How to Tell Your Story in an Interview

Whether you spent two years traveling the world or 10 years as a stay at home parent, learning how to tell your story to a potential employer can be challenging.

You might be thinking, “How do I explain my choices?” or “How do I talk about my crazy journey?”

Let me help you.

After over 10 years of making choices that led me down a long, winding road to where I am today, here’s how you do it:

Keep it brief

I suggest you get 30 seconds for every 10 years of your life. Keep it brief, and you won’t lose a potential employer’s attention.

Leave out the details

Every good storyteller knows that while a gap in the details means a great deal to you, most people never notice.

A potential employer will ask you to clarify any missing information that is important to them, but let them ask you first. You don’t have to tell them why you decided to stay home and raise children, and you don’t have to defend your decision to take two years off to travel the world.

Hide shame and guilt

As a storyteller, I find that I want to explain my choices, defend my decisions, and add in details because I’m worried of being judged. This comes from feelings of shame or guilt that reside in me.

Defending your decision, offering too many details, or having a shaky voice are signs of fear of judgment that often come from feelings of shame or guilt.

Don’t apologize for your choices

I’ve seen people make apologies for their choices in job interviews. Don’t do that. It opens up doubt in an employer’s mind, where there was none. Do your best to accept and own your decisions.

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Show confidence

“Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence,” says Katty Kay and Claire Shipman in “The Confidence Gap,” an article in The Atlantic Monthly.

Demonstrate confidence when telling your story and no one will suspect any shame, guilt, or doubt that you might feel inside.

Practice at home

When I was prepping for interviews and trying to explain how I went from North Carolina to Portland, via Los Angeles; Costa Mesa; San Diego; Port Townsend, WA; and Cortes Island, BC; I practiced, practiced, practiced.

Now when I meet someone new, I just gloss over most of my journey and leave out some pretty major details, only sharing what’s relevant to my new acquaintance.