Be a STAR: How to Structure Your Resume and Interview Responses

You probably have a lot to say about your suitability as a job candidate. With limited space on a resume and time constraints during interviews, it pays to organize the way you explain your professional accomplishments.

While the substance of what you share is important, the structure is equally important. Using a structured narrative allows you to concisely communicate your strengths while providing adequate background so that your interviewer fully understands the importance of what you’re sharing.

A good structure to use when explaining an accomplishment is the STAR framework, which stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. Using this framework allows you to adequately set up the context as well as define the outcome of a challenge that you have tackled. I’ll explain each part of the framework and then use it to describe an example from my professional life.

STAR for Interviews

Situation: You want to begin with general context about the challenge that you were presented with. Things that are relevant to include:

  • The company you were working for
  • Your role
  • The challenge that the company was facing

Example:

When I was working as a product marketing manager at a tech company about six years ago, my team, which was based in the U.S., needed to transition some of our reactive marketing support, such as customized data reports, to an international office in order for the American office to focus on more strategic projects for our advertisers.

Task

Detail the actual responsibility that was delegated to you or the project that you tackled because of the challenge. Details that might be relevant to include:

  • Parameters of your assignment, including specific expectations
  • The deadline for completing the task

Example:

I was selected with a teammate to travel to the international office to train team members to take on this new responsibility. I also had to create a process by which the U.S. team could request and the international team could deliver the documents in a timely manner and with a high level of quality.

Action

You should discuss what you did to accomplish your assigned task. You could discuss:

  • The factors in your task that you focused on and that you determined required the most attention
  • The plan that you assembled to meet your target
  • The actual actions that you took

Example:

After assessing the project’s challenges, we decided to make the request process as transactional as possible. My project partner and I selected the most impactful or most requested reports from advertisers. We created comprehensive trainings to present in-person and that could also be left behind as training manuals. Then we made plans to travel to the office to train the team and monitor the process over a period of about two months. The U.S. team received a “menu” of reports to choose from and submitted its requests via a request tool that we created.

Result

Job seekers often forget to mention the results of the project that they worked on. In addition to sharing what you did, it is important to communicate how your efforts impacted your team or your company. Ways to convey the impact of your efforts include:

  • Quantitative data, such as savings in time or money
  • The span of the project in total
  • What specifically improved because of your efforts
  • Feedback that you received from customers or teammates

Example:

Because of the request process that we implemented and the training that we delivered to the team, we were able to transition 90 percent of the work that had previously been handled in the U.S. office to our international team, allowing the U.S. team to focus on other projects such as webinars, events and sales tools.

Create a STAR Matrix to Prepare for Interviews

When I was in business school, a classmate shared a really great matrix that she had created to organize her achievements for use in preparing for interviews. You can think of it as a STAR cheat sheet containing all the possible anecdotes that you can share in response to common interview questions.

STARinterview

By creating a matrix, you will be prepared to answer the hard questions that come your way during an interview.

STAR for Resume

On a resume you might have two to three lines to explain each accomplishment. Given this space limitation, you can use the STAR framework to succinctly and effectively make your point.

This is how I would structure my example for placement on a resume:

  • Trained and launched 10+ person sales support team in international office. Transitioned 90 percent of reactive collateral production to international team within nine months, enabling North American team to focus on strategic customer-facing projects.

Remember that a resume is a “teaser” to get the hiring manager or recruiter to reach out to you to hear more. Include enough relevant and interesting details in your role description and expect to expand upon those points when speaking over the phone or in person.

By using the STAR framework, both on your resume as well as during interviews, you will share the right level of detail regarding your previous work to help convince the hiring manager or recruiter that you have the experience, skills and traits to successfully contribute to their business.