How can you make your resume stand out to an employer?
- Use an easy-to-read format and structure that highlights your relevant education and experience.
- Develop bullet points or statements to show relevant skills and qualities. Be specific about what you did and how you did it.
- Start your bullet points or statements with strong action verbs.
- Provide contextual details to inform the reader about the purpose of your work, the scope of the project, and what you produced or accomplished.
- Quantify your work and achievements where possible.
Using the STAR method
The STAR method can help you create impactful descriptions for each experience on your resume.
First, read through the posting for a job that interests you. This will help you understand the role and the employer’s needs. Identify the skills and qualities they seek. You can usually find them in the responsibilities and qualifications sections.
Next, use the STAR method to describe the context of your work, your actions, and how your actions had positive impact on the organization.
Situation: What was the situation, problem, or conflict you were facing?
Task: What were you tasked with? What were your responsibilities or goals?
Action: What action did you take? What did you do to solve this problem? (start with action verbs)
Result: What was the result or outcome of your action? How did it benefit the organization? Can this result be quantified?
Follow the STAR method to create descriptions that incorporate the key skills and qualities the employer is seeking. Your ﬁnal statement will start with the action section and include the results section when appropriate.
Skills/qualities you want to show: initiative, organization, analytical thinking, writing, interpersonal skills, problem solving
Situation: The trainees were learning too slowly and could not navigate the company’s data tracking system by the end of the two-week training period. Instead, they were not ready for another two weeks.
Task: Help trainees learn the system faster.
Action: Initiated, wrote, and edited the first training manual for the company’s data tracking system. Successfully presented proposal to use manual to management. Revised training program curriculum to implement new manual. Trainees worked through the manual during the two-week training period.
Result: At the end of the training period, trainees were ready to use the data tracking system two weeks earlier than expected; the training manual was adopted across the company and is still in use.
FINAL STATEMENT FOR RESUME: Initiated, wrote, and edited the first training manual for company’s data tracking system, which cut training period in half, was adopted across the company, and is still in use today.
This example could focus on different skills (communication, persuasion, leadership, training), depending on what’s relevant to the job.
Bullet Point Examples
What, How, and Why
Answer these questions to transform a generic description into an impactful bullet point.
- What did you do? What was the situation, problem, or challenge you were facing?
- What were your responsibilities or goals?
- How exactly did you do it? How did you accomplish your tasks? Did you use any tools, equipment, or computer programs?
- Did you work as part of a team or independently?
- Why are these actions important? How did they benefit the organization? What was the result or outcome of your actions?
- Can you quantify the results? (Note: Not every bullet point on your resume must be results-oriented.)
Public Health Society, Events Coordinator
- Responsible for organizing events and panels
In this example, it is not clear what the candidate did to organize events and panels, what skills they used, or what kind of events and panels they organized. Because of this, the writer misses the chance to showcase the skills used to carry out this task.
Strong, Concrete Description
Public Health Society, Events Coordinator
- Plan and coordinate panels on public health for audiences of 25–50 undergraduates on a bi-monthly basis
- Identify and contact health professionals in the community to participate in panels
- Create marketing materials and publicize events through social media
Add context and skills (WHAT was the situation and HOW were the tasks accomplished) to deepen the information provided.
In this example, the first bullet point clearly highlights organizational skills. It also lets the employer know the scope, target audience, and frequency of the events. This efficiently illustrates the candidate’s abilities and experience.
The second bullet point indicates research and interpersonal skills, which were used to secure panelists. It also demonstrates the ability to communicate with professionals outside of the university.
The third bullet highlights a specific business skill and/or the ability to be strategic in marketing, as well as familiarity with using social media for marketing purposes.
Adding Accomplishments and Impact:
Employers review resumes to understand the impact you’ve had on a project, organization, or company. Explain WHY your actions matter; how did your actions affect outcomes? For instance:
- Were the materials and publicizing efforts successful?
- Did these actions result in reaching a new group of students?
Review each statement you’ve created for your resume. Can you add an accomplishment or achievement? What happened as a result of that action? How did it benefit the organization? You don’t need to add a result to every bullet point on your resume, but it’s helpful to demonstrate achievements when possible.
What does this look like? In the bullet point about marketing materials and social media, this might read:
- Create marketing materials and publicize events through social media. Increased attendance at several club programs by 75% (if you have an accurate figure)
- Create marketing materials and publicize events through social media. Saw increased attendance at several club programs throughout the year (if you are unable to quantify)
These statements combine the Action and Result sections of the STAR method.