Your resume is likely to be your first point of contact with a prospective employer, and it's vital not to waste this opportunity to make a good first impression -- fail to convince with your resume, and the chances are that your skills and experience will count for nothing.
There is plenty of advice around on how to write a resume that's tailored to the job you're applying for, and on how to avoid the most common resume mistakes that people make, but there's one hugely effective technique that's not as widely discussed even though it could give you the head start you need.
That technique is to write your resume using the STAR method.
What is STAR?
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result, and it's a handy checklist for setting out your abilities and knowledge in a compelling way to grab the attention of the reader. Rather than simply listing your attributes, the STAR method places them in a real world narrative that shows exactly how you could be of tangible benefit to the company or organisation you're applying to.
How STAR Works in Practice
To employ the STAR method, you need to take each major qualification or skill that you have, and think of a situation where you've used it to good effect in previous employment. Address each aspect of the example using the words Situation, Task, Action, and Result as a guide, taking particular care to ensure that what you write is closely relevant to the position you're applying for. To give you an idea of what's involved, the following is an example of using STAR to illustrate teamwork and leadership skills.
Situation: I was part of a team putting together a plan for a major development for your company's new project. With a week to go, the team leader fell ill and was unable to see the project through.
Task: We needed to meet the deadline to make the plan and secure a lucrative contract.
Action: I volunteered to take over team leadership as I had a good depth of knowledge about the product and how to sell it. I coordinated the other team members' efforts to ensure we met the deadline, and also recruited a new member with strong presentational skills and prepared her to deliver the pitch in the absence of the previous leader.
Result: Our team put together a compelling presentation which was professionally delivered, and we won the contract.
While the specifics of this example will of course vary according to career, it gives a sound illustration of how the STAR technique works, and it can be easily adapted to reflect your individual skills and experience.
Is STAR Overkill?
It's easy to imagine a resume using this method running to several pages, which is against the usual advice of keeping a resume short and to the point. For this reason, it's essential to pick only one or two directly relevant core competencies that you want to highlight and use them to pique the interest of the recruiter, and then set out your other supporting abilities in a more conventional way.
However, it's well worth the time to draw up an exhaustive 'war chest' of your skills and experience described in the STAR way, as not only can you then put together a persuasive resume quickly, but you have a store of strong answers in reserve for when it comes to attending a subsequent job interview.
The STAR method may at first seem an unwieldy way of putting together a resume, but in a job market where every point of differentiation counts, using it wisely can give you that vital edge over the competition to put your career on the fast track to advancement.