How you’re underselling yourself in job interviews

Job interviews are all about being able to tell a riveting story.   What’s on your CV isn’t enough in itself,  besides you have relevant experience that’s you probably haven’t even put on there.

Thank goodness you’re more than typed words on 2 sides of A4.

Now it’s time to get that across with enough impact to stand out from the competition.

Giving clear, succinct answers to challenge and achievement questions

Mixing up the personal with the professional in your interview responses  helps you be remembered more easily.   If you have a tale of transformation as a CIO,  that would tick a box but not necessarily make you stand out from the crowd.

It’s personal examples that help the interviewer realise other aspects of your character and ability,  giving you more chance to express your uniqueness.

As long as these anecdotes meet a competency,  drop them in.

To increase your impact,  use the STAR structure below to ensure that you really grab the chance to show an interviewer who you are.



Describe the background,  giving the reason for the example.

“I’d decided to raise money for charity when my grandfather lost his sight. I’m a climber so scaling up Snowdon to raise cash for the Royal National Institute of the Blind was appealing.”


The objective – what you had to do in the context, if applicable, of your team.Star

“My objective was to raise £1,000 through Kickstarter and social media campaigns.   My climbing partner, Danny and I would be doing this in winter – during the night – and abseil down at dawn.”



What I did – if there are challenges and obstacles this is an opportune time to mention them. At this point, use more ‘I’, then ‘we’.  I’m not hiring your team, just you.  If you give other too much credit, it’s their number I want, not yours:

Our campaign had also been some months in preparation as my climbing partner,  Danny,  and I hit social media and I initiated a Kickstarter campaign.

“I train regularly in the outdoors anyway so physically Danny and I were fine.  We got to Snowdon and started climbing in the freezing dark.   A sudden downfall made our tread slightly more risky but there’s nothing like bad weather to focus you.  When we eventually abseiled down the mountain,  we were exhausted and elated.



The Outcome – what did you learn or/and achieve from this experience? Are there statistics or valuable lessons that you gained? How about any insights?

“The result was that I’d aimed to raise £1,000 for the Royal Institute of the Blind, but raised £12,000 in the end. That’s 12 times more than I could have imagined.  What helped me was the fact that I had planned extremely thoroughly, wasn’t afraid to use the resources I already had and that a challenge doesn’t put off: in fact it motivates me.”



You may tell a fantastic story but someone’s ticking off the competencies.  Let’s say two of those competencies are goal-setting and a self-starter.  At the end of the story, add the fact that this story shows you have both.  However, you could feel rather uncomfortable saying, “This shows that I’m a real goal setting, self-starter.”

Instead, you could prelude the competencies with a phrases such as “This brought out / developed / help me realise my ability to….”

By Tailing, you’re taking the hard work out for the interviewer, for whom you may be the 20th person they’ve interviewed in that day.  They won’t have to work out what you bring to the role because you’ll be telling them, and doing it without sounding like you’re a Smart Alec.


Examples of other tales, ripe for the STAR structure

Here are some other personal examples I’ve heard in job interviews:

  1. Canoed up the Panama trekked through the rain forest and sped down to Chile: on a tractor (used for a banking candidate – shows resourcefulness,  risk-taker)
  2. Organised 2 weddings both for my sister: Catholic and Hindu including have to gain permission for a ceremonial  fire in the Café Royal London (for an engineering interviewee, demonstrates project planning,  initiative)
  3. Worked as a journalist for a university publication,  interviewing MPs,  bands,  general public  (for an IT consultant, proving confidence in communication skills).

If you want help telling your story get in touch with me directly right here.

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