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Beware of telling your life story in the Job Interview!

While storytelling today is critical to resume writing, there is an art to using your life story in the interview.

We all know someone who is a “life story teller.” My sons and I do. I call him my husband and they call him Dad.

For as long as I can remember, my husband, Bill, has been a life storyteller. No matter who he meets, he tells the life story. He tells it to people he meets in the grocery store, on the street, and even telemarketers who call.

His version doesn’t even generally include the last 30 years even though he launched two companies and several other initiatives during that time frame. He makes it interesting the first time you hear it but most people don’t need this level of detail.

My husband is totally aware that he does this. But he enjoys the storytelling and assumes the listeners do too. As a career professional, I would love to coach him out of doing this but as his wife, I am unlikely to be successful in doing so.

What happens if you tell your life story in the interview?

The Life Story Teller is often immune to the effect he or she has on the listener. He doesn’t see the eyes glaze over and he misinterprets the smiling and nodding for affirmation that he should tell even more stories. If you use this strategy of telling your life story in the interview, you will probably not be offered the next interview much less the job. Even if you make the story interesting, you still probably alienate your audience.

Analyze your interview story before you get to the interview.

Contemplate how you can choose highlights to correlate with the company needs and your talents. Show and tell them your success stories. Don’t create what one of my clients called “the obituary” when I was coaching him for his next interview. Know the company well enough and the interviewer through active researching the targets so that you are speaking to their needs not just retelling your life story in a point-by-point message.

What does “tell me about yourself” mean?

When the interviewer asks the question, “tell me about yourself,” what he is really asking is “tell me what about you makes you the candidate I should hire.”

Abandon the life story approach for a company focus

This is a much deeper question than the litany of what you did 20 or 30 years ago. Make it relevant and make them care. You are tailoring your message to them and their needs. You are finding out what they need to solve their problems.

The story the company wants to hear is how you will be an asset to them. Plan how you can tell that story instead of the me-focused life story version.

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