Telling Your Story

<<Previous: Thinking Like a Recruiter

So far we’ve been talking about how to best set yourself up to target the right companies. You’ve researched what industries are a good fit for you based on some serious self-reflection and have a sense of what your top two or three roles to focus on will be. After a few weeks at business school the rubber starts to meet the road and recruiting begins to occupy more and more time and mental energy. Companies are coming to campus, alumni are reaching out, and your classmates are all talking about the latest news and developments with recruiting. In the midst of all this activity, it’s important to focus on the foundation of your recruiting and networking: your story.

While each of us could fill books with our thoughts, hopes, dreams, and experiences, what does storytelling mean in the context of the MBA job search? It comes down to being able to effectively articulate two things:

  1. Why you are interested in the company
  2. Why they should be interested in you.

Sometimes you’ll be telling your story over the phone to a distracted alumnus who was nice enough to take a quick networking call from you in the middle of his busy day. Or you might find yourself chatting up a recruiter at a job fair. Maybe you get lucky enough to be seated next to the CFO of your dream company at a dinner. In each of these cases they way you tell your story might differ, but the core content will remain the same. You must know your value proposition and how it aligns with what the company is looking for.

There’s an important concept with storytelling not every MBA candidate picks up on right away, and we want to reiterate it from the previous section. Your story isn’t really about you or what you want. It’s about what the company you’re recruiting for wants and needs. Everything you include in your story should be focused on this. Of course, to be effective and memorable you’ll need to include personal details about your experience, but if the person you’re talking to doesn’t have a clear understanding of what’s in it for them you’re unlikely to make it very far in the process.

A good story will come with practice. Your tone should be confident but not overly so. Transitions are important: explaining why you left one job for another, or why you came to business school can offer insight into your path and decision-making that the recruiter can identify with. A good story has a beginning, middle, and end, and in this case the end should be why you want to work at the company and why they should want to hire you.

As you reflect back on your academic, work, and personal experience, think of how they all link together to define you as a professional. Work with friends, classmates, family members, and career coaches at your school to practice refining key elements of your story. Once you have the basic components down, you will need to practice different versions of your story. If you’re grabbing a recruiter’s attention at the end of a company briefing, you’ll want to keep it to a short twenty or thirty seconds. If you have the chance to meet with a company representative at office hours one-on-one, you’ll want to go into more detail, perhaps for a minute and a half or two. Practice will make you comfortable and confident in telling your story in different contexts.

Next: Networking 101>>