Make a stronger impact at job interviews by using compelling, convincing anecdotes.

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A lot of us look at job interviews as a series of questions that we have to know the right answers to, like on a test. Preparation consists of anticipating those questions and then devising, even memorizing, our answers.

And it’s not a bad approach.

But what if there were a way to turbocharge those answers to make them more memorable, engaging and persuasive? After all, a job-winning interview is more than just an examination or, worse, interrogation. It is most of all a conversation in which two parties form a true human connection.

One really effective way to develop that conversational tone is through telling stories. After all, humans are hard-wired to love and relate to stories. Stories are in fact how information has been transmitted for many centuries. So why not harness this powerful technique for yourself?

Say an interviewer asks, “How long have you been using Excel?” You could reply, “Six years,” and be done with it. But you could add much more information and impact if you said something like, “I first learned Excel in 2010. At my last job we used it a lot. In fact, at first I was the only person who knew how to use it, but then I had the idea of mentoring others to bring them up to speed, until everyone else could easily use the program. Productivity went way up after that, my boss told me, and time spent fixing errors was cut by 60 percent.”

See? You made what could be a ho-hum answer into a compelling, classic little tale with a problem (not enough people knew how to use Excel), a solution (you shared your mad Excel skills) and a happy ending (higher productivity, fewer errors, impressed boss).

Spend some time developing stories that succinctly answer the most likely questions you’ll get — how do you handle stress, what are your leadership skills, tell us about a time you failed at something, do you function well in a team, etc. Be specific. Don’t ramble. Practice so that you can clearly and audibly tell each story in under a minute. Remember that interviewers will ask for more detail if they’re interested.

Hint: When you can, use numbers. Numbers make your job stories more powerful, distinctive, convincing and impressive.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at