After your introduction and you have shared your super skills, it is time to share some stories! In this part, you will give a little more detail about where you have worked specifically and include key highlights of your educational experiences. You will share this information by weaving them into stories that connect to the three skills you mentioned in the section above.

You want to give concrete stories so that person listening to you can imagine you doing the work. When you a list a bunch of places you have worked and degrees you got, the person listening has no concrete image to think about. They will glaze over and wait for you to finish talking. This is a chance to show value, demonstrate personality and share stories that might not get out otherwise during the interview.

This is the longest part of the answer and it pays off to be strategic. Know which pieces you want to hit and illustrate the work you are great at by thinking of an example, instead of simply saying you have the skill.

Build relevant stories by weaving in the important stuff

To build these stories, think about a handful of highlights from your career and select one or two that really explain the value you bring. Practice telling them while weaving in some details about where you have worked and what you studied.

Here are some tips to do this. Get a pack of index cards and use one card per answer to the following questions.

  • What education will this employer care about?
  • Where have you worked? What places of employment are most relevant for the position you are interviewing for?
  • What are the skills/talents needed for the role you are interviewing for? What is the most relevant experience you have had that backs up that you have this skill?

Arrange the cue cards on a surface and play around with the order of the stories and information. Practice saying it and choose the most interesting sequence of events, that still make sense. Focus on giving details and stories that demonstrate value.

Sample Answer

If I were to answer this question and I was interviewing to oversee a career development community program, I would know I would need to speak about my experience in education, coaching, and program development. I would want to highlight my ability to teach, lead and grow programs. It might sound like this.

I started my career in the theatre as a marketing and development assistant high school intern at Prairie Theatre Exchange. After the internship, they hired me to work in their theatre school. Part of that job required me to learn how to teach drama. I worked alongside some of the best drama educators, and over 10 years I grew from assistant to developing and teaching my own classes. I gained a degree in drama in education–how to use drama to teach. I helped coordinate province-wide tours, run student drama festivals and run a theatre school. I taught workshops at the theatre school, businesses and schools and was requested by the same schools over multiple years based on satisfied delivery of programs and strong relationships.  I completed a Masters In Education to develop my skills further.

As my career grew, I grew more interested in community development. I took on a position at Art City as their community programs coordinator. If you call them they will tell you that I am famous there for transforming insignificant outreach programs into stable and revenue-generating programs. Before I had the role the community programs were seen as less important than the programs at the Broadway studio. I raised the standard of the workshops to be on par with what was happening at the Broadway studio by improving the workshops, bringing in new artists, training volunteers and staff on the new program expectations and offering them stretch opportunities. I raised the profile of the organization by offering professional development sessions for educators, community workers, and artists that resulted in increased revenue. I secured funding by having strategic conversations with stakeholders, community members, and funders and doubled the number of weekly programs offered. These eight programs continue to flourish with their new staff.

I was frustrated by making a low salary in the arts even though I had a Master’s degree. I did some self-reflection on my skills and chose to study Human Resources. I finished my HR Certificate and passed the NKE exam. I took on a role as a consultant at an HR firm. One highlight I had in this role was leading the weekly networking group. A senior consultant that retired had run the group before me. In a few months under my direction, the networking group became the coveted group to be in; some people did not want to land jobs just to be in my group. It became a special program offering to the clients. I was committed to doing deep research into all areas of job search. I read studies and translated the knowledge into actionable activities for the group. I led a group of people who showed up every Monday afternoon to report on their progress and celebrate when they landed. I called them out on stuff when they did not follow through. My reputation as a coach grew and soon senior clients asked to work with me for fresh insight into their search strategy.

I left the HR firm because while I loved the work, I started to develop my own strategies for job search that incorporated the arts and community development principles I knew about. I stay in contact with the HR firm and left with strong relationships. I invested in further professional developing in coaching and career development theory. I took on a role of with the Manitoba Government in community development and balance this work with a private career coaching practice. I have build a strong business based on my knowledgeable and accessible coaching style and my clients landing their ideal jobs.

Need some support with this?

If you are stuck, you may just need to work with a coach on this. I work alongside people to hear their stories and select the best ones for selling their best skills. If you want to work with me, send me an email at kerri@career-stories.com.

If this feels like a lot of work for just one question, remember that you have one chance to make a good impression and this is the only one you really have control over. Most people are nervous at the beginning, this sets you up to know exactly what you want to say and can give you confidence. Make it count, deliver it naturally, and you’ll set a great tone for the beginning.

The next step is sharing your leaving story.