The Power of a Great Story

At Interview Advantage its our job to help you sell your story over your competitor’s.

Interview preparation tips and techniques


That’s why we believe in the power of a great story. We all need to bring attention to ourselves. That’s particularly true when writing personal statements or interview.

The way to do it is by telling a good story, because that’s what people remember. Advertisers use this technique all the time – there’s a story behind every brand.

The key to a good story is authenticity. You have to believe in it – and to do that it should come from the heart. If people sense that you believe, they’ll remember. People connect with authenticity, because it creates trust.

So how do you do this ? Here’s the plan.

Step 1 is to get to know yourself so you can tell others about it from the heart

Now this may seem daunting, but it can be done in two easy stages.

  • Strengths

First identify your strengths. These are the things that you’re naturally good at, that make you tick. The qualities that drive you.

To discover them, ask your friends, family and anyone who knows you well to tell you what they see. Ask for 6 words that describe you, or a couple of sentences, or even better ask for a story about when others saw you at your most resourceful, and the qualities you displayed at that moment.

Gathering this list of qualities that others see in you can a big confidence booster in itself. And it can change the way you see yourself.

There are also some online strength finders, and these can be very useful to broaden the scope of this exercise.

Gallup Strengthsfinder charges a modest fee.

VIA Strengths Survey is free.

  • Proudest moments

The next task is also hugely rewarding: it’s describing 3 or more occasions when you felt most powerful, or proudest.

These can be personal moments, family related, from your childhood, recent past, academic, sporting, arty, social, community related – anything. It doesn’t matter that they may seem inconsequential or uninteresting. Remember: this is your narrative. It’s not what you think someone else wants to hear. It’s how you feel about these moments that’s important.

What you should do is this: describe the occasion, how it made you feel, and which of your qualities it showcases.

Once you have your collection of strengths and proudest moments, you’re ready to move on to Step 2.

Step 2 is writing your story.

power of a great story

This is where it all comes together. By now you’ve discovered how others see you, and you may also have surprised yourself by discovering some proud moments you’d forgotten. Now to weave it all into a story that will really make you stand out.

Like all good stories, three things matter : the structure, the content and how you tell it.

  • The goal

First, let’s recap the goal – what are you trying to say ? You want to tell the world about your strengths and why they make you valuable.

  • The narrative

But how do you start building your narrative ? I see you staring blankly at your screen, paralysed by writer’s block.

Why not begin with a proud moment ? It might look something like this; a real example inspired by someone we have come across at Interview Advantage:

“Last summer, I worked in a hospice charity shop. A lady walked in and starting telling me about her late husband.”

Now you’ve grabbed the reader’s or interviewer’s attention – they want to know more. So we go on:

“I didn’t feel the time go by but we must have talked for over an hour. At the end she told me how much it had meant to her to be listened to. She said that I had made a real difference to her, and thanked me.”

Now comes the part where you tell the world what that says about you. So we go on:

“I realised then that I was really good at listening to people, and making them feel valued. I love helping people and making a difference to their lives.”

So, now you’ve promoted your strength, and told the reader what drives you, go on to explain why it makes you valuable.

This can be difficult, especially if you’re squeamish about boasting. A great way around this is to use the things others have said about you. So it might sound something like this :

“I’ve been told that I’m really good in a team, because I listen to and understand my team-mates. An example of that was at last year’s Model UN when I helped resolve a dispute between two neighbouring countries. People have also told me that my listening creates trust. That makes it easier for others to value what I say, so I believe that I’m also a good leader.”

You can see what we’ve done here. We started with an anecdote. It may seem trivial but actually it comes across as really powerful. And we showed how it illustrated an important quality about you. And then we explained why that quality makes you valuable to the world. Three easy elements: anecdote, quality, value. That’s your structure.

The content is easy too : you already have all you need from the feedback and proudest moment exercises we described earlier.

And that makes the way you deliver it so convincing as well. You’ve told a story. A personal one. So it’s genuine, compelling and authentic.

Maya Angelou said :

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

So give yourself permission to be yourself. And to tell the world about it. The world will love it.

If you would like to invest in your storytelling, Contact us to enquire about individual support with Interview preparation.

© Interview Advantage Ltd. 2015