Tellin’ stories – how to answer the “Why do you want to be a…” question

For those of us born in the 1970s and 1980s the past week has been a momentous one. Chiefly due to the return of Jackanory in which well known celebrities read childrens stories. That’s it. Nothing complicated. Just the thrill of hearing people who know how to deliver their lines in captivating ways bringing these stories to life.

In fact stories are inherently captivating. There’s a reason why the John Lewis’s and M&S’s of this world don’t just produce Xmas videos showing goods in their store and instead try to create an emotional connection with you by story telling instead.

What’s this got to do with finding a job, you might ask?

Well, during the process of finding that dream job you have one huge opportunity to tell a captivating story about yourself which, because it’s a story and your own story will make you memorable to the people you are applying to. And we all want that, right? Something to help us stand out.

That opportunity is the space on your cover letter or section of the application form or question in the interview where you explain to the employer why you want to be a lawyer/consultant/teacher/nurse/product engineer/etc. Because that desire comes from somewhere and if you give yourself time to reflect on the bits of your life that have been nudging you in that direction and tell that story you’ll be on to a winner. Want an example? See below.

“If I think about it there’s three things that have lead me to want to be a teacher. Firstly I’ll always remember one of my teachers at school who helped one of the people in my class get through their Maths GCSE. I watched her inspire and motivate them through her own passion for the subject and ability to relate to that student. They wouldn’t have got through the course without her. Secondly I’m actually the oldest of my sibilings and there’s a bit of an age gap between myself and them. They’ve always looked up to me and that extended to me helping them with their homework. I’ve always really enjoyed trying to make their homework more interesting for them and seeing the enjoyment they got from learning and doing well. Finally, and it might sound a bit trivial, but the recent TV series Educating Yorkshire reminded me the real difference teachers can make to individuals lives both whilst at school and afterwards. It showed the tough parts as well but you could see the teachers were willing to take the rough with the smooth because they recognised the bigger picture of what they were able to achieve. I want some of that.”

David Gilchrist


  1. Really like this article, engaging recruiters emotionally will make you memorable and linking to the John Lewis advert is a touch of genius.

    • Hi Gill. Thanks very much for your comment and I hope you continue to enjoy following the blog

  2. Great article Dave. Creating a connection with the recruiter holds true at every level – when I look back at the people I have hired over the years (both graduates, to work in the company, and direct hires, to work in my team) I have always felt that connection. 9 times out of 10 it comes from a story, a memorable example in their application form, which they were able to build on during the interview. As you point out our students have a great chance to start telling those stories when they are applying.

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