Illustrative Speaking in Your Promotional Oral Interview

Certainly one of the primary performance objectives in the oral interview is to be distinct and disunited from the assembly line of others who are competing for your promotion. Panel members are looking for a diamond amongst a pile of rocks.

A very powerful technique, often overlooked or underused, is illustrative speaking. Reciting a memorized definition of leadership; describing pre-scripted motivation techniques; or discussing supervisory styles are fine, however such average descriptions pale in comparison when they are exemplified through real-life examples or verbal pictures so lucid that the panel can see what you saw or feel what you felt.

Using ethics as an example, most candidates might describe integrity by using the cliché; “Integrity is doing the right thing when nobody else is watching”. This is a nice statement, but does it really define integrity? Others will define integrity with other ethical descriptors such as being honest, having high morals, or possessing strong values; all of which help to describe integrity, but even collectively, cannot define it.

Using illustrative speaking, integrity might be defined as a gun safe that can never be breached or compromised; it’s a nuclear submarine with no crush depth and no crack will breach the hull, no nut will fail under the pressure, and no water will compromise the sub’s interior; it’s a line of police officers standing shoulder to shoulder linked holding back a riotous mob, none of whom can get through the integrity of the line. Illustrations such as these are followed by a concise definition; Integrity is uncompromising completeness and wholeness that cannot be breached.

Now, instead of the panel members merely hearing the words honesty, doing the right thing, principles, and values, they are visualizing a sturdy gun safe; they are seeing a submarine deep below the ocean’s surface prevailing against the great pressure; they are remembering when they were once shoulder to shoulder with other officers during civil unrest or that large party call that turned violent. Panel members are not only hearing what you say, they are seeing it as well and that is powerful communication and this technique can be used with any subject.

Equally effective to illustrative speaking-the use of metaphors and analogies-are the use of real-life examples. For example a candidate may respond to a question about motivation by not only defining it, but also describing in specific detail how he used several techniques to successfully motivate others in the past. This represents a candidate who has been there and done that and illustrates tangible experience. Lastly, the candidate might identify this experience as a valuable and needed characteristic of the position he or she is competing for.

Illustrative speaking, used correctly, can be very powerful and it allows the candidate’s words and descriptions to come to life, enabling the panel to see the answer as well as hear it. Compare an interview response that provides only a definition to one that offers a descriptive illustration, followed by a concise definition, and then supported by a true-life example and the choice is clear. Test well!