First Person Narrative: Freytag's framework – a technique for telling a personal story in an interview

First Person Narrative: Freytag’s Framework – A Technique for Telling a Personal Story in an Interview 

In 12 years of interviewing, I’ve seen a change in candidates’ approaches to telling their stories from retelling their CVs to applying trendy AR approaches (CAR, PAR, STAR, etc.).

You can use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to organize your stories and make sure they are relevant and specific. You can also use the CAR method (Context, Action, Result) or the PAR method (Problem, Action, Result) if you prefer.

But today we are going to talk about a tool that is traditionally used to analyse literary works and can be unexpectedly useful in interview preparation. We are going to talk about Freytag’s framework.

Gustav Freytag was a German novelist and playwright. In 1863 he developed what is known as Freytag’s Pyramid, a definitive study of the five-act dramatic structure. A drama is then divided into five parts, or acts, which some refer to as a dramatic arc: introduction, rise (rising action), climax, return or fall (final action), and catastrophe (resolution). What’s the interview got to do with it?

Introduce yourself part is the most important part of an interview. It’s where it all starts, and making it memorable is what sets you apart from the rest of the candidates. In a highly competitive and professional environment, it can be the deciding factor in the employer’s decision. How does Freytag’s Framework do this?

First, let’s break down the parts of a story by Freytag and try to imagine what our might be like.

1. Introduction

 In a literary story, this stage introduces the characters, and sets the backstory and the general mood. Here you introduce yourself and give key facts about your career. Talk about your education, the first steps in your career and what brought you into the field. This is your chance to give the interviewer a basic understanding of your background and interests.

I am a biology teacher by education, having completed my postgraduate studies at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of SB RAS. My skills as a pedagogue and my scientific approach allowed me to enter the field of Human Resource Management, developing my approaches and tools, rather than relying on those accepted in the industry.

2. Rising Action

In literature, this is where the events take place, and it is the most important part because the plot depends on it. Therefore, in this section you should describe your career path, highlighting key moments and turning points in your career. Discuss the projects you have worked on, especially the challenges you faced and how you responded to them. Tell stories about how you overcame obstacles and how these experiences contributed to your professional growth.

I had a project in one of my previous companies. It was not about making money, it was about charity. Its essence was to provide schools with tools to develop critical thinking. The owner of the company saw his mission as creating future engineers who could think for themselves and make better decisions. It was through this project that it became clear that agile skills would be critical along the way. So I first became a corporate psychologist, running personal growth training not only for my project mentees in schools, but also for my company’s employees, and then the person who could provide such services externally.

3. Climax

 In literature, this is the turning point that changes the fate of the protagonist. If the protagonist has been doing well, the story turns against them, often revealing hidden weaknesses. This is the most important moment in your story, where you share your most significant achievement, overcoming a difficult episode, or a key moment in your career. It should highlight your ability to solve complex problems, lead and influence the success of projects or the organisation as a whole.

Many social projects have closed down when the owner of the company I worked for lost interest or the need to monetise won out. This is what happened to my project. I lacked the experience to defend the company’s need for a strong HR policy, so the project’s closure was followed by my dismissal. This was a turning point in my career as I decided to become a freelancer and only work with companies where the need to work with people is obvious to the management.

4. Final Action

 After the climax, describe how you used the experience to further your career. Talk about subsequent projects or roles and how your previous achievements helped you in these endeavours. This shows how you have continued to learn from your experiences and grow as a professional.

I was able to focus on HR ambulance-chasing companies where there were issues with structure, function allocation, agile skills, and more. I held the role of HRBP and learned how to work with different departments. Running a non-profit organisation in the past gave me the right experience for this role, as improvements are rarely the direct responsibility of employees. More often than not, people think it is enough that they do their job well.

5. Resolution

 It is interesting to note that the resolution as part of the plot in literature did not appear until the middle of the 18th century. This is where something important happens to the protagonist, events finally unravel and the conflict is resolved. Conclude your story by explaining why you are seeking a new opportunity and how your previous experience has prepared you for this new role. Explain how you see your role in the company you are applying to and how you plan to contribute to its success.

Now I know what I want to do with HR management, I can see the results of my work and it is important to me that by influencing the career development of my employees, I am directly leading the business to success. By supporting people’s development and career growth, companies increase their ability to adapt to changes in the marketplace. People whose expertise a company invests in are able to respond more quickly to new challenges. And who among us doesn’t want to work in an atmosphere of support and mutual assistance? These are important, but not the only reasons to look after your people, and as a career counsellor I can help you achieve your goals.

In summary, the Freytag structure technique will help you organise your story in a way that is coherent, consistent, and memorable. This will not only help you stand out from other candidates but will also give the interviewer a clear picture of your career path and potential. It’s never too late to learn how to tell a story.

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Alla Dortman

HRD, Certified career coach

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    Setronica is a software engineering company that provides a wide range of services, from software products to core business applications. We offer consulting, development, testing, infrastructure support, and cloud management services to enterprises. We apply the knowledge, skills, and Agile methodology of project management to integrate software development and business objectives effectively and efficiently.