression. Do ask what a typical day is like in the job or what the organization looks for in a candidate. Also, do a quick search on Google News concerning the organization and ask questions about any recent events at the organization such as announced expansion plans or new programs that they are initiating. When you receive the answer, thank the answerer and then briefly relate it back to a skill you have or a value you share.
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