The STAR technique is a structured approach to convey your work experiences, accomplishments, and competencies clearly and concisely. It is relevant and vital when writing your resume as well as when preparing to answer job interview questions. The STAR acronym stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. In this post, we will explain the importance of each part, how to write STAR method resumes, and answers to interview questions.
- STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result, a technique for clearly presenting work experiences and achievements in resumes and interviews.
- The Situation sets the context; the Task describes responsibilities; Action details steps taken; the Result shows the outcome, with an emphasis on clear, quantifiable achievements.
- STAR combats the issue of ‘list-like’ resumes by providing a narrative structure that links actions to outcomes, making it easier for employers to assess a candidate’s potential impact.
- It’s also a preparation tool for behavioral interview questions, enabling candidates to confidently discuss past experiences with detailed, structured responses.
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What does STAR stand for? (3 examples)
The STAR framework breaks each experience or ‘story’ into four parts: element Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Recruiters and hiring managers like the STAR format because it helps to standardize experiences and make them easier to understand and appreciate. Let’s go over each part and understand why it is essential.
This is where you set the stage by describing the context or circumstances surrounding a particular scenario you encountered in your work. It helps the reader or interviewer understand the backdrop of your experience. The situation should lay out the background for what you were tasked with. This part is essential for understanding the scenario because it changes the interpretation of the rest of the elements (task, action and result).
We will go over three complete examples through the four parts of STAR. Note that these examples are not phrased short enough for resumes; we will discuss STAR format in resumes in a later section.
See how the following situation statement examples prime you with a completely different set of expectations for the rest of the scenario:
- “It was the end of the year, with all the mess of a public company during such times, and the division I led missed the sales quotas by 20%…”
- “Our startup was near closing a round of funding after we burned through all of our cash, and on a Saturday morning, our lighthouse customer called me to say they want to discontinue our service…”
- “Three months after launching our second product, our sales numbers started to blast through every milestone we’ve set for the year, and I have a team of only three salespeople at this time…”
Here, you explain what you were tasked with in the context of the situation. In most cases, you get tasked by someone who is your superior at your job. The task might be the problem you were set to solve or the goal you were set to achieve. In any case, you should describe it clearly enough so that it will be clear to understand why you chose the course of action that you did. This part helps to frame the types of actions you could have taken. Let’s continue the previous examples:
- “My task was to plan and execute a robust sales recovery plan within one quarter, aiming not only to meet but exceed the original targets, increasing overall sales volume by 30%…”
- “The immediate objective was to secure the funding round within two weeks by renegotiating terms with the customer to retain their business and demonstrating to investors our capacity for quick adaptation and customer retention, thereby ensuring financial stability.”
- “The goal was to scale the sales operations to support a 200% increase in sales activity over the next two months and expand customer support to maintain service quality.”
What action did you decide to take? The recruiter and hiring manager are most interested in understanding this part so you can provide some of the rationale for deciding to choose the action. In later stages of the job search, you might get asked about why you didn’t take alternative actions or what information you were basing your decision on. Use action verbs to describe this part. You can use one statement or a couple of bullet points depending on the level of detail and the context (e.g., resume, screening call with recruiter, or interview with hiring manager). Extending the previous examples:
- “To reverse the sales shortfall, I initiated an aggressive outbound marketing campaign targeting untapped market segments, negotiated partnerships with complementary service providers for bundled offers, and implemented a dynamic pricing strategy to attract price-sensitive customers, thereby aiming to boost our sales volume significantly.”
- “In response to our startup’s funding jeopardy, I engaged directly with our key customer’s decision-makers, presenting a tailored value proposition that addressed their concerns, highlighting our commitment to customer success and long-term viability.”
- “To manage the surge in demand, I streamlined the sales process with automation tools to increase efficiency, launched an accelerated hiring and training program to triple our salesforce, and formed a dedicated customer success team to ensure ongoing support and satisfaction, preparing the business to handle a twofold increase in sales transactions.”
What was the outcome of your actions? The recruiter and hiring manager are usually not interested in the metrics of another company, but they are interested in verifying the following:
- Do you know what the results were in a clear and quantifiable way?
- Were the results satisfactory given the task or not? Did you follow up to check the impact? Do you have the intellectual honesty to assess the results objectively?
- Whether the results were satisfactory or not, what did you learn?
Finalizing the examples, with the result statement:
- “Despite concerted efforts, the sales recovery plan fell just short of the ambitious 30% increase, achieving a 25% rise in sales volume. Rigorous follow-up and analysis revealed that while the outbound campaign generated a substantial lead pipeline, conversion rates did not meet projections. This experience taught me the importance of setting realistic targets and the value of adaptive strategies in response to market feedback.”
- “The direct engagement strategy led to successfully renegotiating the contract with our key customer and securing the funding round, surpassing our two-week goal by closing in ten days. This turnaround was a testament to our team’s adaptability and provided a solid foundation for financial stability. Post-negotiation assessments confirmed heightened investor confidence and reinforced customer commitment, validating our approach.”
- “The initiative to scale sales operations encountered significant challenges, ultimately not achieving the 200% target, with only a 50% increase in sales activity. The accelerated expansion strained our resources, resulting in gaps in customer support. Reflecting on this outcome, I recognized the critical need for balancing growth with operational capacity and the importance of incremental scaling to ensure sustainable expansion.”
How to use the STAR method for resumes?
Creating a STAR method resume enables job seekers to provide concrete examples of their accomplishments and contributions. It adds depth and substance to resumes, allowing potential employers to see how you’ve effectively navigated real-world challenges and delivered tangible results in previous jobs. STAR resumes address a common problem with resumes that look like a ‘shopping list’ of actions. Such resumes are difficult to assess without a behavioral interview because the actions you took cannot be appreciated without the relevant situation, task, and results.
In the examples above, we’ve used the star method to describe a detailed scenario. How do we condense it to a resume format?
STAR with multiple resume bullet points
When describing an entire work experience using STAR, you can use 3-4 resume bullet points to go over the whole STAR structure. 1-2 bullet points describe the situation and task, and 2 bullet points represent the action and result. When writing the resume, you should be very concise and focus on your success.
The following STAR method resume example shows an entire work experience formatted with STAR (highlighting with brackets the parts of STAR in the example)
- [Situation & Task] As the Regional Sales Director at IBM, I was responsible for addressing a 15% slump in market share in the enterprise software division across North America.
- [Action] Implemented a strategic overhaul focusing on customer relationship management (CRM) systems to streamline client interactions and sales processes.
- [Action] Developed and executed targeted sales training programs, enhancing the team’s consultative selling skills and knowledge of emerging tech trends.
- [Result] Revitalized the enterprise software division, resulting in a 25% increase in market share and a 20% uplift in annual revenue, effectively exceeding the financial targets within two fiscal years.
STAR in a single resume bullet point
Another useful format of the STAR method in your resume is to use the structure for a single bullet point. In such cases, situation and task are usually meshed together into ‘problem’, while action describes the ‘solution’ to the problem followed by the result. This implementation of STAR in a single sentence or bullet point is therefore called problem-solution-result (or PSR).
You can use PSR in your work experiences as well as your resume summary section. The structure of PSR lends itself naturally to tailoring your resume to the job description, where each part of the PSR can use language that is more relevant to the job. That is why professional resume writers use PSR both in resumes and cover letters.
In the bullet points below, we’ve condensed each of the detailed STAR structured examples above to a single PSR bullet point:
Preparing STAR method answers for job interview questions
The efficiency of the STAR method goes beyond written documents. STAR method can help you prepare to answer behavioral interview questions. In fact, professional interviewers will ask drill-down questions to understand each part of STAR with regard to experiences they deem essential. If you use a STAR method to answer interview questions, you convey confidence and help your interview flow without needing drilling or grilling. For each resume experience, you should have a detailed STAR structure (such as the examples above) written in the form of an interview answer.
For any other interview question you prepare for, we highly recommend that you write a detailed STAR answer, and practice describing experiences by speaking through each of the STAR parts.