Interview Storytime |

We all know the importance of telling stories during interviews but Kurian Tharakan takes it up another notch in this interview. His book is “The 7 Essential Stories Charismatic Leaders Tell.”

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So, my guest today is Kruian Tharakan. He's the founder of sales and marketing strategy, firm strategy, peak sales and marketing advisors, a 27 year veteran of the industry, where he's consulted the companies in many sectors. He's also the author of the Amazon bestseller, the seven essential stories charismatic leaders tells which details how anyone can move mountains, so, it is a power of story. Sir, how are you?

Thanks for having me on Jeff. This is going to be a treat.

I hope it's going to be a treat. After all, it may not be Halloween, but we don't want to do tricks yet. So, with that being the case and we're talking about story, bringing this into the job search experience. I know you got seven stories in the book. So, why is your story so important?

Stories are the way we humans relate to our world. In fact, the only way you can convey meaning and understanding to anything, let alone convey that to people, convey that to yourself is through the stories we tell. So, a bland set of facts are just facts. But the meaning is imparted by the story we tell ourselves and other people. That's why it's so important to be good at storytelling.

For job hunters, obviously, they're places in the interview, where they can tell stories. Is there a typical construct to the story or a formula to storytelling?

There are several formulas to storytelling. If you put storytelling formula into Google, you're going to come up with a bunch of them. That's probably not the most important part though. Because the simplest thing is the beginning, middle and well, that doesn't really help you that much, then you go to a Pixar formula and it would be something as simple as everything was fine, then something happened. I was sent on a journey, a whole bunch of models happened. Then I found Nemo, and we all lived happily ever.

Thank goodness, we don't want anything happening to Nemo.

Don't let anything happen to Nemo. Then of course, you can go into the big myths out of Greece, Rome and Asia, and they would all follow the storytelling process. It's called the hero's journey. You'll see that in things like Star Wars. George Lucas consulted with Joseph Campbell heavily on the construction of myth before he started writing Star Wars. So, you're going to see that deeply embedded that whole monomyth Hero's Journey format in there, it is very complex, but we don't need to get that complex, you just need to tell. It's more important to understand the stories to tell, especially stories that won't bore people, but that'll keep their attention, increase their intrigue, and provoke their curiosity.

For example!

How's this one? Was that a nice setup for you? For example, okay, well, let's relate it back to a job searcher's process. So, let's say, you're right up at the interview, and right at that point in time, you've got past the initial gate, you're in front up perhaps one of the decision makers, if it's only the HR team, maybe it's not the eventual boss, but you need to have something that stands out beyond your resume. Now, the resume got you in the door, but it will not keep you in the process. Because one of the things they're testing for at that point is whether the resume matches up with the expectations in the mind to what you are presenting. Now, you can just do that and by itself, you can just do that. You have fulfilled the expectations that you are the same person that the resume says you are or you can make it come alive.

Now what do we say? How do we make things come alive? Facts are what are on a resume; meaning is delivered by the story. In the book, we have the books, a leadership book, and in fact, if you're ever going to rise in the company, you should have some aspect of leadership skills, if only to lead yourself into getting the projects done. You're dependable that you have insight to the project, those kinds of things. So, the book is about leadership. The same principles apply to any kind of situation where leadership skills are a requirement. So, you can use one of the clearest stories that I asked people to use this story number five, and story five is all about the mighty wind. Now what is a mighty wind? All businesses, I say are like sail boats, the sail ships. Sailing has been around for millennia.

Almost every culture in the world has contributed to the advance of sailing technology, because it's such a vital means of transportation was for millennia. So, sailboats, though, require one critical thing, wind. Now the problem is that most companies get started without any real assertion as to ascertainment as to what's the direction of the wind, the power of the wind, the availability of the wind and the ship is being built. Well, why don't you find the wind first and then build a sailboat to take advantage of direction power availability, that's the way to really do it. Now, here's how you apply that in a job searching standpoint, in that kind of viewpoint. These winds, as I talked about, they're all about macro trends in the marketplace and the trends, the big ones, the state, the winds of power, the sailboats sales are things like societal winds, technological winds, economic, environmental, political and legislative, six big macro winds. Those winds can either power for the ship, not powered at all refuse to build those sails or capsize the boat. So, it creates tsunamis of opportunities and tidal waves of destruction in its wake. There's a variety of different stories you can tell. For example, did you know that there were almost 4000 car manufacturers that have existed in the United States, since the 1880's 1890's.

Thousands of manufacturers which have all come together now, in about four companies, you have Thor, you have General Motors, you have Chrysler, some of these big guys from overseas and things like that, Daimler- Benz, but all of these companies, or 1000, companies, whittle down to now these big players. Now, what's happened in the meantime, though, that process of building cars in the US, and then making the cars affordable, which allowed things like urbanization to take place, which allowed things like homeownership and middle classes to arise, and make the home affordable, the whole fast food craze was started as a result of the availability of the car. No one came up to the McDonald's in the horse drawn carriage. What's going on is you take a look at this entire tidal wave of opportunities that have come about.

In fact, with that tidal wave opportunity was also tsunamis of destruction. The major means of transport prior to the 1890's, 1910's was the horse. With that, you have to go through all these kinds of things and take a look at what industries are being destroyed. The horse industry is not as prolific as he used to be. The car industry is way up and all the sub industries around that, if you as a job search applicant, have those deep insights as to the macro trends that are powering your industries, your markets, the competition, you completely stand out in front in my mind, as somebody being different than any other just simple job search applicant.

So, when I coach people, I'm aware that there's a limited attention span that listeners have, unless you grip them early, and demonstrate to the audience because I do think of it as like theatre. I talk about the theatre of interviewing as part of a way I coach. So, if someone is answering a question, I try to get them down to about 15 minutes where they have to hit certain points, and then ask for permission to go deeper with the answer because I'm always concerned that the audience tuning people out. So, in a typical story, like Amazon uses a star framework, that's what they want to hear other people normally at a manager level and above all suggest soar, which is situation objective action result, with a metric being the result and then for C suite, it becomes problem action result. Now, I'll start off with people trying to hit the markers. The classic example of a story is I took over a project and it was at the time I took over at my predecessor left on short notice. When I took it over, we were three weeks behind. It had to be done with him and had to be done. So, that becomes a situation they step into. What the objective is there has to be done by water. Now, I'm doing cowboy movies here, I'm writing it on the horse to save the day. You've got the bounce going, that's good. I like that. Absolutely, I have to be, this is theatre, and you have to entertain. So, what I did was, I met with users, but that person understood from my team that I was taking over what the issues were, it's going to get late, got their buy in, and their commitment that we're going to deliver this. We did complete three days early. As it happens in most stories, we lived happily ever after.

Nemo, Finding Nemo, you found Nemo!

From there, I also realized I can go more in detail about how I did some of these things which sounds like a perfect saga way in to some of the texture you are talking about. The texture is really important and I also know some people don�t want to hear it.

You want me to comment on the fact that I find those are much commoditized ingredients because at that point in time, you're just trying to qualify the candidate in or out. But if you really want to work for somebody, and they really want to work for you, you have to get to know their world view. You got to get to know their lens of how they see things. The only way you're going to be able to do that is through the stories you tell each other. Let�s you tap the heart and heartfelt stories, you tap the heart, tap your soul, tap your vision, when it comes to you the way you see the world from a viewpoint, brain wise, there's a lot of things.

So, in using the example of big wind, that kind of a story! So, as we're now heading on to the first piece, now the one that basically says, okay, you want to hear the facts, let me tell you the facts. So, this is where I was when we started, blah, blah, blah and we all lived happily ever after and the client was happy. They wrote letters of recommendation, got a spot bonus for it wonderful and we delivered three days early, helped the client make X number of dollars, saved y number of dollars, whatever it is, or a certain percentage improvement.

I can go into more detail about how we did that.

Sure. Okay! Then we construct the follow up story which has more texture. If you could offer an example of one, I know you know how to make up stuff on this by your sales and marketing guide.

I'm going to try, so, here's an example. So, let's see if we can do this. I was actually in a recent situation. So, I'm going to be pretending that I'm going to interview for a job as a senior manager at someplace and I'm going to defuse and tell you a story about how I defuse the conflict between two of my employees. Okay, how does that sound? Okay, what I realized when I went into that particular situation, and although conflicts didn't happen much of my team, I think it's an inevitability that teams do have conflicts from time to time. So, I sat down with both my guys. So, I had Don on one side and Tom on the other. I asked them to tell me what was going on. But then I did something a little different. I asked Don to tell me what Tom's viewpoint was.

Then I asked Tom whether he agreed with Don's assessment, whether he got that record, then I reversed it, Tom, you tell me what Don is talking about and they went back and forth on that. When they were actually enunciating each other's viewpoints, they actually saw each other's viewpoints. Although it wasn't a perfect resolution at the end of it, what both of them realized is that the situation was based on facts, but it's ultimately rooted in feelings and those feelings are something that you have to bring out. So, before conflict can be resolved, it can't just be a facts, you have to get to the underlying context of the emotions that are driving the conflict and that was one of the ways that I did it. So, that's a great little example of using this is, tell me what the other person's viewpoint is all about.

Some special notice that he did was, number one, he was concise. So, his description was not this 10 minute monologue that's going to put people to sleep, but it was text. So, you can understand what the situation was, and how we approached it. Now, I want to distinguish between the story that I told, which was, tell me about a time where you have accomplished something in particular, versus this is a different type of behavioral interview question, which, in the case that you added with problem between two co-workers. How do you resolve that? I tend to view the moral emotion connecting stories with this kind of behavioral interview question. Because everyone's been there, everyone's had to deal with conflict between subordinates; everyone's had to deal with the problem customer.

I think one of the first sales training stories was about the rookie salesperson that�s being sent across the street, no one's ever sold this guy. Actually, they're selling them to the easy one, to have them to a win. He's all pumped, he's got his training techniques, and he's learned his thing, he comes back with the order and the sales manager looks at and goes, that is the mean guy. How did you do it because no one's been able to do it, because they're all psyched out by the guy and he got the point? There are levels, the behavioral interview stories, in terms of where you go with this stuff and where you can create that kind of connection. Now, I did the abridged version of that because, again, this is a three minute story.

Yeah, be concise, but get the point across, but with enough intrigue to it that keeps people's attention.

One of the things I noticed is when you told a story, you had animation in your face. I did the same thing on my site. So, there's an energy that should communicate when you tell the stories that demonstrates pride in what you did.

Yeah, absolutely! Well, people often ask me, why did I choose the word, charismatic in my title, in the seven Central Stores, charismatic people, charismatic leaders. One of the reasons why is that one of the first definitions of charisma that I read, and it's not the complete definition, but I thought it was pretty concise. It is all about making other people alive. So, charisma is about not you, but making other people come alive, recognizing their own possibility, they shine in your presence, you know, and so, that's a big part of this. So, when you are communicating, whether it be in a job interview, whether it be in front of 10,000 people, you are in the energy transfer business, you are in the enthusiasm, passion, transfer business and when you do that, you make people come alive.

This is about inspiration, more than anything. Could you tell us another story, please! Without the milk and cookies, please, we're not going to bed yet. But still, another example of a story that can get pulled into an interview scenario.

Another story of an interview scenario what I find is that when I conduct interviews, everybody's got the wind story and how they rescued the project and this and that, and everything else and it becomes a little rote. After a while, we always expect somebody to be the superhero. Of course, we know not everybody is a superhero. Now, you got to be a little careful with this. But I would also like to hear about things that you tried, that didn't quite work out the way you want to do. But the lesson you learned from it. What was the lesson that you learned from it? So, let me see if I can think of something from my time. If I were to go back to when I was a very young, it was in my 19, 20�s interviews, I just didn't know better. I had started a little company. It was my company. I was the president of the company. I was also the sole employee of the company. I had a little computer consulting business. Now, way back when 1985, 86, something like that, I remember going and interviewing for a job at a computer store. This is a time when you were buying $20,000 computers for with 640 kilobytes, powerful, perfect, a hard drive with 20 megabytes of storage. You can make lots of money on those things as well. So, I'm 20, 22 years old, and have this company. I'm the president, and legitimately, that's all true. The interviewer that I had is old salt sales guy and I asked him how did you get into this business, and he told me a lot. So, we were in the right place, I really wanted to get into this side of the business and he asked me a question about my resume. So, he said Kurian, I see you are president of your company.

Okay, so tell me what a president does in your business, and all I can do is, ah, because the everything I do is actually the stuff that an sole employee would, what does your job be all about? What is installing software, troubleshooting, the connections, that kind of stuff? It was the first time I realized that I have to be not only factually correct, but I have to be in a way I have to be, the actual insights that people want from it in the sense of president which means something more than sole employee. So, I can say that if I want to, but is it really true? So, that was an example of something that I never did again. I was completely upfront on those resumes at that point, president, and I would put down and sole employee and then people praised me on my entrepreneurial skills, then at that point, it led the conversation in different directions.

For job hunter, one of the things is demonstrators. In your case, there was a TV character, way back, and his thing is, when he was confronted, he would go homina, homina, homina.

Yeah, right. I remember that.

Yeah. I didn't know. So, I didn't want to bring up names. So you had your homina moment?

Absolutely! It caught me unaware and I am glad I had that lesson.

Thus, there's a way to tell that story. I'm trying to illustrate it in my manner here. Because what I did was I slowed down and spaced my statements a little bit more, because it suggests sincerity. Again, part of the theatre, we will factually tell the same story. But the acting job that I do is designed to convey, I learned something here, and the paused in force the message.

I'm paying rapt attention to you just by the way you are pacing and the intonation and the way you were cocking your head at that point a direct, it implies I need to pay attention. No, we're all about acting business, and I want you to be a sincere actor, and absolutely sincere actor, but I want to use it as a tool to convey the real message that you want to put forth.

What makes actors great is they convince us that they're the character, and our association of sincerity that we forget that, that's an actor on stage; we start to think of them as a character. At the end, we walkout, we talk about a great acting job, or they were terrible, whatever it is. But in an interview, it's much the same thing. We get the message across to the audience in a way that they're able to receive it, and take it in the way that you want them to take it. So, it's not just the lines, it's the performance, you're on stage, you've got a costume on, and the costume can be of course resumed and in person once the COVID is gone. Hopefully, it is coming to an end, at least in the United States.

In our province up here, by mid-July, we she'll be out of it. We'll see what happens.

In the US, being more gracious early, and I'll just simply say, as you're out and about more, and you have to be costumed appropriately for the performance and it has to be congruent with the image of someone they want to see in that role.

Yeah, in fact, that's the key word there, congruence! It not only has to be congruent with the stories that you tell the way you position those stories, them tell those stories. It has to be congruent not only with the expectations of your employer, prospective employer. It almost has to be congruent with your true self. You have to be authentic to yourself, because if you're not authentic, it is going to be abundantly evident very quickly that they are not the guy that you that was acting in front of me. But when you are using those skills of acting skills to convey your true essence, then that is when that congruence can all take place. I'm an always on guy, I have reasonably high energy, I like engaging people and such and right now, if you don't like that, we're probably not going to get along. But if you do like that, we're going to get along famously. So, you have to bring this out in a way that it's like branding. Brands have to attract and repel, at the same time, repel your worst clients, attract your best, repel your worst employers, attract your best employers. So, this entire thing about branding is a personal brand that you are putting forth.

Woo, which leads us to the personal brand, personal branding. So, let's tie that in with the idea of being more than your resume. How can an individual become more than their resume? Evoke their branding, in the course of the interview through stories and other means. I know that's a big question. Take any part of it that you like.

Sure, well, the interview is like the sales pitch. So, if you're selling a product, let alone selling yourself, it's like the sales pitch. What I say to people is that a Boeing 747, in an ideal scenario, the bigger ones needs two miles of runway in an ideal scenario, to get off the ground safely. Sometimes they can do it in a mile. What is amply self-evident is that they can't do it in 300 feet, that is very dangerous and no one is stupid enough to try it. But sales people try and do that every single day they go into the pitch. Well, why would you do that in the interview, you've gone to the actual interview and that's it. It's one shot 30 minutes for that first interview, you have so much more one way that you can build in the preamble. It's all a technique called priming, salespeople use it quite often, if they're smart, they will give those prospects all sorts of ways to experience the product, before company and themselves, before they actually get into the pitch.

That can be everything from the YouTube to the website, to whatever it is, your resume is the thinnest and most narrow example of who you really are as a person. So, anything that you can do to broaden that experience all of yourself prior to that interview is something that you should take yourself up on. In the last, I've had more than one job over the last 30 years, but I've only had a couple of interviews, because most people know me for my public presence, whether it be through my LinkedIn profiles, through my posts on my website, I'm a very active person out there. People not only know me for my expertise, they know me for my personality, and those are two different things. But when you combine those together, that's what creates someone that can lead a project that can lead people that can get things done, and both those things are important, give people an opportunity to experience that well before the interview.

Most this goes back to one of my concepts, which is the idea of being able to cut the line and get to the front because you have mindshare with people. If you're just another fish in the ocean, and they're throwing in hooks, and all the fish are trying to jump on to the one and only one fish gets off the hook.

That HR department door is a very crowded door and it's a very crowded long, lineup there and some of my most successful hires have come in through our side doors. We've hired people, they've engaged with our company well before we were hiring, and they've attended our meetups, and they've attended our webinars, and they are known entities in our Facebook groups and such right, and we get an impression of them, whether they know what they're talking about what kind of personality they are and they become a candidate of choice. So, when you're looking at Bob, 20 times before and all these things, Nancy, who has been an active participant in your groups and you compare it with your stack of resumes that you got through indeed, or whatever, it's no comparison, these personalities come alive, whereas everybody else is just a part of a stack of paper.

Or digital paper!

I am updating myself, digital paper.

Yeah, it's funny. There are some great stories about nightclubs and you used the example the side door, most people try the front door, and they're rejected by the bouncer. Some people try the back door, which is getting referred by someone the side door that no one uses. They rarely do things to handle the side door to create that mind share with people.

Yeah, exactly right! The mindshare you want to create is not with the HR department, that's not the manager you're under. You want to create the mindshare with the people that you are going to be working with. Now from the boss to your colleagues to everybody else, that is something that you will create in relationship capital. Well, before you ever have to go through any kind of formal process, if you do through the HR department.

In this part of our conversation, you reminded me of how Steven Spielberg became a director. He just showed up, didn't know he was on a tour, he wore a suit, he carried a briefcase and on one point, he jumped off the tour bus. He walked into one of the facilities there and started working. He did this for a couple of weeks. One day he was discovered. He showed someone what he had done during that time. The movie is called Amblin', which is the name of his entertainment and the movie is on YouTube. It's not great, but for that time period, and for high school kid, it's phenomenal. But folks to think creatively about your stories, we have a shorthand between us, between Eric and I.

But as soon as I mentioned a couple of these stories, he knew them right away, unless we have an emotional connection with one another. I mentioned the Spielberg story. I mentioned the side door story. He's got it right away. We don't have to say much beyond that because I saw his nodding of the head. He got it, there was a twinkle that came onto his into his eyes, and you can create the same thing to in your conversations with folks. That's it; this has been a lot of fun. What haven't we covered yet that we really should in this conversation?

I don't know, we've covered a lot. So, I think ultimately what it comes down from the perspective of a job search candidate, you have to be commoditizing yourself. That's what you've got to do. It's all about D commoditization, which the opposite is personal branding, having a clear and size personal brand. The path between those two things is about the stories that you tell. Because the people you're dealing with are just humans, humans can only relate to the world through the stories they receive, and the stories they tell. So, give them the stories and that's how you will become significant and emotionally significant and functionally relevant to what they are doing right now.

What a great summation, that's very good. How can people find out more about you, the work you do, the book, the whole thing.

So, if you come to my website,, you're going to download a couple of chapters of the book for free, I'm going to send you some show notes and it'll include an info graphic for your show notes and such that people can download right away. Go to, look for the seven essential stories charismatic leaders tell bought, or the first five listeners that tell me they heard about the seven essential stories on your show. Jeff, I'm going to send them a Kindle copy for free. All they have to do is email me at my email address.

Fabulous! I'll have that included in the notes as well. But I won't put it in a way that's easy for the spammers.

That's good. I appreciate that.

You're welcome. Folks, we'll be back soon with more. I'm Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter. I hope you enjoyed today's show. If you're watching on YouTube, click the subscribe button, hit the like button, do something that lets people know it was worthwhile. Connect with me on LinkedIn by the way at I've got a tone more at my website. If you go to TheBigGameHunter.US, I've got 1000s of posts there that you can watch listen to or read them to help you find work more quickly. But they're not customized for you, which is really what I try to do on my coaching with people, personalize it, so that you get the results for your capabilities. It's tailored specifically for you so that you get great results. Hope you have a terrific day and most importantly, be great. Take care


Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with over 2200 episodes.

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