The art of storytelling in nurse interviews: How to be truly memorable
What makes a great story?
Each story resonates with every individual in a different way, but truly memorable stories are crafted in a way that strikes similar chords deep within the heart of every listener.
In this post, I will show you examples of great stories, the tactics the writers used to make them stick in your memory for years, and how you can use storytelling to land your dream job.
One of the best animated films of all-time, Disney Pixar’s Up had one scene that stood out above all others:
Ellie, the wife of the main character Carl, was trying to climb a hill where they had made countless memories throughout their lives….when she suddenly collapses.
There isn’t a pair of eyes on the planet that didn’t well up with tears when they watched that scene for the first time.
I may have shed a tear or two when writing this section (though I'll never admit it). And I saw that movie over 6 years ago.
The overpowering feeling we have choking up our throats as Carl futilely reaches out for Ellie who is a world apart is the result of what Oren Klaff defines in his must-read book Pitch Anything as Setting the Frame.
In Klaff’s book, he describes a method of using storytelling to hijack a listener’s brain to “recapture and hold audience attention.” This tactic, dubbed the Intrigue Frame, is a mind-hack that you can use to own your interviews.
It requires the following elements:
- It must be brief
- The protagonist must be at the center of the story
- There should be risk, danger, and uncertainty
- There should be time pressure
- There should be tension
- There should be serious consequences
Note how the scene in Up nails every single one of those elements.
Carl and Ellie were the focal points of the opening sequence, a whirlwind of scenes that summarized decades in just a few minutes.
The risk, danger, uncertainty, time pressure, tension, and serious consequences were all felt in a single moment as Ellie collapsed to the ground.
At some point in our lives, everyone in the audience has felt what Carl felt. An unconditional love that grips us so tightly, when it's ripped away it feels like our heart is being torn out.
You can see why it’s so easy for everyone to empathize with Carl when he loses the love of his life.
The master storytellers behind Up use a single thread to weave an audience of all ages together, tethering us to Carl, leaving us feeling compelled to ride along his journey to the very end; They set the frame.
They made us care.
How to answer an interview question with a story.
In the book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, best-selling author Donald Miller distills a story into 3 simple parts:
- A Protagonist
- An Obstacle
- A Transformation.
Using this framework when crafting a story for an interview will help transform a complicated art like storytelling into an easily repeatable template.
You can try to forgo practicing your interview responses, and just wing it, but I can tell you from personal experience, ad-libbing stories in a high-pressure interview is a sure-fire way to experience your interview panel start to check their phones, stare at the clock, or even worse, nod off as you stumble, mutter, and ramble your way back to the unemployment line.
Alternatively, a well-crafted story, polished to perfection, will make you so memorable that it will be impossible to forget your name when the hiring decision is made.
Further Reading: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
Practice, Practice, then Practice More.
Telling a good story is hard, but the good news is that your audience are all adults and they are much easier to captivate than the children watching Pixar movies, especially when they are locked in a room with you and it’s considered rude not to pay attention.
Here are the steps for crafting stories for common interview questions:
- Write down a list of every positive characteristic that defines you (e.g. perfectionist, hard-working, dependable, intelligent)
- Narrow the list down to the top 10-12 traits
- Think of a story you have that exemplifies each trait.
- Make sure the story: has you at the center of the tale, describes an obstacle, and details your transformation.
- Record yourself telling the story, and time it.
- Cut your story down so it can be told in 3-5 minutes.
- Write on an index card the main points of the story that are critical to it's success.
- Practice delivering the speech only referring to the index card.
- Repeat until you can deliver the speech without the index card.
- You are now ready to interview.
Showtime: Real Interview Scenarios
This is a question that I received in a recent interview, and my response:
"What are your biggest Strengths? Weaknesses?"
"My biggest strength is my ability to do whatever it takes to solve a problem I'm given.
No matter how difficult it gets, I will find a way to get the job done:
During one of my many arduous night shifts as a new grad, I was in charge of Mrs. B's care, an elderly diabetic with a habit of bottoming out her blood sugar.
Her sugar was so out of control she lost consciousness twice in one shift, dropping below the 50s.
As my shift was winding down, and my morning meds given, I sat at her bedside, physically and mentally exhausted, and I asked her:
"Mrs. B, you said you lived a long and happy life, that if you died today you would go happy, with no regrets, So I gotta ask...
What's your secret? What is the secret to happiness?"
The advice she gave me was so simple, and it changed my life forever.
What is Your Story?
Have a story that you think you could use in an interview?
Tell us in the comment section below!