Unpack Your Resume to Prep for Interviews: A Storytelling Technique

Throughout your job search, you’ll be telling stories about your past experience to help hiring managers understand how you’ll likely perform in the job if they hire you. In this post, I’m going to share a trick that can help you start to prepare for interviews well ahead of when you’ll reach that point in your job search, so that when you meet with an interviewer telling your story will be a breeze.

Taking notes.On your resume, you can use a bullet point formula for sharing detail and telling stories with your past experiences. The one we like goes like this:

Skill verb + what you did + why you did it or the result/outcome of your action (quantifying throughout)

This formula helps to move your bullet point statements from something like:

  • Answered phones.

To something more like:

  • Communicated with about two dozen clients per day about appointment scheduling and problem solved issues in a professional manner to ensure a positive customer experience.

See the difference? There’s a lot more detail shared, and it can help hiring managers get a true sense of your skills and experience.

In interview preparation, we have a similar formula, STAR:

  1. Situation/Task: Set up the context of the story you plan to tell.
  2. Action: Describe the action that you personally took.
  3. Result: Wrap it up by explaining the result or outcome, quantifying when possible (percent change, lessons learned, time saved, etc.)

STAR can be used for a variety of interview questions because it’s such a flexible formula. Additionally, it’s very similar to the bullet point formula! There are three parts to the story, and the only difference is the order of these parts and the length of the story. Check it out:

Resume   Interview
1. Skill verb 2. Action
2. What you did 1. Situation/task
3. Why you did it/outcome 3. Result

Now, since the skill verb is usually just one word, it’s important to give a specific example of that action if you don’t already have it built in to your situation/task or result. This gives us our final strategy:

Resume   Interview
1. Skill verb 2. Action + Detailed Example
2. What you did 1. Situation/task
3. Why you did it/outcome 3. Result

This similarity between the two formulas makes it easy to use your resume’s bullet points while preparing for interviews. Here’s a way that the bullet point statement above can work well as an interview answer:

Q: Tell me about a time when you used good judgment in solving a problem.

A: One of my daily tasks as a receptionist was to answer phones [Situation/Task] and help clients to schedule appointments and address inquiries. Part of this involved solving problems in a professional manner [Situation/Task]. I quickly learned how to communicate [Action] to callers that I understood their questions and concerns. One time in particular [Detailed Example], a client called to verify an appointment the next day that hadn’t actually gotten onto the calendar. Our next opening was over two weeks out. So, I assured the customer that I understood their situation, needed to check with my supervisor, and would call them back within two hours to let them know if we could get that appointment onto the calendar after all. While we weren’t able to schedule the customer the next day, we were able to get them in only a week later, and I communicated our apologies clearly during the callback. This provided a positive customer service experience [Result] and retained that client.

There you have it! If this is a helpful method for you, download this worksheet to start writing out some STAR story prompts based on your resume. It’ll come in handy to have these notes already started when you have an interview coming up!

Did this strategy work for you when preparing for an interview? Let us know at careers@du.edu—we love to hear success stories and feedback!

By Kyle Inselman
Kyle Inselman Director, Alumni Career & Professional Development