Your opening (interview) line: 10 tips for a strong performance

Written by: Laura Paradise
Published on: Jun 15, 2023

handshake interview clear

The expression, “This is not a dress rehearsal,” absolutely applies to interviews – in more ways than one. Yes, interviews are the time when you are center stage. Yes, what you say then and there matters. And no, you may not get a second chance.

What you may not know is that, like an actor, your interview responses will be better when you have opening lines and closing lines. In addition to helping you speak with strength, this approach will sharpen your stories and capture the attention of interviewers. You always want to be thinking about what they will remember: Strong opening and closing lines reinforce your message!

Try these tips when creating your openers and closers:

  • Start your story with the outcome, benefit, or result, and then back-fill by telling how you accomplished that outcome.

  • Make sure you have clear messages. Make a list of what you want the interviewer to remember about you, and then think about stories that illustrate each point.

  • Make your point exceedingly obvious. Start with, “I’m going to tell you a story about how I…,” and close by saying, “That’s how I …”

  • Preview what you’re going to tell them. Start your story as if you both agree about what’s important: “In this field, you know how important it is to do … here’s how I did that.” This approach tells them that you know what’s important and also presumes you are both on the same page.

  • Start with these phrases: “I’m the person who,” “People who work with me would say,” “I’m known for,” and “I was responsible for.”

  • Try metaphors and visual images that demonstrate contrast; for example, “I took a project from x to y.”

  • Ask others to give you a headline: Tell your stories to friends and colleagues, and ask them to tell you the elements that stood out to them.

  • Address the bottom line: “At essence, here’s what I did,” or, “Here’s what changed.”

  • Tie your opening and closing lines together, so you start with a statement and conclude by reminding them of that key point.

  • When developing stories, focus on your opening and your closing. Don’t try to memorize all the details!

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Laura Paradise is a certified career coach specializing in career searches and leadership advancement who shares her expertise on the Career Search Wisdom blog.

This story originally appeared in a slightly different form on Laura Paradise’s blog.


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