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.


The Six Barriers that Stand Between You and Your Dream Job – And How To Overcome Them.

As a job coach I see a lot of people who long to get their dream job but are unknowingly placing barriers in the way of making that dream a reality. From your attitude to your job search to the way you present yourself, there are lots of ways you can sabotage your own chances. Here are six of the main barriers I see in my clients – and how to knock them down.

1.         Lack of clarity about what you really want

In order to get your dream job, you need to be clear what exactly that job is. A lot of people know that they are dissatisfied in their current role but have not really stopped to consider precisely what would make them happier. Some clients come to me believing a scattergun approach is needed: just apply for as many jobs as possible and sooner or later you’ll get one, but this approach can be exhaustive and time-consuming, and can lead you into a job that isn’t ideal. Instead, I begin by finding out what they really want and then focusing their job search, their CV, and their approaches accordingly.


•          Who have you met who sparks real admiration in you – whose job do you admire and envy? Consider what makes you feel that way. What elements of their career would you also like to have in yours?

•          What are you passionate about? Maybe you have a hobby you would love to make into a paying job, or an element of an existing job you would like to build on. Note these down.

•          Think about your current job and jobs you have had in the past. What elements of these have you most enjoyed? What have your colleagues or boss praised you for? Make a list: these are your strengths.

•          Think outside the box: besides the job you have, what other roles might make good use of your skills? Since you entered the workforce, new types of job might have appeared that are a good fit for your abilities.

•          Write down the things you definitely want from your job and the things you might be happy to compromise on. For example, would you trade the security of a full-time job for the freedom of a portfolio career that enables you to pursue your passions for part of each week?

2.         Lack of training

Many clients tell me they feel limited by lack of training or qualifications – but things are not always as restricted as they initially think. A lot of employers will take on people who lack specific qualifications but who exhibit the right traits and potential – and will then train them on the job. Demonstrating your interest by undertaking voluntary work or work experience can open a lot of doors – and even if training is needed, there may be ways to obtain this that are affordable and fit around your existing commitments.


•          Make use of the advice and support that are out there – Careers Wales, for example, or The Redundancy Action Scheme (ReAct), which can offer up to £1,500 for training for people facing redundancy. This guide gives some useful pointers for funding.

•          Explore what online training is available. Most universities offer online courses, so you can gain qualifications from illustrious institutions such as Harvard Business School without needing to physically attend them.

•          Research what short, intense courses are available: you may be able to take some holiday in order to spend time gaining a qualification.

•          Check out what evening courses are available from your local college.

•          Make use of all your contacts to gain opportunities such as work shadowing and volunteering. Even if you have no contacts in your target organisation, get in touch with them to see what opportunities are available. Many make a habit of providing work experience placements.

•          Find out which companies and organisations might offer on-the-job training and apprenticeships. 

3.         Imposter syndrome

So many of my clients suffer imposter syndrome – even the most well-qualified and outwardly confident ones. Just recognising that the niggling, self-sabotaging voice in your head is something most people experience can help you get closer to overcoming it. Before you enter an interview situation it’s a good idea to tackle your imposter syndrome so that you are ready to speak confidently about your experience, attributes, qualifications and skills.


•          Once you know what sort of job you want, write a list of all the things that equip you to do that job. Think about your personal attributes, experience, skills and qualifications. You may be surprised how many points you can come up with.

•          Make a decision to stop being a perfectionist. It’s OK to make mistakes – everybody does it. Go easy on yourself and be sure to notice and praise yourself for your successes.

•          What are the negative attitudes that are holding you back? Did your parents or a teacher tell you that you weren’t good at something? Did a boss make an unfair comment that has stuck? Recognise the possibility that they were wrong. Get a second opinion. I once had a client who was a wonderful illustrator, but she kept her illustrations secret because she had been told she did not come from a creative family. How wrong they were.

4.         Fear of change

It’s very human to fear change – it’s part of how we have endured as a species. There’s a survival mechanism hard-wired into our brains that doesn’t want to rock the boat and take risks. Sometimes, though, you need to calmly and reasonably tell that part of your brain to back off and allow you to take an exciting leap into the unknown.


•          Make a list of the pros and cons of leaving your “safe” job.

•          Remember that while it might seem safer to stay in your current situation, it might not be the healthiest choice for you. Are your body and mind showing signs of strain? Do you suffer from tension headaches, frequent colds, chronic ailments or anxiety? All of these could be your body telling you that you need to change – even if it feels you will be leaving a safe situation.

5.         Lack of commitment

Looking for a new job involves investing time in yourself, and in your search. Many people say they want to change but do not take the necessary steps to bring about that change, or don’t keep their efforts up for long enough. To date, I have never seen anyone get a job by simply uploading their CV to a website, sitting back and waiting – but on the other hand, I have seen people get headhunted, and with that in mind, it’s always wise to keep your LinkedIn page looking good and up-to-date.


•          Decide on a set of actions you need to carry out to get your dream job. Write them down and give yourself dates by which you need to have completed them. Stick to your schedule.

•          Don’t be deterred if you don’t get that coveted job offer straight away. Stick to your plan and the opportunity will come.

6.         Poor presentation

Presenting yourself well starts way before you enter the interview room. When I worked in personnel, the first things I did for any candidate was check them out on social media. Be aware that photographs of drunken hijinks could potentially torpedo your 

chances of an interview. 


•          Cast a critical eye over your social media presence, from your LinkedIn to Facebook. Edit your online presence so that you present the image you want to put across.

•          Ensure that any job applications or emails to potential employers are well-presented and carefully checked for errors.

•          If you get an interview, dress in a manner that suits the role you are applying for.