Use the Power of Storytelling to get that Job Interview

If you are not using the STAR answer method in your job applications, you are at a distinct disadvantage. Don’t take my word for it; employers such as the DVLA and the Welsh Assembly go to great lengths to explain the method in their application packs. An online search shows some great videos and articles explaining the use of it to tell powerful stories in job interviews. 

Why do employers want you to use the STAR answer method in your application form? Simply because it makes selecting the right candidates so much easier for them.

As a Job Coach I have been teaching the STAR answer method for years. I’ve especially seen this method make a significant difference to the job applications of two different types of people who struggle to get interviews: The ones who find it challenging to write concise statements and the ones who undersell their skills in an application form.

The personal statement of an application form should be linked to the Person Specification and Job Description. In other words, you are given the opportunity to write how your own unique experience (from work, education and the best school, called Life) precisely suits the job. 

To give you an example:

My client, Jo, has seen a vacancy that asks for “Experience using accounting software packages”.

She used to undersell herself by writing  “I have experience using Sage and know how to use Excel Spreadsheets. I welcome training in any in-house software package used by your company.”

How many other applicants use similar wording? Through storytelling using the STAR answer method Jo strengthens her argument that she should be invited for an interview:

“I have been using accounting software, including SAGE and Excel Spreadsheets, for the last 5 years. In 2011, I started volunteering for the local committee of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) and, whilst organising local fundraising events, I realised I enjoy working with budgets and using Excel Spreadsheets. The Treasurer, who is a chartered Accountant, stepped down a year later and I took over her role. During the handover period, she was very impressed with my work and she encouraged me to do my AAT1 accounting course, which I completed 2 years ago. Since then I use SAGE and Excel on a weekly basis and am confident that I would quickly familiarise myself with your in-house software package.”

Can you see how, by using the structure of Situation-Task-Action-Result, this tells the whole story of what the applicant can bring to the company, so it is easy for the employer to see the full potential and the difference they can make to the organisation? 

By using the STAR answer method your stories will be the evidence of your skills, making your application stand out from the crowd. Still feeling stuck? Contact me for a complimentary 30 minutes consultation.


Saskia’s Top Tips for a brilliant CV

  • Maximum 2 pages: Neat and easy to read. Most people take less than a minute to read a CV and make a decision if they would like to talk to you.
  •  Use positive language: The only purpose of your CV is to get you a job interview, so make sure your first impression is a positive one.
  • Tailor your CV to the job: The first half of your CV should tick all the boxes of the employer’s wish list. 
  • Transferrable Skills: Write what you can bring to the job in skills, experience and enthusiasm. You don’t need to tell the employer the story of your life.
  • Correct grammar and spelling: Let someone else check for spelling errors and grammar mistakes.
  • Contact details: is your email address professional enough? Is your phone number correct?

10 Tips for a Successful Skype Interview

Many of us have seen that BBC interview with the Korea expert, whose children entered the room unexpectedly mid-call. I thought of this when I was coaching a client last week for his first International Skype interview.

It has been 8 years since I first did a mock interview. By effectively staging an interview setting, asking questions similar to the actual one and providing immediate feedback, it time and time again improves my clients’ ability to be successful in their job interview. The big ‘Aha’ moments my clients have during our mock interviews are almost as wonderful to experience as the text or phone call telling me that they got the job. And that’s why I love doing what I’m good at.

I am hearing more frequently that people couldn’t attend the interview in person, but were fortunately able to do a video/Skype interview. Here are a few of my tips:


  • Have a professional looking photo as your contact profile picture.
  • Select clothes that don’t have a busy pattern. Although this is a tip I used to give to clients when video calls were sometimes not a very good quality, it is still important not to distract interviewers, unless the job you are going for lets you express your creativity and individuality.
  • If you have young children, arrange for them to be out of the house. If you’re a single parent, ask a friend, family member or trusted neighbour to take care of your child even if just for the duration of the interview. You will hopefully be more relaxed going into the interview knowing that for the next (half) hour you can be completely focused.
  • Check if you have enough lighting and no shadows covering your face or background.
  • Remove any background distractions: Interviewers are people and you want them to be focused on you and what you are saying, not trying to figure out what is hanging on the wall behind you.
  • Have notes for the interview printed or written down near you; your application/CV and the questions you want to ask.
  • Have a glass of water near you. During a face to face interview you will probably get offered water because nerves can make your mouth go dry.

Before and during the interview:

  • Phone on silent: Make sure you can’t be interrupted by other calls. If you are in your own home during the interview, you might forget to put your phone on silent.
  • Talk with your hands: Ideally have enough of your face and torso in the picture, so that you can also use your hands to show what you mean. Do not fidget and move too much. This is equally distracting in real interviews as in Skype interviews.
  • Eye contact: make eye contact to create a connection with the interviewers, which means to practice looking up into the camera.

Bonus Tips:

  • Double check the time of the interview if you are not in the same time zone as the interviewer.
  • Check if you are better at doing a video interview while you are standing instead of in a seated position. It is easier to project your voice while standing. This might need practice and if you feel you move around too much, it might be better to sit after all.
  • Depending on the culture, try to start off with some small talk, if that’s what you would do in a face-to-face interview.

Contact me for a no-charge strategy session when you are not getting the job hunt results you want. Our sessions can be face-to- face, on the phone and of course through Skype.


CV writing simplified: The Timeline Exercise

As a Job Coach I help my clients with their CV writing and I will share with you a simple visual exercise I developed. In my experience it works well when you want to make changes to your CV, but keep getting stuck in an old format. Or when you are looking for a career change, but you don’t know what direction you want to go. By creating a timeline and asking the right questions in a safe and supported way I’ve helped people get clarity on their past highlights and more importantly moved them towards achieving their future career goals.

Just take an empty A4 paper and draw an arrow on it horizontally, the whole length of the page.

The start of the arrow is your birth year, the end of the arrow where you are now.

Add your education, your work experiences, hobbies, courses, volunteering and fill the timeline with your life experiences.

A client of mine found writing her CV very challenging. She couldn’t get further than typing her personal details, so she contacted me for help. She felt stuck in her life and was looking for any job to return to the world of work. Instead of filling out a standard CV template, I drew a long arrow and explored her life to this date. I asked her questions about her education (What subjects did you enjoy?), her work experience (What are you proud of? What did you learn?) and her voluntary work (Describe what you do?).

The CV writing process was much more enjoyable as she reflected in a positive way about her life and identified her strengths and her transferable skills. And she had the revelation that she enjoyed a subject in school so much, but didn’t see at the time that she could pursue a career in that direction. We explored this further by identifying a part-time course and I’m very pleased to tell you that she recently landed a job in her desired career straight after completing this course.



First published on LinkedIn on 9th November 2016

Photo Credit:Denys Nevozhai through

Improving your CV by pressing Delete

You’ve probably read more articles about how to write a CV and there is good advice out there. It is sometimes difficult to apply this to your own CV. I know, because over the years I have helped hundreds of people to create a CV that will land on the “Yes pile”.

 I regard myself as a bit of a recruitment geek and love reading up on recent research and development in Human Resources and Recruitment.

In the beginning of my career as a job coach I would give each new client a copy of my special folder with the best advice regarding CV writing. I would then find out that my client didn’t read the material. Fortunately for my clients nowadays I don’t drown them in information anymore, as I’ve learned that in most cases it was not helping them.

What I do tell all my clients is that the only purpose of your CV (or application form or online portfolio) is to get you a job interview.

 Imagine you being the person who received that CV together with 10, 20, but more likely 100 other CV’s. And now imagine your CV for a second as part of a pile of A4’s. Will you go through that pile of paper word for word or will you skim read it?

There are different reports out there on the average time someone spends reading a CV, but you and I will probably agree it is not very long. So then the advice is to tailor your CV to the vacancy, to make it interesting, to stand out from the rest of the CV’s so that you will be contacted for a job interview.

A good coach can help you unlock the words to do exactly that. But if you just want to change one thing, pick up your current CV and just look at the first half of the first page. Does it say “(I am) an enthusiastic, hardworking person”, does it say “I am committed to every job I do”, does it say “I work well as part of a team, as well as on my own”?

Just delete those words. What if 10 or 20 or more of those CV’s use the exact same wording? Would that make a person want to read the rest of that one CV? No, it will just distract the person and that CV might end up in the bin.

You might want to tell me “But the rest of my Personal Profile and CV are tailored to the job, I give evidence of my skills later on”. Too late, because the next CV is there, right there underneath yours. Next!

So look at your CV and take those words out, because they do not help you stand out. They will not help you get a job interview. And that’s the only purpose of your CV.


First published on LinkedIn on 2nd November 2016

Photo credit: Bench Accounting through