(2023) How to crack the Shopify Life Story Interview (Questions & Answers + Best Practices)

How to crack the Shopify Life Story Interview (Questions & Answers + Best Practices)

January 13, 2023
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Shopify prides itself in taking a new, extraordinarily human approach to their hiring process. In their words “we hire people, not resumes”. They put a lot of emphasis on life experience, and less on concrete work experience and resume fillers. 

This ethos is perfectly encapsulated in their unique interview style, known as the Life Story. It’s their way of understanding you - your past experiences and personal accomplishments – beyond what’s stated on your resume or CV. 

What is the Shopify Life Story interview? What sorts of questions do they ask? What are the best practices for succeeding in a Shopify interview? 

Here at Carrus, we believe in helping the brightest talent in the tech industry like you succeed in your interviews and land your dream job. Find out how our 1-1 interview preparation and wealth of resources is the key to smashing your FAANG-like interview.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to the unique characteristics of Shopify’s Life Story interviews and give you some typical questions to help you prepare for your upcoming Shopify interview.

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What is the Shopify ‘Life Story’ interview?

The Life Story Interview is Shopify’s interview technique that helps them learn about your past experiences, skills, and attributes beyond what’s written on your resume.

Shopify frames this as a “two-sided conversion” to understand your personal experiences and learn more about you. Why do they do this? According to Kathleen O’Keefe – an ex-Shopify talent sourcer – Shopify “wants to know more about who the candidate is, not just what they can do”. This ensures they’re hiring the right people for their company culture and aren’t letting candidates’ circumstances get in the way of finding great talent.

To best understand what Shopify are looking for from you in your life story interview, let’s cover the five attributes they base their questions around:

  • Impact: Can you demonstrate a positive impact you’ve made on others? This includes performance achievements in past roles, in societies at college/uni, volunteering or just in your personal life. 
  • Readiness: Do you have the skills required for the job post you’re applying for? 
  • Trust: Are you authentic and are you capable of building trust with others? Can you demonstrate scenarios where you were trusted in the past, and how did you respond to the responsibility?
  • Engagement: Are you engaged and enthusiastic about passions in your work and personal life? Can this be translated into genuine engagement with your work at Shopify? 
  • Self-Awareness: Are you aware of your strengths and weaknesses? Do you know what’s needed for self-growth?

These are clearly very general attributes, and the distinction between each criterion is unlikely to be as clear as how we’ve set it out above in your actual interview. It’s nonetheless important to keep in mind that this is what they’re looking for you to demonstrate. 

The Life Story interview style follows a very open, simplistic structure.The onus here is to demonstrate your previous experiences and how you’ve grown because of it. Why? Shopify is looking for those with a growth mindset – not a fixed one. 

Growth Mindset: A belief that intelligence and abilities can be developed through past experience, whether that be successes or failures. Those with growth mindsets are constantly trying to learn and improve themselves. 

How do I prepare for a Shopify ‘Life Story’ interview?

Given the open nature of a Shopify life story interview, preparation involves getting familiar with your own ‘life story’ and figuring out how that relates to Shopify’s culture and values. 

The key point of preparation is synthesizing your experience into a cohesive story

  • What is your background? Where are you from? 
  • What have you done in the past?
  • How has your past experience shaped you?
  • What value did you provide to your past roles? 
  • Where does your passion and commitment to your work come from?
  • What are your interests and hobbies? What engages you?

You’re creating your own personal narrative. Think less in the sense of ticking boxes, and more about being authentic and honest about how you’ve come to be who you are now. 

The neat thing about those five attributes we covered earlier is that they naturally appear in a true account of your life so far. Use them as a guide to help you weave your narrative. 

It’s really useful to have at least a basic idea of what your narrative will be. Briefly writing out your story (or just its structure, whatever works for you), is a great idea to make sure you’re not missing out on anything important. It also gives you something to fall back on if you draw a blank during the interview. This technique is more generally known as a brain dump. Learn more about this brilliant interview preparation method in our article on it here

🙅‍🙅‍♀️  The don’ts of preparing: (alt: What not to do when preparing:)

Don’t lie. This may seem obvious, but when you’re talking about experiences that can’t technically be verified, you can see the incentive to cheat here. The problem with making something up to please the interviewer and meet the above Shopify criteria is that it can be really obvious when you’re not telling the truth

Why? As your interviewer is looking to find out who you are, they’ll ask more about anything in your narrative they find interesting. They’ll quickly be able to “pick apart” a false story – and it takes a truly good liar to falsely pass the ‘Life Story test’. Being open and honest is a far better policy here. 

Don’t just stick to your resume/work experience. In your life story narrative, Shopify is looking for what sets you apart on a personal level. If your answer to “tell me about yourself” is just what’s on your resume, you’re basically telling your interview you lack creativity, engagement or interests – all things they’re not looking for in an ideal candidate. Instead, focus on stories that interest you and that you’re proud of. 

One of the best ways of preparing for a Shopify interview – or any FAANG-like interview for that matter – is to speak to an interview coach. That’s exactly what we offer here as Carrus.

Getting 1-1 interview training and guidance from a top FAANG coach is the key to succeeding in your job search. 

Typical Questions in a Shopify Life Story Interview

A Shopify Life Story interview is an open two-sided conversation and doesn’t follow any rigid structure. For this reason, the questions you’re asked during your interview can vary wildly depending on your role, your story and what your interviewer finds interesting about you. 

However, there are some mainstay example questions that are useful to practice with. We’ll introduce you to a few of them, and also give you an example answer following the STAR – situation, task, action, result – method to formulate our response.

  • Tell me about yourself…
  • This is where the ‘Life Story’ comes in. It’s hard to give you an example answer here, as it’s so personal.
  • Be prepared to answer questions about your life story. If you’ve mentioned an achievement, your interviewer may ask how you got there. Don’t be put off if your interview interrupts your answer to ask a follow-up question. They’ll let you continue with your story in a way that suits you!
  • Tell me a time when you overcame a challenge
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to break some bad news
  • Tell me a time when you were proud of yourself
  • Tell me an instance where you grew or improved yourself
  • Tell me about your interests
  • Tell me about a time when you made a mistake. How did you resolve it?
  • Tell me about a time when you faced conflict. How did you resolve it?
  • Why do you want this job? What interests you about Shopify?

Tell me a time when you overcame a challenge…

Example answer: 

“A few years ago, I was a project manager at a startup, Momentix, a SaaS platform that provided cloud-based appointment solutions to small businesses. We found that businesses were looking for a way to remind their customers of upcoming appointments and amend them if necessary, automatically.

So, we rolled out a new email reminder feature where appointment participants would be sent out a reminder the day before (or whatever the business wanted to set it to). In that email, customers would be able to reschedule the appointment if needed depending on the current calendar availability. Nothing revolutionary, but a useful addition to our product!

But, after we launched our feature, we found that our users were slow to start using email reminders – and we only had a 17% feature adoption rate. In response, I launched a user feedback campaign and asked a subsection of our users whether they’re aware of the feature and why they’re not using it. 

As a result, we found out that our customers hadn’t realized we launched automatic email reminders or didn’t know where to enable it. In response, we set out an email newsletter alerting our customer base of the new feature and also moved the setting into a more prominent location. This change led to a 110% increase in feature adoption and users now find it an important selling point of the product”.

Unlock the experience of top-level FAANG coaches

A Shopify Life Story interview is incredibly simple: all they’re looking for is for you to be honest and open about your past experiences. Why? To better understand you as a personal and see whether your values align with theirs.

The best way to prepare for your Shopify life story interview is to gain an insight on what to do from the experts. With Carrus, you can get 1-to-1 interview preparation or group coaching sessions from the top 1% of FAANG coaches.

Work with former hiring managers from Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Shopify, Salesforce and more! They’ll help you hone your skills in storytelling for behavioral interviews and give you some tips and tricks to increase your chances of landing your dream job.

Get started with a free 15-minute strategy call today and let FAANG coaches get the next stage of your career off the ground!

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