Turn That Drab Resume Into a Must Read

A well-executed STAR format makes your resume a rousing story.


Amid huge competition, your best chance of standing out from every other job hunter is to do something no one else but you can do: tell your own professional story. You do this through your resume, and by elaborating on your resume in the course of your interviews.

Often, job hunters know their own stories so well that they assume incorrectly that others do also. Or, they feel that by simply conveying the nature of the jobs they have had, others will understand what they have done and what successes they have achieved. Just the opposite is true: You need to spoon-feed your story to those who will evaluate you at every step along the way.

Typically, corporate human resources staffers are expected to find great candidates for 20 or more different jobs at any one time. If 100 candidates apply for each of these jobs, and each of them submit a two-page resume, this equates to a mountain of 4,000 pages (or eight full reams of paper) to read each week.

With such volume, the resume reader easily discerns fluff from stock language. Decorative lines, artwork, logos, or other embellishments convey no substance and are regarded as a nuisance. Can you imagine hearing the groans a few cubicles away when pages crammed with single-spaced eight-point type, narrow margins, and dense text confront the bifocal-wearing resume reader?

Resume readers can't possibly fill in any blanks, or assume that you have done anything in particular. They look for people who have already done what needs to be done. And, they look for people to explain how they have done it. They look for good, solid, easy to understand stories.

Here is your challenge: Think of each bullet point as a different episode, and each job as a different chapter in your story. Great storytellers and resume writers both convey the flavor of a scene by deftly building an image in the reader's mind, detail by detail.

Today, employers look for a clear career path, dates, and meaningful specifics that relate what you have done. The most accepted format for each bullet point is conveyed with the acronym STAR, which stands for situation, task, action, and result:

1. Situation. Describe the context and the nature of a problem or issue you and/or your group faced.

2. Task. Share what needed to be done.

3. Action. Relate what you actually did. Here you can weave into your resume what skills you applied to the task, along with a time frame, and other details that make up the heart of the story. How did you contribute to your team's effort?

4. Result. Recount what changed because of your actions. Did profits or productivity rise? Were obstacles cleared? Were costs contained or decreased? Were the jobs of others made easier? Were your company's products or services somehow improved? Were you recognized for your role?

There are many books, online articles, and YouTube videos that delve into the details of how to incorporate these four critical storytelling elements into your resume. They are the stock in trade of resume writers because they work. When you make it easy for the employer to understand what you have done, you give them the information they need to appropriately compare your experience with that of others. Moreover, you set the stage for the questions you will be asked in today's popular behavioral interviews. Each point in your resume can become the basis of an interview question. And then you have the opportunity to tell your story in even greater detail.

Happy hunting!

Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.


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