How to Master a Job Interview (5 Steps to Get that Offer!)

How to Master the Job Interview

Having sat through hundreds of job interviews here is a sad, but important truth to internalize; most interviewees are utterly forgettable. I know that sounds rude, but it’s the truth. After sitting through a dozen interviews in a single day, listening to candidate after candidate give the same canned answers the experience becomes forgettable. Standing out is not always a good thing, but standing out in the right way will definitely set you apart from the pack.

A good job interview consists of telling compelling stories about your professional career which highlights many of your strengths, makes the interviewee a memorable candidate, and makes the interview an enjoyable experience for the interviewers. Giving a good interview requires thought, preparation, and intentionality.

This strategy, which we will call a narrative interview style, is going to rely on telling stories to answer interview questions. People hate listening to the same canned answers over and over, but they love stories! Stories also allow you to pack in a lot more information to the question than just providing a canned answer. After you internalize the importance of this strategy, we will present a mock interview and compare the two styles.


The interview begins before the interview. Your first task is to prepare a dozen or so good stories throughout your career which highlight your strengths and tells as much information as possible about your character and your work ethic. Invest some time in this step. The work you put into this step will directly correlate to the quality of interview you give. Did a client cry on the phone because you went above and beyond to help them? Write that story down. Did you come in on your day off to help the team who could not solve a problem? Write that story down. Did you help two co-workers resolve a conflict? Write it down!

Categorize your Experience

You should collect enough narratives to fill up about an hour of time. After you have your professional stories chosen, categorize them. As a general rule, when deciding on categories stick with what interview often questions may pop up. You might be asked about teamwork, leadership, customer service, conflict resolution, overcoming challenges, etc.

Try to categorize your stories so they could fit in more than one box. For example, that time you came in on your day off to help co-workers solve a problem? That story can be told if you’re asked a question about your work ethic, or if you’re asked a question about being a team player, or if you’re asked a question about being a leader (in our article about Being a Leader without Experience we talk extensively about leadership is solving problems!)

Practice Your Answers

This may sound like generic advice, but it has a purpose. Get as comfortable reciting these answers as possible so you can tell them without even really thinking about it. During your interview, you will be able to recall these stories with ease which will then free you up to make eye contact with the interviewers. You can focus on reflecting their energy and looking for social queues which make them feel more comfortable with you as a person, rather than spending your mental energy trying to recall the details of your story.

Be Authentic

Humans can see through insincerity with remarkable accuracy. Even if they cannot exactly put their finger on how or why you are being insincere, it still can leave them with an awkward, lingering feeling. Authenticity matters. If you were angry because you had to come in on your day off, that’s ok. You still came in. Do not overinflate the story like you were happy to come in and help.

“My team needed me on my day off, so I dropped everything I was doing and came in to help them solve the problem with a smile because that is the kind of person I am.”

-Insincere and Inauthentic-

“I was called in on my day off to help the team solve a problem. Giving up time with my family on the weekend was not my favorite thing, but my team needed me and I was not going to let them down when I knew I could help.”

-A much better statement-

Be Ready For Interview Day

Here are some rapid fire tips which can give you an edge and make you perform at your best on interview day.

  • Get a good night of sleep – Do not underestimate the value of sleep for focus and clarity
  • Do not drink alcohol the night before – Alcohol is very disruptive to your sleep and increases your cortisol (stress hormone) levels in your body.
  • Get a light workout in – Exercise is great for you in so many ways. But don’t overdo it the morning of your interview. Exercise will get your endorphins going and lower your stress level.
  • Make sure you are hydrated – Drink plenty of water the night before and the morning of. Hydration not only helps with mental clarity, but it makes you look healthier, brighter, and more vibrant!
  • Smile – Before your interview, step into the restroom and smile in the mirror. Yes, it feels goofy, but there is extensive research to indicate smiling, even when you are not feeling happy, increases your dopamine and elevates your mood. People can feel your energy, good or bad.

Comparing the Two Interview Styles

Let’s take a look at what interviewers usually sit through versus the narrative approach to interviewing.

Interview QuestionTypical (Canned) Interview AnswerNarrative Interview Answer
What is your biggest weakness?I tend to get focused too much on the details. I want everything to be perfect and that can cause me to spend too much time on projects.My former supervisor was a great coach. She once told me, “you are very creative, and like a lot of creative people you can be disorganized. I need you to learn to be more disciplined with your scheduling, appointments, and tasks. It’s essential to exceling in this role.” I worked for her for six years, and I learned the value of keeping a meticulous appointment book. Today I live and die by my calendar because I know if I fail to write down a reminder I’m prone to forget about it.
What is your attitude about teamwork?Teamwork is very important. I am definitely a team player. I do all I can to foster a team atmosphere and encourage teammates to work together so we can achieve greater results.What teamwork means to me is the time I was called in on my day off to come help my coworkers to solve a difficult problem. We had built that trust together. After trying to talk through the problem on the phone it was evident I was going to have to go into the office. Although I did not want to give up time with my family to go into work, I did anyway because I know my teammates would do the same for me. We worked together and came up with a resolution which was beneficial to all.
How do you deal with conflict in the workplace?I try to be as amicable as possible and have a pleasant attitude. That said I know conflicts arise, but I feel it’s important to communicate with others and see if you can work through the conflict as quickly as possible.A co-worker of mine and I were collaborating on a project once. It seemed like no matter what, we could not agree on anything. This led to some increased tensions which was stalling the project. I invited my co-worker out to coffee to see if we could figure out what was going on. We had a really nice conversation and he shared he felt like I was constantly talking down to him via email. I explained I am often rushed and don’t take the time to put proper salutations and such in email and generally just try to stick to the facts. He was definitely interpreting that as rude and curt. In the end we had a laugh about it and I told him I would certainly be more mindful of that. We then collaborated on how to get the project done in time, agreed on a course of action and actually finished with time to spare.
How important is customer service to you?Customer service is extremely important! Without customers we do not have a business. I believe taking care of our customers is of the utmost importance! Once a man called my office nearly in tears. He said he had been trying to get someone on the phone to help him but kept getting passed around from department to department. When he explained what he needed and how his card had been wrongfully charged and he was facing overdraft charges, I knew I could not help him because it was not my department. I asked the man if he could explain the situation in full detail to me along with the transaction date, time, etc. I wrote all of the information including his number down and told him I would call him back.

I walked down to the processing department and asked my co-worker if she could do me a favor and take a look at the situation. She was happy to help, and so we looked at his account together and indeed found where he was double charged for a large purchase. We reversed the charge and gave him a call from her desk. He was definitely grateful and actually told us we earned a customer for life!

It should be abundantly obvious which interview is better. You have great stories to share about your career. Even the bad times or the losses can be reframed as lessons learned and professional growth! In an interview, people want to meet and know you! So don’t be afraid to tell them your stories. I’ll take a poorly told story, over a well-rehearsed, canned answer any day!

Erik Murrah

Author, nerd, chess player, artist, business owner, runner, mediocre philosopher, outdoorsman. Creator of the Arise Tribe.

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