« Welcome to the New Way to Work | Main | Results 2.0 »


Heather Mundell

Wow, I truly enjoyed this original take on job interviewing. Simply shifting perspective to engaging in a shared narrative makes the entire interaction much more interesting, powerful and human.

Walter Akana

Hi Heather!

Thanks for your terrific feedback! I’ve been working on a great project developing a career management workshop, and have been shifting my perspective quite a lot!

In that context, it first occurred to me that a job interview was a special case of telling your career story – but it’s more.

A conversational interview with examples from both the interviewer and the candidate really is a shared narrative that allows for bonding and finding the best fit!

Chandlee Bryan


This is great stuff. I too believe in the power of narrative and storytelling in interviewing. In fact, I'm working with an organization in NYC that focuses on how individuals and companies can tell their stories. Check out narativ.com and I'll introduce you the next time you are in New York!

All the Best,

Walter Akana

Hi Chandlee! Thanks for your comment!

I’ve checked out narativ.com, and am impressed. By way of background, I’ve been working with a partner on a career development workshop, and we see narrative as an increasingly important skill in career management. It drives bonding across all relationships, with the interview being a special case of shared storytelling and bonding.

I’m pleased to hear that you’re working in this area as well! Look forward to comparing notes; and of course, meeting the folks at narativ.com!!

Career Sherpa

Your big picture insight is refreshing!
Taking the emphasis off of the "selling yourself" and putting it on fit and belonging really forces the job seeker to shift their thinking. And how neatly you tied in the concept of dialogue/information exchange in social media as another way of managing a career. This post is very powerful! Its a keeper!

Walter Akana

Hi Hannah!

Thanks for commenting on this post! Glad it’s a keeper :-)

Interestingly, I think it’s always been about the shared narrative, but we’ve been so wrapped up in techniques and strategies to see it! This is not to say that traditional advice on interviewing is unimportant.

Yet, I do think it’s helpful to see elements of career management in a new and refreshing way.

Rethinking how we connect and maintain relationships in all parts of our lives is, I think, one of the clear benefits of a world increasingly driven by social media.



In addition to an insightful post that makes us all think about the bigger picture, I like how you've provided some rich references, e.g., shared narrative portal and video on social networking in plain English.

I especially like how you've framed the interview as a moment in time when the candidate should be considering the fit with the long-term management of their career. You are right that it's not just about a job.

I also appreciate how you've made the leap from story-telling to story-sharing. A good story teller will find something that is common to the human experience, something that binds the teller to the listener. What a brilliant idea to use this concept in the context of a job interview and in determining fit with company culture!

Chandlee--thanks for telling us about narativ.com. I took a look at the site and love what it's about. Wondering if you are familiar with the book, The Leader's Guide to Storytelling, by Stephen Denning? It's a great read and reference.

One last comment. I continue to see the threads of a conversation-centric society, fueled by social media. Job interviews are just one aspect of that conversation. Thanks, again, Walter, for a thought-provoking post.

Walter Akana

Carol, thanks commenting on this post! I really appreciate your terrific feedback!

As we’ve so often discussed, finding ways to “tell your story” as a tool for connecting with others and managing your career is becoming an increasingly important skill set for folks. Having a great online profile and a great elevator pitch are just two of the ways we see story-telling showing up. On some level, I think that we could all benefit from thinking about our careers as an unfolding story. Not only can our “back story” generate interest and connection, but also helps us to consider how we want to write the next chapter.

Yet, it’s really in the sharing of stories across a wide array of career activities that people bond. And a job interview is another instance of this! Of course, it isn’t a simple matter of heading off for the campfire to trade stories. People still need to be well prepared to tell stories that will be relevant to their audience. As well, they need to be prepared to ask great questions – ones that will get the interviewer to share his or her stories as well. To the extent this sharing happens, it opens the door to recognition of common human experiences. And ideally, it generates important signals of the rightness of the cultural fit.

I think shared narrative has always been a factor in career management generally, and job interviews in particular – but perhaps mostly overshadowed by concerns with interview strategies/techniques for hiring manages and job seekers alike. Thankfully, our "conversation-centric society, fueled by social media," is enabling – and perhaps even demanding – more human connection. It’s a powerful as well as refreshing trend!

Thanks for noting the value of links to the shared narrative portal and video on social networking in plain English. I love when I can integrate links to resources that enrich the post, and hopefully support readers in finding new, interesting, and relevant information. I appreciate your adding a resource of your own! I’ll be checking out “The Leader's Guide to Storytelling” by Stephen Denning.

Gayle Howard

Love it Walter. Another beautifully written article! There is nothing more beautiful (well in communication terms) than two human beings in sync and truly communicating by sharing stories. I've seen it happen, I've felt it happen at interviews; that instant rapport when you know that the person with whom you are speaking suddenly "gets" you and shares your experiences. Those are the interviews where the candidate practically floats out the door after an enthusiastic handshake and the interviewer has a smile on his face from ear-to-ear.

However, there is a saying "It's hard to fly like an eagle when you're surrounded by turkeys" and they can be the real troublesome interviews, when our clients, coached and filled with entertaining and insightful stories, have the misfortune to meet disinterested HR Robot Interviewer with his set of questions on paper on which he will not deviate. No amount of giving by our clients can reach these impenetrable brick walls! There are many interviewers who can learn a thing or two about communication!

Walter Akana

Hi Gayle! Thanks for your great comment!

You’ve so beautifully describe the optimal outcome of a great connection during the course of the interview. Certainly, that would be a very strong indicator of fit and a very promising step forward.

And yet, you have certainly hit the all to common reality of the rigid interveiwer. There are absolutely those instances where a highly scripted interviewer will want to follow a predetermined series of questions with little deviation. And yes, remain unaffected no matter how warm and engaging the candidate is.

This is an unfortunate fact of life in career transition. And I think the first thing we need to do is to recognize and prepare for it. There are strategies a candidate might use to better engage the interviewer; among them: (1) a compelling “tell me about yourself” statement; (2) asking the interviewer to say a little about his/her background; (2) finding ways to insert questions about the interviewer’s experiece in the organization (e.g., follow up, “How would you describe the culture of the company?” “What do you most enjoy about working here?”).

These strategies won’t always work. And if rapport doesn’t develop, it may simply be that the chemistry is not there. On the other hand, and of even bigger concern, is that this could be a huge red flag about the culture of the company. And if that first interview is in HR, then the Candidate needs to be alert for other red flags as the process moves forward.

Let’s face it, going on an interview is as much an opportunity for you to assess the company as it is for the company to assess you. To that end, it’s your responsibility to work toward sharing and seeking out the stories that create bonds. If the interviewer can’t be engaged, you’d probably do well to move on.


Thanks for this useful information that you have been shared to us readers. I am looking forward for your next post!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Threshold Consulting

  • Walter Akana is a Career/Life Strategist who works exclusively with mid-career professionals who want to achieve more self-direction and satisfaction in their careers and lives. He is Reach certified as a Personal Branding and Online Identity strategist, and is a Reach Keynote Speaker




LinkedIn Profile