How to: SAR stories for your resume and interviews


One of the things I always ask clients to brainstorm at the start of our process is “SAR stories,” which will give us the ideal raw ingredients for your resume, LinkedIn profile, and job interviews.

SAR is an acronym for a type of success story; it stands for:

S – Situation
A – Action
R – Result

When thinking about a SAR story, the idea is to describe a Situation you were faced with; the Action you took; and the Result that was achieved. There are also other acronyms, like CAR (Challenge – Action – Result) and STAR (Situation – Task – Action – Result), that refer to essentially the same concept. An earlier version of this article referenced CAR.

Let’s use a really easy made-up example.

  • Situation: Our vendor for widgets was raising prices significantly.
  • Action: I obtained quotes from other vendors and assembled a cross-functional team to analyze whether it was feasible to make widgets in-house.
  • Result: We were able to transition widget production in-house at a 23% savings compared to the vendor’s prices.

When you’re compiling SAR stories, you’ll want to quickly jot them down without regard for complete sentences, grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, etc.

So the above example would look like this Shorthand Example:

  • S – widget vendor raising prices
  • A – got quotes; put together team to analyze
  • R – moved widget-making in-house… 23% savings

Bear in mind that nobody will ever see your raw SAR stories–they are just for you (and your resume writer if you’re working with one).

On your resume, the example above would be presented as a succinct bullet – “Achieved 23% cost savings by transitioning widget-making in-house after primary widget vendor raised prices.”

On a job interview, you would take ~60-90 seconds to tell the story in your natural speaking style; there is no need to say “The situation was,” “The action was,” etc.

On LinkedIn, most of my clients don’t benefit from content as detailed as what’s on their resume, but a few highlights of your SAR stories still might make the cut.

Keep it short and simple

I advise compiling your SAR stories in a simple, abbreviated way just like the shorthand example above. I don’t recommend writing long, detailed SAR stories that take up half a page. Believing that you need to write something very detailed and eloquent will slow you down unnecessarily, and you’ll waste too much of your time.

Compiling SAR stories does not require writing ability, and it should only take a a minute to jot down each SAR story like the example above on a notepad. You could compile 15 SAR stories in 15 minutes–although sometimes the trick is jogging your memory! So this exercise might take 30-60 minutes if you struggle to remember everything you’ve worked on.

If you don’t have the numbers/data available

If you don’t have the data handy, you can use X% or $X as a place-holder until you’re able to find the missing number. Get all your SAR stories down on paper and worry about the numbers later.

If you don’t have access to the precise numbers, it’s acceptable to use estimates. You could say “an estimated 10% decrease,” “a 30-40% increase,” “7-figure,” “in excess of $250K,” etc.

If any of the numbers are confidential, some of the aforementioned approaches can also work well for obscuring confidential information (such as “6-figure,” “7-figure,” “8-figure,” “$500K+,” etc.).

Don’t Be Intimidated by SAR Stories

I find that clients often put SAR stories on a pedestal and tend to over-think them. They’ll come up with numerous metrics related to their performance and then say “I was only able to think of two SAR stories.” There’s a BIG disconnect here.

If they have 10 different examples of metrics that are measurements of various improvements, then each of those 10 metrics would be considered a Result, which could only have been possible by taking some sort of Action, which probably was prompted by a Situation. So in reality they probably have 10 SAR stories, not two.

One problem seems to be that some job seekers perceive a SAR story as having to be a really BIG deal. In reality, some of them aren’t necessarily going to be super impressive, while others will be more impressive; they don’t all need to be equally impressive. If you’ve had a 20-year career, you might have a couple dozen SAR stories. You don’t need to share all of them on interviews, and not all of them need to be included on your resume.

Only the most impressive and relevant ones are worth mentioning in resumes and interviews–but it’s best to begin by brainstorming a good number of them, and then we can cherry-pick. You’re better off compiling, say, 15 SAR stories, and only 10 of them are worth using, rather than only compiling five and missing out on the other five that would have also been helpful.

Think about past results from your work. For example: an increase in EBITDA, an increase in top-line revenue, increased efficiency, a cost reduction, time savings, or any metrics that are specific to marketing, supply chain, finance, or any other area of the business.

Keep Track of Your SAR Stories

Updating your resume is a great time to compile SAR stories. If it’s been a while, you’ll probably have a lot! Moving forward, I recommend that at the end of each year you jot down your accomplishments for that year in the form of SAR stories, with numbers when applicable. Keep all of that info handy so you’ll have it handy when it comes time to interview or update your resume. If you’ll be going through an annual performance review process, that’s the perfect time to jot down your abbreviated SAR stories for that year.

This article first appeared on