Most hiring managers use the job interview to determine whether you’re the most qualified candidate, and if you’d fit in. Others use that time to see how well you think on your feet, or if you’re capable of multitasking. And as it turns out, some even use the job interview to test your storytelling abilities.
Lonne Jaffe, chief executive of software company Syncsort, said in a recent New York Times interview with Adam Bryant that he always wants to see how well a job candidate tells a story.
“I’ll talk about the company’s strategy and my background and the nature and challenges of the role they’re interviewing for,” he said. “Then I’ll ask the candidate to go through their prior successes and challenges and major responsibilities and tell that story, partially because I want to see how good they are at storytelling.”
Jaffe tells Business Insider that as long as we’ve had language, storytelling has been a powerful communication tool. “Neurological research has shown that our emotional reaction to stories is deeply rooted in biology,” he says. “In business, creating a compelling narrative is invaluable for motivating a team, explaining strategic priorities in a way that’s easy for others to understand, or communicating complex ideas to customers and prospects. Successful senior-level leaders are good storytellers, and it’s also a very useful skill early on in your career.”
He says he recognized the importance of storytelling early in his career while working at IBM. “I was shadowing one of the top executives in the company, a great leader, and I had the chance to see first-hand how motivating it was when he would craft a vivid story around a concept he was trying to communicate, whether he was talking with the accounting team or the technical support organization,” he tells BI. “From then on, I started to focus on a candidate’s storytelling ability as an integral part of my interview process, regardless of the role.”
Jaffe says storytelling is especially important in the tech industry because technology can be “very complex, and sometimes people find technical details to be somewhat boring.”
“It’s much easier to pay attention to something when you find it interesting, and you are much more likely to focus on technical details when they’re part of a well-crafted narrative,” he says. “In the tech industry, storytelling ability is a critical skill for functions as diverse as software development, sales, strategy, or marketing, since a good story provides historical context, puts priorities in perspective, and clearly lays out a vision for the future.”
He says the ability to listen is equally as important.
“One underappreciated aspect of storytelling is the importance of listening. The best storytellers are continuously evolving their story in response to what they’re learning from their audience,” Jaffe explains. “Listening allows you to craft stories that create a strong emotional connection.”