• Mark Efinger

Developing Your Personal Story

Part IV

If you missed the first three installments of this article, you can find them on

Part IV, continued from last week’s third installment.

Write it out, but do not memorize

You have now identified the building blocks of your most effective personal success story. To present it comfortably and concisely, however, you should write this story out. Then edit it and perfect it. Now read it over many times, but do not memorize it. You will want to know the pieces of the story and the order you have chosen, but you want it to feel as though you are making it up for the first time. The interviewer should get the impression that, while you have thought about why you and this school are right for each other, this very moment is the first time you have had the opportunity to express how perfect it seems in light of your background. Take the time while telling the story to allow each piece of it to come to your mind. The entire story should feel fresh, exciting and effortless -- and last about 3 minutes. Once you have a good tight version, then reduce it to an outline and try telling it out loud in a role-play with your coach. Eventually you should be able to eliminate the outline and, even if your coach offers an unexpected opening question, you can redirect, and still present the story with casual concise confidence.

Finish the story with a question

“Have I answered your question?” “Is there anything else you’d like to know?” Or, if you had initially redirected, you should close by leading back to that question. If, for example, the open-ended question was, “Why do you want to come to X University?”, and you had used your theme of “peer leadership” to re-direct, then you might circle back, “And so, I hope you can see that with the opportunities for peer leadership at X University, why I am so excited to be here with you.” Organizations need to differentiate themselves from their competition. As you investigate websites, look for language that resembles your theme. If your theme and their self-image are aligned, this is even more effective.

Your interviewer will likely have seen countless candidates mumble through this open-ended question with little direction and, too often, no real point. Too many candidates have wasted these golden opportunities by explaining where they have lived, what camps they attended, or even listing jobs they held until they just got tired of talking. Your preparation and direct answer will stand out. Isn’t this the type of first impression you hope to make?

Mark Efinger, is Founder and President of The Interview Skill Coaching Academy. There he publishes blogs focused on Interview Skills. “Developing Your Personal Story” is only one of the major skill necessary to appropriately prepare for any interview.

Mark has twenty-five years of experience training interview candidates to put

their best foot forward when it counts, both for professional interviews and admissions

interviews at selective schools. His clients have achieved offers from Google, Goldman

Sachs, Mobil Oil, First National Bank of Chicago, Harvard, Stamford, Williams College,

Mt Holyoke, Lawrenceville, Andover, and many other institutions. If you would like to see an article on similar topics related to interview skills and techniques, please subscribe on our website: