This article was first published on CoachingActuaries blog in July, 2014.
We all know that commonly, a nice resume will only get you a chance to be interviewed by recruiters – and an interview itself is a make-it-or-break-it process. In this article, I will discuss the power of storytelling during actuarial interviews. This is something I learned through numerous interview workshops I attended at my university and through my own interview experience (which helped me to obtain four actuarial summer internship offers when I was a sophomore).
A common theme that almost all career coaches stress is being able to provide details to backup what you say during interviews. Stories are an excellent medium to provide these critical details: they not only provide context and credibility to your answers, but also make you,THE PERSON (not just student B), uniqueand memorable.
A popular method to organize stories during interviews is the S.T.A.R. method:
Start off by explaining the context of the story (Situation), then describe what was the problem needed to be solved (Task), what you did (Actions), and at the end, what was the outcome (Result).
Storytelling is also a must when it comes to behavioral questions, as interviewers are expecting to hear stories that can reflect certain personality attributes. As behavioral questions are getting more popular among recruiters, what recruiters ask during interviews is becoming more predictable. Therefore, it is advised to prepare stories that can answer questions of the following popular categories: leadership, communications, conflict resolution, time management, strengths and weaknesses.
Aside from the contents of the stories, the storyteller (you) needs to be engaging too. Sitting on the front edge of the chair and leaning a little forward demonstrates interest in the conversation. Putting hands on the table and maintaining a smile and eye contact demonstrates confidence. Eye contact, however, can be tricky as it can make you nervous. A quick remedy if your eyes tend to wonder around the room when interviewing, is to look at the interviewer’s mouth when they talk – in between their eyes when you talk, and their shoulder when you are thinking.
Even though S.T.A.R. is a great method to organize your story content, you certainly don’t want to make your answer sound like a script with four bullet points. Aside from getting to know yourself (discover what stories you have from your past school and extra-curricular activities, work, etc.), having an objective understanding of the interview process is critical – it helped me to gain the calmness and confidence to be myself during interviews. As Einstein once said, “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
I like to think of interviews as speed dating: two parties trying to “inter-view” each other and find out if they are good match. In a short thirty minute period, I have to introduce myself, elaborate on my accomplishments that I’m deeply proud of, discuss my aspirations and goals, and most importantly- showcase my personality. Thirty minutes is also the time I have to learn about the company to find out if it is the place I want to spend fourty hours of my life each week for the next X amount of months or years.
The best way to learn about a company is through its employees, and one of the most convenient ways to meet company employees is through interviews. From the interviewers perspective – they are on a mission to help their company examine the qualifications and potentials of candidates, but at same time they are also “selling” their company to those candidates to convince them to accept an offer if given. So theoretically, interviewers can be as nervous as interviewees.
In conclusion, storytelling provides credible context to your answers, and the S.T.A.R. method is a great way to organize the contents of your story. Additionally, good body language makes you an engaging storyteller, and a high-level understanding of the interview process (speed-dating) allows you to stay calm and be authentic.
Keep calm and tell stories! Best of luck in your future internship or job hunting!