Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How else can you use STAR?

This post can definitely be read on its own but is probably more effective as an add-on to my blog on the STAR approach which you can find below or at 

What is STAR?
To quickly recap, the aim of the blog on STAR was to introduce you to the approach and how to use it in interviews by outlining a Situation you faced, the Task you had, the Actions you took and the Results of those actions. The STAR method is not only a great way to structure your answer to keep you clear and focussed when nerves begin to kick-in, but it’s also making sure that you’re ticking the boxes for the recruiter by answering the questions in a way that they’d ideally want you to answer them.

Does it work for CV writing?
Now, this method works for interviews, but this got me thinking about my CV and how STAR can help articulate skills and experiences on paper. It might seem a little strange; STAR, after all, is a method of answering questions whereas a CV isn’t designed entirely for that. So it got me thinking about why we write a CV.

For me, the aim of a CV is simple; it’s used to convey what your strengths are through experiences that you’ve had and to prove that you have the academic record employers are looking for. For now, assuming we have the academic qualifications, the important word in there is, maybe surprisingly, ‘through’.

Why? Well, how many times have you written on your own CV or read someone’s CV that had either;
a) Skills with no context. E.g. ‘I’m a leader and organiser.’
b) Experiences with no skills. (Listing Duties) E.g. ‘I was the committee member at my society for x number of years and was responsible for this, this and this.’

In an interview, if you’re vague or provide context but not much impact, the interviewer can ask you questions like ‘And how did that experience benefit you?’ or ‘How did you build your communications skills to be at the level you’re at now?’ However, when reading your CV, they can’t! This result in potentially excellent candidates not even making the interview stage and with a change of approach, this risk doesn’t even have to exist.

Bridging the skills/experiences gap.
The STAR does something else very effectively, something which wasn’t really touched on in my previous blog; it bridges the gap between skills and experiences. The STAR approach is a really effective way of saying to an employer ‘I have these skills and can show you because of this.’

Using the STAR approach is slightly different in written format for a few reasons;
1) You have limited space to answer therefore you have to be more concise.
2) There is more of an emphasis on implying your skills because the one they’re looking for isn’t explicitly asked for by a question.
3) You can really highlight areas of importance. If you have an area you want to jump out, then you can draw attention to it through different font techniques.

Looking at your CV and how STAR can be applied.
Now look at your CV, particularly your experiences section. Do you have a section in there that could benefit from using this approach? If so, take a look at the following format and compare it to what you’ve written;

I’m going to use a common example, a part-time retail assistant role, to demonstrate this method. However, this can be used for anything, so if you’ve got something else you want to use, go for it!

Part 1; Situation and Task
This is the part that outlines your role and task and should be no more than 2-3 sentences. This gives the recruiter some context and basically gives them the ‘Why?’ behind what you did.
‘In my part time role as a sales assistant, I was tasked to tidy the men’s apparel area of the store in order to make it more appealing to consumers. I noticed the product was good and had potential but the way it was organised didn’t justify this.

Part 2; Your Actions
This is where you have identified an area that you can have an impact on and have taken steps to do so. Your actions should be justified to demonstrate your reasoning and thought process.
‘I reorganised the section, making sure there were clearly distinguished places for the different apparel products, rearranged them by colour order and freed up floor space for customers to actually enjoy shopping in the area.’

Part 3; Result
The result is the stamp of approval. No matter what you did, if you can provide tangible benefits to your actions, you’re showing an employer that you can create successful outcomes.
‘As a result, that day alone we saw more interest in the apparel section and I was given the opportunity by management to share what I had done with colleagues and briefed them on the new organisation of this section.’

Look at this  example from an employer perspective. Tick the boxes!

This isn’t just the story of how this person made a store section better. Go through this again and think like an employer would.
ü  This person noticed a problem
ü  They were pro-active and sought to come up with a common sense solution to this problem.
ü  The person was organised and understood what consumers would respond to.
ü  This affected interest (and sales) positively.
ü  The person was then given leadership opportunities to help colleagues adopt the same understanding.

Compare and contrast.
I’d like you to compare the example, above, to the one below.
Retail Assistant;
  •          Responsible for organising areas of the store.
  •          Serving customers and recommending products.
  •          Teaching other staff on aspects of store organisation.
  •          Increasing sales in apparel section.
  •          100% time-keeping.
Ask yourself...
If you were recruiting for a job, who would you rather speak to based on their retail experience?

The Final Word
The STAR approach is a technique that, with some slight alterations, can be adapted to make your experiences stand out on your CV. No matter what you’ve done and achieved, by using this format you can effectively communicate and prove to an employer that you can make an impact based on your skills. The format also helps you steer clear of listing skills and not showing that you actually do have them and also makes sure you don’t fall into the trap of listing duties without really articulating what skills you developed through your experiences.

Chris Milborrow 
18th June 2013
I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and I welcome your feedback on any of my entries so far.

You can connect with me on Facebook and LinkedIn: ‘Chris Milborrow’ or on Twitter: @ChrisMilborrow 

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