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Alumni Application Tips: don't just talk, narrate

December 01, 2015

Martin Atassi, A1 Telekom Austria AG, on storytelling at an interview

To really win people's favor, you need to tell them stories. When it comes to illustrating your skills and qualities, creating images in somebody's mind will have an infinitely more powerful effect on him or her than using stock phrases, no matter how eloquent you may be. Good storytellers will always be remembered and will always stand out from the rest. This applies also—and indeed in particular—to MBA interviews.

Not everyone is born with the ability to tell enthralling real-life stories. The good news, though, is that you can practice your narrative skills.  

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Making your story interesting for an audience is a skill which can be practiced.

Give it a try in everyday life: during a business meal with a client, while calling your mother or the next time you happen to make somebody's acquaintance. Think about what you want to tell the other person, and craft an exciting story to get the message across. You have two little daughters? Recount the particularly fun moment that occurred two days ago while you were having breakfast. You are a creative person? Tell your interlocutor about how you helped your team get out of a tricky situation by proposing a completely new approach. While you are telling your stories, people will learn more about you. Moreover, they will put themselves in your shoes and will perceive the things you narrate as shared experiences.

A word of warning, though: Storytellers are no fabulists. Untruths can never be told in as authentic a manner as the truth. What is more, there is absolutely no reason to make things up: In our professional and private lives, we all experience and observe exciting moments waiting to be shared with others. However, some people find it easier than others to notice them. So make a conscious effort to discover stories and use them to your advantage at the right time.

In the run-up to your interview, thorough preparation is crucial. Start by asking yourself which of your qualities will be of particular interest to the business school. The fact that you are resilient might be one example. When, during the interview, you get asked "Do you think you will manage to strike a good balance between your professional and academic commitments?" do not just say "Yes, I do." in reply. Instead, tell a personal story to add credibility to your answer. Say, for instance: "I am very optimistic in this regard because I manage pressure well and am used to juggling many tasks at the same time successfully. Last year, for example, I was in the midst of the most stressful phase of my project when I accepted the additional responsibility of ..."

So you see, if you convey the important information that you want people to know about you by means of suitable stories, you will be all set for a successful interview!  

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