You’re currently reading Chapter 5 of The Ultimate Guide to Video Interviews
In the last chapter, you learned how to define your Must Mentions. Now you’re going to learn how to deeply connect with your interviewer using stories – in a very strategic way.
I’m going to teach you why this is important, and how to do it with examples.
Like defining your Must Mentions, telling stories is also an advanced interviewing technique. And after this chapter, you will be able to use them strategically for your video interviews.
Using stories is a common way to answer Behavioral Questions in your interviews. But they can be used at any time in your interview really.
A behavioral question is where they ask for examples from your past about how you behaved in certain work situations.
An example of a behavioral question is, “Tell me about a mistake you’ve made. How did you handle it?”
And your answer will give them clues as to how you’ll act when you face these situations again.
The STAR technique is commonly used to construct the answer to behavioral questions. You might have heard of it before. I’m going to cover that technique, but I’m also going to go even deeper into the psychology of stories. I’m going to teach you how to make your answers deeply connect with the interviewer – something the STAR technique alone does not do. You won’t find this technique anywhere else.
Meeting your interviewer for the first time through video and forming a connection is a lot harder than it is in person. You can’t just walk in, give them a firm handshake and have them see the whole you from all angles. Therefore, leveraging stories is a powerful tool you can use to make your interviewer trust, like and connect with you over a digital medium.
But you might be thinking, “I’m terrible at telling stories.”
Truthfully, you’ve been a good storyteller from birth. You use stories when talking to your friends about what you did last weekend. You use stories to talk to people about your hobbies or life lessons. So yes, even you can be a great storyteller in a video interview. But it takes practice to become a great one.
I’ll start with the WHY behind using stories in your video interview.
The Science Behind Using Stories in Video Interviews
Science has proven that you use more of your brain when you’re listening to a story vs. listening to just the facts. For example, if I taught you how to fish, giving you just the facts – this is how you hook your bait, this is how you cast, this is how you reel in the fish – just the facts. Then only the data processing regions of your brain would work to absorb that knowledge.
But if I told you a STORY about fishing and I described the fresh smell of the lake on a crisp morning, then your olfactory cortex will kick in. If I described the slow, rocking motion of the boat and the feeling of the vibration of the pole as the fish bites, then your motor cortex will kick in. A story can stimulate the parts of the brain that process sensory information, and get this, the stimulation can be just as strong as if you were actually experiencing the story.
That means if you tell a really good fishing story, if you get the person emotionally invested, then their brain can be stimulated just as it would if they were actually fishing.
Pretty cool. Back to reality now. So why use stories for your video interviews?
- The interviewer will use more of their brain to absorb the knowledge you want them to have about you if that knowledge is wrapped in a story.
- Science tells us that the more emotionally invested you are in anything, the less critical and the less objectively focused you become.
So what does that mean? That means, when it comes to getting a job, if you use stories strategically and correctly, if you get them emotionally invested in you, then the less critical and the less objectively focused they will be towards you.
I’m not saying that you should tell a long, drawn out story in your interview answers. You don’t have time for that. But you do have the ability to go beyond the general STAR framework and make your stories more emotionally evocative.
The less objectively focused, meaning, the less they will just focus on what you put on your resume. The less they will just look at the facts, the statistics, the years of experience and the more they will start to develop FEELINGS for you. But don’t flatter yourself – I’m not saying they’ll be attracted to you. No.
The more they will trust you and like you. The more they will bond to you. The more they will relax and focus on what you’re saying.
And how they get these feelings are from three different hormones: Dopamine, Oxytocin, and Endorphins – which I’ll talk about more later.
Stories will also make you more memorable versus other candidates. You might think you’re the only one they’re talking to, but you’re not. They could mark 10 people for a video interview. Who knows, maybe more since video interviews are relatively inexpensive in terms of time and money.
And when they’re reviewing all the candidates, you want them to say, “Oh ya, that’s the girl who told me the story about …”.
Again, stories make you more memorable because they transfer knowledge about YOU to their brains more effectively than you could with just the facts.
So let’s dive into HOW to use stories in your video interview.
The STARLESS Technique
So how you do create stories that will not only answer their questions, but emotionally connect with the interviewer as well.
You do this with what I call the “STARLESS” Technique.
STARLESS stands for:
The S-T-A-R, or STAR portion of this technique stands for:
- S – The situation or event that you were in
- T – The task you had to complete
- A – The actions you took to complete the task
- R – The Result or benefit of your effort.
The STAR portion of this technique is how you construct and frame your answers to behavioral questions.
Now, you can Google the STAR technique and find a lot of examples. It’s widely used and sometimes expected in interviews.
But truthfully, they are all so boring. They are all so dry. They make me want to put some lotion on and take a nap. In my opinion, STAR answers are not stories. They are not memorable and they’re not going to connect emotionally with the interviewer. Because they don’t make the person FEEL anything. They’re like Apple Siri reading a book. So there’s a missing component in STAR, and that’s what I’m going to cover now.
That missing component is what some call Functional Storytelling, or purposely making people feel a certain way through stories.
How you do this by adding imagery and sensory details into your STAR answers to draw them into the experience.
When we think of a good story, we think of a movie or a book that made us feel emotions. A story that made us laugh, cry, feel suspense, excitement, or empathy.
You can do the same through your STAR answers, but only if you add the LESS component. And I’ll tell you how to do that now and how that’s going to help you in your interviews.
To really show you how night and day this is, I’ll also show you three regular boring STAR answers, and then I’ll add the L-E-S-S component so you can hear how much more emotionally evocative the answers become.
What L-E-S-S Stands For
The acronym L-E-S-S will help you remember how to get your interviewer emotionally invested in you. How to upgrade your STAR answers into stories that will help them better remember you and listen to what you’re saying. So let’s go through each letter one by one.
L – Stands for Laughter.
“L” or “Laughter” is a way to remember how to give someone Endorphins. When you laugh, Endorphins are released in your brain. They will make you more creative, more relaxed, and more focused.
It’s true, comedians are the endorphin drug dealers of our time. They can make us laugh for hours. And we will happily pay $50 or more for a show because the feeling we get is so enjoyable. It relaxes us. So now you know, when you flip on Netflix and start watching a stand-up, what you’re really wanting is some Endorphins – you druggy.
But you don’t have to be a professional comedian to be funny. You don’t even have to tell a long funny story. Sometimes a few words said in a funny tone, or using funny metaphors can make people laugh – you drug dealer you.
See what I’m doing there? Did you laugh, or maybe you internally laughed. Hopefully! Either way I’ll take it. It’s that simple.
E – Stands for Empathy
“E” or “Empathy” is a way to remember how to give someone Oxytocin. When you feel empathy for someone else, Oxytocin is released in your brain. The reverse is also true, if someone takes Oxytocin their empathy will increase. This hormone will make you feel more generous, more trusting, more reciprocal, and more bonded to the other person.
All feelings that you want them to have towards you when you’re trying to prove you can fit into the culture of the company. Feelings that you want them to have when you’re trying to prove you’re “one of them” instead of an “outsider”.
Some people actually call Oxytocin the “love hormone” or the “cuddle hormone”, because it’s released when people snuggle up or bond socially. But since you can’t love or cuddle with your interviewers, you’re going to have to stick with stories. At least I sure hope you do.
S – Stands for Significance
“S” or “Significance” is a way to remember how to give someone Dopamine. When you build up the significance and suspense in a story, when you create cliffhangers, dopamine is released in your brain. If you’ve ever read a book that was a page-turner or if you’ve ever watched a movie that had you sitting on the edge of your seat, then you were experiencing the effects of Dopamine.
Known as the “feel-good hormone”, it will make you more focused, more motivated, and more energized.
Dopamine also helps to control the flow of information through the brain and increases your short-term memory.
Those are definitely effects you want THEM to feel and have in your interviews so they remember you and remember the benefits you will bring to the position rather than your competition.
S – Stands for Simple
Memorable stories are relatively simple. Putting in too much detail of the wrong kind can lessen the impact and lose the attention of the listener.
Meaning, don’t tell your audience what you had for lunch that day, for instance, or what tie you were wearing if it doesn’t advance the story towards the emotion you’re trying to make them feel. Don’t go off on tangents and don’t ramble.
Especially in an interview, it’s important to speak clearly and be concise about what you say. This is even more important when you make your answers more story-like, because people hate feeling stuck listening to a bad storyteller.
How you stay simple, while at the same time sounding natural, is by practicing your stories. That’s the only way.
Comedians know the importance of staying simple and practicing. Do you know that when you watch a comedian’s special on Netflix, that they’ve practiced each one of their jokes hundreds of times to different people. They don’t just test the words they use, they also test how they emphasize each word. And by the time you hear the joke in their special, they’ve learned from hundreds of previous reactions how to tell each joke so that each one generates the greatest amount of laughter from their audience.
You don’t have to be a comedian, but you do need to stay simple and practice so you don’t sound like a robot when you talk.
Try to keep your interview answers to around 30-60 seconds or less. If your stories are running over that time, then cut out less important portions.
STAR vs. STARLESS Examples
Now I’m going to give you 3 examples. One for laughter, one for empathy, and one for significance. I’ll start off by giving you just the STAR answer, and then I’ll add in the LESS so you can hear the difference.
Example 1 – Laughter
“Give me an example of a goal you’ve met?”
(Situation/Task) Last October, I had to write six articles for the month to keep our blog fresh. (Action) I created an action plan for myself, with deadlines as to when each article should be published. (Result) I finished that month with six articles written and ahead of schedule.
Boring! Now let’s add some humor to this answer.
(Situation/Task) Last October, I had to write six articles for the month to keep our blog fresh. (Action) I created an action plan for myself, with deadlines as to when each article should be published and when to switch from decaf to espresso. (Result) I finished that month with six articles written and ahead of schedule, and with a newfound love for mocha lattes.
See how just that little bit of humor lightens things up? You don’t need much, but you also shouldn’t drown your story in it. And this is going to make them more relaxed in your interview.
To be honest, this STAR answer before the added LESS is too general. I would get more specific about what was in the action plan other than making deadlines. Or I would further explain how the six articles freshened up the blog. “Freshened” is not a concrete word. Remember, talk about the benefits! How much new traffic did the blogs generate for the website? How many new leads did it generate?
Example 2 – Empathy
“Tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult decision”
(Situation) Working as a Program Manager, (Task) I was asked to coordinate a training for our Support team. This required 3 people to travel across the country for a whole month and train with Engineering. (Action) I didn’t agree with my manager that a whole month was needed for this training. I thought a week at most was enough, but it was difficult at first to approach my boss about my opinions. But I did, and we agreed to make the training only one week, and then test their knowledge afterwards and schedule follow-up weeks as needed. (Result) It turned out that one week was more than enough and the training was a success. The training was very disruptive to their regular job responsibilities, and so they needed subsequent weeks to absorb the knowledge and catch up.
(Situation) Working as a Program Manager, (Task) I was asked to coordinate a training for our Support team. This required 3 people to travel across the country for a whole month and train with Engineering. A whole month. They never agreed or were used to that amount of travel before. And I remember one guy just had a newborn baby, a 3-month-old daughter. I knew a month away from his new baby would crush him, and his wife. And when I broke the news over the phone, I’ll never forget the silence. The silence that confirmed what he must have been feeling, thinking about the first-time moments he was going to miss. Telling him that news while staying professional was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do as a manager. What was also difficult was, (Action)I didn’t agree with my manager that a whole month was needed for this training. I thought a week at most was enough, but it was difficult at first to approach my boss about my opinions. But I did, and we agreed to make the training only one week, and then test their knowledge afterwards and schedule follow-up weeks as needed. (Result) It turned out that one week was more than enough and the training was a success. The training was very disruptive to their regular job responsibilities, and so they needed subsequent weeks to absorb the knowledge and catch up.
Do you see the difference? For a second, did that give you empathy? Could you almost feel the pain and sadness this guy had? (It’s much more effective when you hear it, not read it) That’s what Oxytocin feels like, your welcome!
And yes, unlike humor and making people laugh, empathy takes a little bit more words to draw someone into the experience. This interview answer would probably take about a minute to deliver, but under a minute is acceptable. If you deliver Empathy STARLESS stories right, your interviewer going to more easily bond with you socially and trust you. And they’re not going to forget that story.
It’s also important to modulate your voice, meaning using “pauses” and “slowing down” strategically, especially around the meat of the emotions. You need to say it with emotion. That is very important. Remember, how you say it can be more important than what you say. You have to really practice how to deliver an Empathetic STAR story to get the best emotional response from your interviewer.
Example 3 – Significance
“Tell me about a time when you performed under enormous pressure.”
(Situation) I was working at NASA and was involved with supporting the Curiosity Rover’s landing on Mars. (Task) My team was given the responsibility to keep the supercomputers operational that determine whether or not to correct the spacecraft’s trajectory. (Action) We spent months preparing complex programs, procedures, and monitoring software to ensure every risk had an action-plan, every file was backed up twice, and that we could rebuild the entire supercomputer and restore data in 6 hours. (Result) And when the Curiosity rover landed on Mars, and those first pictures came into focus, that was one of the proudest moments of my career.
(Situation) I was working at NASA and was involved with supporting the Curiosity Rover’s landing on Mars. A billion-dollar spacecraft. (Task) My team was given the responsibility to keep the supercomputers operational that determine whether or not to correct the spacecraft’s trajectory. There was a very real scenario where our computers could be the reason the spacecraft crashed into Mars, a billion dollars being wasted because of my team, the Mars program possibly being discontinued, and my career forever being painted with that failure. The amount of pressure was unreal. But (Action)we spent months preparing complex programs, procedures, and monitoring software to ensure every risk had an action-plan, every file was backed up twice, and that we could rebuild the entire supercomputer and restore data in 6 hours. (Result) And when the Curiosity rover landed on Mars, and those first pictures came into focus, that was one of the proudest moments of my career.
Do you see how I drew you into the experience even more by building up the significance of the Situation and the Task and by painting a vivid picture of what failure would feel like? Did that work on you? Again, it’s much more impactful when you hear it, not read it. Did that give you a greater amount of focus? Could you feel the amount of pressure I was under? If so, that’s what Dopamine feels like. You’re welcome!
Again, practice delivery. You have to deliver it with a serious tone to make them feel the emotion of the significance. Don’t be a robot, don’t say (begin robot voice) it-was-a-billion-dollar-spacecraft-and-my-career-would-be-painted-with-that-failure-and-the-pressure-was-unreal. (end robot voice). Who’s going to believe you were feeling that emotion if you don’t deliver it with emotion?
So there you go. That was 3 examples of my STARLESS technique to really help you understand how to deeply connect with the interviewer using stories. You can do it too!
One quick tip, please for the love of getting hired, diversify your story order. For example, don’t just answer every interview question with an empathetic story. Same with laughter or significant stories. You’re going to come off like a big bag of drama if you don’t switch it up. Also, I wouldn’t give STARLESS answers to every question you get. Use your instincts and try to judge the amount of connection you’re getting with your interviewer.
How to Prepare Your Stories For Your Video Interview
Before starting your video interviews, I would recommend having at least 8 STAR answers ready and at least 3 of those 8 be STARLESS stories, one for each emotion.
I also recommend you write them down so you can simplify them, remember them, and so you can index them according to what emotions you want your listener to hear.
Many people don’t think they have as many stories as they really do until they start writing them down. Like a comedian preparing for their special, practice your delivery several times to different family and friends and pay attention to their reactions. Then make small tweaks to find the best delivery that make people feel exactly what you want them to – and take that version to your video interview.
Continue to Chapter 6: Competence Triggers: How to Look, Sound and Feel More Confident On Video
Your Turn. What’s a STARLESS story you’ve crafted for your next video interview? Share it with us in the comments below!
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