Foliotek Blog

Tell Me About a Time When ...

You follow the receptionist down a dark and narrow hallway to the scariest room in the building: the conference room. This is where your fate will be decided. Will you land your dream job and start a promising career or will you be stuck living in your parents' basement forever? You choose your seat wisely, hoping that your choice doesn't have some strange, hidden meaning that says you're completely wrong for the job. After the polite introductions, the dreaded interview questions begin. First, "Tell me about yourself." Then, at some point during the grueling process, you'll hear "Tell me about a time when … "
alt Ok, maybe it won't be quite that dramatic. However, if you want your interview to go well, you should be prepared to answer this commonly asked question. When you're asked "Tell me about a time when," your interviewer is asking you to tell a story. Maybe it's a story of overcoming a challenge, solving a complex problem, or dealing with a difficult customer. The best way to prepare for this question is to have a few stories up your sleeve.

Know the job requirements

Refer to the job description and determine the requirements of the position. The goal of your story is to communicate that you have the skills required. Look through some common 'Tell me about a time when,' questions and try to anticipate what questions you might be asked.

Think about your experiences

Reflect on your past experiences, both personal and professional. Think about your accomplishments, personal growth, failures, and proud moments. How do these experiences relate to the requirements of the job? If one of the job requirements is teamwork, think of a time you had to work with others. What was your role on the team? How did you help the team accomplish your goals? Developing this story will help you communicate to your interviewer what they can expect from you in a team setting.

Write a story and practice

In order to turn your experiences into meaningful stories, you need to know how to tell them. Like all good stories, they should have a beginning, middle, and end. Building your stories around the STAR technique can be helpful when it comes to interview questions. The beginning of your story should describe the Situation and Task of your experience. The middle will be the Activity or Action you took. The end is the Result of your action. Once you have your story, practice telling it out loud so you appear polished and professional....like this:

Share your stories

You don't have to wait until an interview to share your stories. Use Foliotek Projects to showcase your experiences to potential employers. Including stories (projects) on your ID page or ePortfolio will give employers a better idea of your skillset before you even meet.

The last thing you want to do in an interview is stumble around trying to think of a decent story to tell. Take the time to write, practice, and share your stories, and that long walk to the conference room won't be scary at all.


Want a Job? Use Your Experiences

Getting a job isn't easy. Statistics show that half of all college graduates under the age of 25 are either unemployed or underemployed. You certainly don't want to be the person who owes Uncle Sam $100,000 big ones and is stuck selling sneakers at Shoe Carnival. You'll never move out of mom & dad's basement!!

So how do you find meaningful employment --- a career matching your passions and making use of your six figure education? It's not as hard as you think. You need two things. A digital brand (online identity) that acts as your virtual introduction and evidence that demonstrates your GRIT and Professional Skills as they pertain to your future employer.

Online Identity (virtual brand).

First, you need an online introduction. This is your opportunity to make that killer first impression. Sorry, but Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and even LinkedIn just don't cut it. I'm not going to spend time detailing how to do this...just go here and create a free account. You'll be done in 10 minutes. Step two is where we'll focus our attention today.

Quote by Dan Schawbel

Showcase GRIT & Professional Skills.

Today employers are more interested in hearing about your past experiences than grilling you with traditional interview questions. Why? Because research has shown that past experiences are a great predictor of future behaviors. Because of this, it behooves the interviewer to hear about your past experiences as they pertain to the skills they want their employees to possess. To do this, they ask questions about what you have done. This way, they learn what you can do. This style of interview questioning is called "Behavioral Based Interviewing." It looks like this:

Instead of asking you: "What would your best friend say is your greatest strength?"

You'd be asked: "Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership?"

You see, the employer already knows what skills they desire in a new hire (in this case, leadership). They want you to prove you possess those skills based on your previous experiences. This means you need to be ready with stories from your previous experiences that demonstrate the GRIT and Professional Skills the hiring manger is looking for. How do you do this? It's pretty simple, but it takes some focused time.

Preparation

Before you do anything, read through some job postings and think about what type of skills the job you want requires and make a list. We’ll call this "List A." If you're feeling lazy, just check out this Burning-Glass report or use the suggestions below.

  • Communication Skills
  • Organizational Skills
  • Writing Skills
  • Intuition
  • Customer Service Skills
  • Base Technology Skills (Microsoft Word, Excel)
  • Problem Solving
  • Resilience
  • Planning
  • Research
  • Being Detail Oriented
  • Ability to Grow

Now that you have List A, hit the pause button on your life (I know, this is the hardest part, but remember $65,000/year is way better than $9/hour). Take some time and think back on the substantial experiences in your life and make another list, "List B." For me, this means closing my eyes and forcing my mind to travel back-in-time and relive various aspects of my life. Try tapping into a few of these helpful categories:

  • Big school projects
  • Extracurricular school activities
  • Volunteer experiences
  • Previous job/internship experiences
  • Social experiences
  • Family interactions

Execution

With those experiences in mind (List B), try to connect some GRIT and Professional Skills (List A) with how you demonstrated those skills in that experience (List B).

(List A) x (List B) = New Job

Repeat that process a few more times (3 - 7 should suffice). Now you're locked, loaded, and ready to nail your next interview.

But wait… stop the presses… you have to get to the interview first! AHHHH!!!

Hopefully you've already taken care of Building you're Online Identity. If you have, then simply tie these stories to your Online Identity and put a link on your resume. This one two punch puts you a step ahead of everyone else. Hiring managers will be impressed by your virtual introduction and the stories demonstrating the GRIT and Professional Skills they need. You'll certainly land the interview and ultimately that great, better paying job.

Now, go by your last pair of shoes with your employee discount and move out of Mom and Dad's basement. Welcome to productive citizenship.