Values and the Power of Becoming a Storyteller


Kendal Drew and Helen Holan are the directors of Strategic Career Management Pty Ltd, the WA recipient of the 2020 CDAA Division Awards for Excellence in Practice. Prior to Covid-19, they delivered in person training and workshops to state government clients to help their staff navigate organisational change from a career perspective. Following State Government restrictions, they designed, obtained approval for and delivered a highly interactive and engaging online workshop series within four weeks.

Recruitment is changing and we are seeing a trend toward values-based selection strategies within state and federal government organisations. Values have been assessed by commercial entities in the hiring process for a number of years but for government employees, the game has changed and it’s a little confusing for some.  

Over recent years, applicants have become comfortable using the STAR/CAR/OAR structure to respond to selection criteria, but the way they have been using these structures is no longer enough to be competitive.

Organisations have identified that whilst strong technical skills are significant success drivers, having the right attitude, thinking styles and behaviours is what makes the real difference. They have recognised that technical skills can be built but alignment with an agreed set of values is more fundamental and needs to be assessed as people or apply to enter or stay in an organisation.  

As part of our recent work with state-based government organisations, we have been lifting the veil on values statements. We have been both educators and coaches in building an understanding as to how applicants can demonstrate alignment with organisational values throughout the application process, particularly in written cover letters/statements and interviews.

In our work over the past 14 months, we’ve observed the confusion and challenge that applicants experience in finding their authentic voice. When faced with the task of responding to values-based or values-embedded selection criteria or interview questions, many people feel they are placing a mantle on their actions and behaviours that can feel inauthentic and ‘clunky’. Some would even go so far as to use the word “cringeworthy”.

What has become clear to us is that this challenge has two roots. Firstly, applicants believe they need to throw buzzwords into their applications to hit the mark. Secondly, and more importantly, applicants have low awareness of their personal values and how these drive their actions.  

Our solution has been to take a person-centred approach. We have supported workshop participants to elicit their own personally held values and establish a link between their own values and those of the organisation.  

We have witnessed an increase in:

  • Understanding of what drives each individual to do the work that they do
  • Awareness of how their values shape the way they think, decide and act; how they approach challenges and achieve outcomes
  • Ability to use an authentic, original voice to tell their stories whether from a perspective of leadership, values, performance, challenge or achievement, etc.
  • People’s awareness of their personal brand and the importance of understanding this for good career management
  • Confidence in knowing and articulating their ‘value proposition’ in applications and interviews in a way that is singular and presents a solid case for whey they are a good fit for the role 

What we have also seen is that in identifying personal and work-related values, applicants are able to extract deeper understanding of their ‘motivating why’ for targeting a role. This has helped them clarify their career ambitions and identify the roles they will target and those that are not aligned with their career map.

Ultimately, we have witnessed an increased capacity for people to communicate the qualitative elements of their stories alongside the tasks, actions and results elements that were already second nature to most. They speak of their rationale for decisions and actions and who they needed to be to handle the challenge.  They demonstrate their uniqueness in what is often a highly structured or process oriented work environment where previously they believed there was little opportunity to differentiate themselves.

The depth and richness of the stories, the level of detail shared and the angle from which the stories are now told are personal, interesting, value-laden and allow people to stand in their own space around what they did, why they did it and how it made a difference.

This has raised their confidence in facing all elements of the selection process from development of applications, response to selection criteria and facing interviews. Our participants overwhelmingly find that the process of working from a values-centred approach is liberating, confidence building and leads to highly personalised, targeted and effective applications.

We invite you to share these ideas with your own clients.