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How to Craft Your Success Stories for Interviews

Posted by Rob Riggins

success storiesYou dread job interviews. Surprise! So does the person interviewing you.

The problem for most of us is that interviews seem to incorporate the worst parts of cocktail party chatter – superficial and staged – but have major consequences.

The interview is a major factor in helping the hiring manager determine which cyber security job seeker should be offered the job. But for the hiring manager, the stakes are actually higher than for the candidate. The decision they make based on your interview – whether to hire you or not – impacts not only their company but their career, too.

If they hire you and you are a superstar you will make everyone else’s job easier – who doesn’t want to work with an efficient, reliable and talented cleared job seeker? Beyond that, though, the interviewer’s bosses will translate your success into a major point for your hiring manager. They’ll think the hiring manager that chose you truly understands the company culture and its goals. That will go a long way toward improving the performance reviews and salary increases the hiring manager receives.

But what if the hiring manager selects you and you are, well, a dud at the job? Well that makes work more difficult for everyone because they will have to fill in the gaps created by your poor performance. Your failure will also make the hiring manager’s bosses question that person’s abilities.

So a lot is on the line for everyone involved in a job interview. And, of course, the interviewer will err on the side of caution – protecting their own job if there’s doubt about your qualifications.

So how can you go into the interview and best convince the interviewer that you’ll excel – and thus make them shine, too – if they hire you?

One of the best ways is to turn your career highlights into a story.

If you’re like most of us, you think that’s impossible. Sure you’ve worked through some difficult situations, taken on tasks others avoided, and scored some major wins, but you can’t imagine how that would make an interesting story.

Erase that belief right now.

You already have the makings of a great story right on your resume. Look at it and consider the bullet points, the achievements you’ve listed there. That’s where you start.

To turn those great points into an interesting story that will win you the cyber security job you deserve, follow this guide:

Commit to writing your story. Don’t plan to look at your resume and wing it when you go into an interview. Telling a great story requires thinking about the details of your career achievements and analyzing the best way to present them. One reason is you don’t want to forget important details. Another reason is that you’re in a professional situation so time is limited. You’ll want to make sure you hit the high points in as short a time as possible. So commit to writing down your story so you can practice and refine it.

Define the challenges you overcame. Start with the bullet points on your resume and consider the environment in which you worked. Then write down the environment – in an office, at a help desk or elsewhere – and define the problem you faced. Was it disorganization? Short staffing? Unrealistic job expectations? Revise the challenges you faced a few times so that they’re succinct and easily understandable.

Explain how you overcame challenges and succeeded. Did you write code that streamlined a process? Did you develop a new protocol that better fit with the workplace? Did you research and implement – or convince management to implement – new training? Did you defuse tension with those in another department? Write down what you did to resolve the challenge. Explain exactly what actions you took to resolve the problem or help others fix the problem.

Show yourself as the hero. Job interviews are not the time for modesty. This is the time to show your interviewer – the person who has as much if not more of a stake in this process than you do – that you are absolutely the right person for this job. The best way is to end the story with showing how your leadership reduced turnover by a certain percentage, helped ensure your company receive a $5 million contract or otherwise resulted in a tangible success. Of course not all successes are quantifiable. Perhaps you were in a situation in which database records were improperly structured. Staff spent longer than needed searching records because the required search queries were too long, impacting everyone’s efficiency.  You won’t take a stopwatch and time how long it takes before and after the database was refined. But explaining how you improved efficiency and boosted morale while cutting time spent on mundane tasks is just as dramatic as winning the company a $250,000 contract.

Help the interviewer draw connections. When you write the story add details so that you help the interviewer understand how you communicate, work with difficult people, analyze data, understand complex issues and multitask. Every manager enters an interview wondering, “What can this person do for my company?” Your story will tell them exactly what you can do.

Interviews are challenging. But you can ease the tension, better present your professional background and establish that you’re a confident, qualified candidate by writing, refining and rehearsing a story that showcases your top qualities.

What are your success stories?

This entry was posted on Monday, March 20, 2017 6:30 am

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