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.


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.


How to excel in a Job Interview using the STAR answer method

When you are invited to an interview, you probably spend a lot of time preparing for it. You read about the company, you look at the description of the job and you re-read your application form or CV. If you haven’t used the STAR answer method, though, to prepare for an interview, then you’ve been at a distinct disadvantage.

When the Job Description is asking for someone with “Good Communication Skills”, you might get a question during the interview such as “Can you give an example of your communication skills?”

Some of the answers I’ve heard in interviews have been “I have really good communication skills and all my colleagues like me”, or “Good communication skills are very important and I always make sure that I email my manager about what I am doing.” Some candidates give a long list of their communication skills which remind me more of an explanation from a dictionary than a real example.

The STAR answer method is not rocket science, it is a simple way of structuring your answers to clearly demonstrate the many skills you have. More importantly, it is a method of giving the recruiter/employer/listener concrete evidence of your knowledge and experience.

S –Situation:       When and where you were working?

T-Task:                 What was the task/responsibility?

A-Action:             What did you do?

R-Result:             What happened? What was the result?

Using the STAR answer method, you give a structured example to help the recruiter to know that you are the right person for the job.

Imagine the interview is for a Team Supervisor and you are currently working in an administrative role. You can demonstrate your suitability for the new role by showing how you’ve developed in your current role:

“One recent example of my communication skills is from my current role as an Administrator with the SVC Group, where I’ve worked for the last 3 years. [SITUATION] I work in a team of 10 people and am responsible for the administration, which includes collating quarterly reports and chasing up monthly sales figures. [TASK] When I first started in this role, I communicated mostly through emails as the other team members were busy with appointments, but I’ve grown into my role and now I use varying forms of communication wherever needed. Last week, I rang one of the team members to catch up with what she has been working on and I reminded her of an upcoming deadline. I think it is important to see the person behind the sales figures because it makes the team stronger. [ACTION] As well as an email I had sent, she also appreciated my personal telephone reminder. I also took the time to listen to an issue she had had the week before. As a result of communicating in a similar way with all of the team members, I received the sales figures on time and my manager praised me in the last team meeting for my work.”[RESULT]

Can you see how a well-prepared, practised STAR answer gives a real, genuine example of your skills and helps the interviewer see what you can bring to their organisation? Using the STAR answer method can show the deciding person that you are by far the best candidate.

If you need help with this, a skilled Job Coach will give you practical experience of preparing these structured answers, in a safe and supportive space, through asking the right questions to find your very best examples. As a result, you will not only excel, but you will shine at your next job interview.


First published on LinkedIn, 26th October 2016

Photo credit: Clarisse Meyer through