By Kerry Roberts

When I was in the throes of the competitive recruiting days at the end of University, I created a spreadsheet to help me prepare for interviews (yes, I was, and still am a total geek).  I have used this tool in every interview since – with a pretty good success rate.  I have shared it with friends, and my Mom, a College Professor even built it into her course curriculum. 

The philosophy behind my “STORY Cheat-sheet” is that it takes the pressure off thinking in-the-moment while you are in the job interview.  It builds an entire a la carte menu of your own personal STORY(ies) to use in situational questions and leaves you free in the interview to relax, smile, and worry about whether you are sitting up straight . . . much easier than worrying about how to answer a tough question. 

I’ll describe the STORY tool here, and have a link to a blank one for you at the bottom:

STEP 1:  Make a list of all your Roles, Jobs or Very Cool Life Experiences.  (if you took a year off to build homes in Africa, keep it on the list)

STEP 2:  For each job/experience, write 1 or 2 things that are most memorable, that you are most proud of accomplishing while in that role.  These will be the titles of your ‘stories’.

STEP 3:  Now for each ‘story’ – make 5 bullets (S, T, O, R, Y). 

  • S – Situation:  set the context, what was going on around you at the time.
  • T – Task:  what were you challenged to do?
  • O – Operationalize:  what action did you take to make change, improve or build?  Showcase that you can ‘do’ as well as think and lead.
  • R – Result:  what was the measurable outcome, increased business, morale, efficiency?
  • Y – You:  what did you learn, what skills did you take away, what were you proud of?

STEP 4:  Now step back and reflect on your STORY(ies).  Make a list of the competencies or skills that you think each demonstrates.  Most Stories can be linked to several different skills.  Here’s a list of some common situational skills employers often look for (you know the “tell me about a time when you demonstrated . . . “  kinds of questions)

  • Initiative
  • Creative Problem Solving
  • Working through Conflict
  • Leading a Team
  • Innovative thinking
  • Managing ambiguity
  • Meeting tight deadlines
  • Influencing others/Selling your ideas

Here’s a blank STORY Cheatsheet with Example to get you started.

I hope it is as helpful to you as it has been for me (it landed me a job at SW+A  after all!).   

If you have any feedback, or want to post your own tools please do so in the comments below to help others.  Best of luck!