Let's imagine you are about to talk to an unhappy customer. You've known for the last few days that this awkward conversation was coming and you are dreading it.

Here's another way of looking at the same event.

It's a chance to show how well you can use your professional skills.

Do it well and you can add it to your list of stories to tell next time you go for promotion or apply for another job. Treat every challenging experience as an opportunity to add to your collection of stories you can tell in 30 seconds.

Your future interview panel is likely to ask: 'Tell us about a time when you handled a challenging conversation' or 'Tell us about a time you gave excellent customer service/managed competing demands/worked well with others'. You get the picture.

It's called 'behavioural event interviewing' and it's based on the idea that past perfomance predicts future performance. It's very common. Flawed, but common.


Behavioural event interviewing also tests a candidate's ability to remember relevant examples while stressed. Unless you prepare your stories to tell, your best responses may be in the car on the way home.

Be prepared - a collector of stories. Your technical or academic qualifications may get you the interview, but the stories that prove your so-called soft skills will set you apart from the other candidates.

Work on your CV

Take out your CV and add a table with two columns. On the left write the skills you have. On the right, provide the evidence - refer to the stories you can tell (in shortened form). Each time you have worked through a challenging event, make a note to keep with your CV. You won't show the interview panel your collection of notes, but you can go through them as part of your preparation.

When those interviewers ask, 'Tell us about a time you...', you'll be thinking to yourself, 'Thank you for asking'. It beats a long silence while you search your memory for something to fill it.

Spread the word

Encourage those who report to you to be looking for stories to add to their CVs.

Would you be encouraging them to leave? No. You're encouraging them to stay, to develop their careers while they are with you. That beats leaving early because the work seems overwhelming or unrewarding. Collecting stories is affirming and gives a sense of purpose to the work we do.


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