STAR Statements II

You should use STAR statements because "recruiters and hiring managers prefer to read success stories, not a list of duties". Does your résumé describe memorable events, put your work in context, and highlight the benefits of your efforts? Include at least one STAR statement for each unique task in your résumé.

I was reading through a stack of resumes for a lecture I was leading and noticed that most of the sentences were describing the actions taken by the people, but seldom included the setup or the conclusion. It was like reading a bunch of job descriptions: Run computer backups or Sell new and used cars on weekends.

These sentences did not give a sense of need, importance, success, or quality…the resumes were full of unsubstantiated statements such as, "energetic leader specializing in team building" or "drove a fork lift in a large warehouse". I found myself asking out loud, So what? or To what end? The problem was…no STAR statements.

In a prior post I have already explained the STAR method (similar to other variants known as SAR, CAR, PAR, SOAR and S/TAR statements) for developing strong accomplishment sentences for the resume, so let me provide a brief review and a few examples:

Situation – The situation or setting; the background for context.

 – Tasks or tactics used to approach or assess the challenge.

 – Activities or actions used to effect the change.

 – The outcome, a sense of scale, the quantifiable benefit.

Writing STAR statements is not that hard once you have had some practice, but people sometimes find it a difficult concept to grasp. Maybe an example or two might be what you need to be able to move from concept to implementation. So here are a couple of sample STARs to help get started.

weak resume statement:

A successful builder of high-performance teams that can address challenging client situations.

You have just bragged on yourself without a context, without an example, and without any sense of scale or success. I, as an interviewer or recruiter, would tend to doubt your statement. So next, let's take that same brag and convert it into a STAR statement.

strong (STAR) resume statement:

Assigned as a new project leader to a client that was previously dissatisfied with our firm's services, rebuilt the project team with talented programmers, rewrote the application to the customer's satisfaction, resulting in an extension of the contract.

To help isolate the parts of the STAR statement, consider what I just wrote and apply it to the four steps of STAR:

Situation: assigned to a dissatisfied customer.

Task: to solve a technical issue (program) and a client issue.

Action: pulled together a good team to solve the technical issue.

Result: achieved customer satisfaction and earned a contract extension.

Now that is a much stronger statement and I, as the interviewer or recruiter, would say to myself, "He is a builder of high-performance teams and can handle challenging clients". The STAR statement allowed me to make that assessment of you without reading unsupported bragging!

Let's do another one…

Weak Statement:

Updated an old database application using Java and SQL.

Stronger STAR Statement:

Inherited an extensive database application written with legacy code, assessed the viability of enhancing the data access and converting the program to a web application, converted the program from COBOL and DB2 to Java and MySQL, resulting in a 8-fold improvement in speed and completed on time and under budget.

Situation: an old database and program needing an update.

Task: convert to current technology and preserve the data.

Action: migrated DB2 data to SQL; reprogrammed COBOL to Java.

Results: with improved performance, on schedule, and saved money.

Yes, both of these samples were a bit wordy. No, you do not need to be as wordy with your STAR statements. But these longer examples helped expose how a STAR is assembled (by you) and disassembled (by the recruiter).

How many lines in your resume should be written in the STAR format? As many as you can, but at least one per unique task listed on your resume. No, not all bullets or sentences in a resume need to be STAR format, as the resume can start sounding a bit dense, so mix in a few variations…some statements can be just TAR (no S) or any number of other variations, such as STA, SAR, RATS, RTA, or even an occasional TA.

But once you realize the benefit of a STAR statement, then you will NEVER want a sentence or bullet that just lists the task (T) or just the action (A) again.

Bottom Line

Rely heavily on the STAR method of describing the successes of your career in your resume (or even in an interview). The story that the STAR statement spins is often memorable, puts your work in context and highlights the benefits of your efforts. Mix in a few TAR, RATS, SAR, STA, and AR statements to keep the writing from getting too dense, but err on the side of lots of STARs. Recruiters and hiring managers prefer to read success stories…not a list of duties.

Source: C.J. Trayser,
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.

Last modified: Tuesday, August 18, 2020, 12:39 PM