Good resume style dictates that you are clear about your contributions to a project. The advise is to use action verbs, to specifically describe what your contribution was, and what the outcome was.

While I have participated in academia on many deliverables and projects that have resulted in conference papers, the nature of academic work is not as task-based as in many industry positions. What I am asking is, How can I write effective STAR bullet points for highly collaborative projects in which everyone does a little bit of everything? (STAR is a common resume-writing tip that says Situation, Task, Action, Result).

In my particular situation, a project involves the following steps:

  • Designing up experiments
  • Running the experiments
  • Conducting analysis
  • Building analysis tools
  • Interpreting and writing up results

However, no single person was responsible for these duties. I helped design the experiment and create some of the materials, but I didn't create all of them. I helped conduct analysis by both writing some Ruby scripts and simply pouring over data manually, but I didn't do it all myself - we passed it around. I made interpretations and inferences of what this data meant and wrote it up in papers, but it wasn't just me. It was me and my team. I didn't write just one section, I touched them all. So did everyone else. I wasn't assigned a task of, "Do this".

Thus, to try to speak of this in a resume ends up sounding weak. I can't say,

  • Wrote conference paper describing results that was accepted to ACM Conf. on Human Factors in Computing

because it wasn't just me. I can't say,

  • Designed experimental lab study in a cross-functional team to investigate how an intelligent tutoring system helped end users learn, which led to a publication to the ACM Conf. on Human Factors in Computing

because it wasn't just me. The "A for Action" in STAR ends up appearing weak.

Though I do have situations in which I was solely responsible for ("Formatted and delivered the final finishing touches on a conference paper under a tight deadline"), I feel that I do not have space for those kinds of bullets and instead feel it is more strategic to focus on entire projects instead ("Co-designed three qualitative and quantitative studies and drew insights from data using statistical and visual techniques...")

While I've provided a specific example here, I hope that my particular situation is not too localized and that others may generalize from it.

Again, How can I write effective STAR bullet points for highly collaborative projects in which everyone does a little bit of everything?

  • Don't sweat too much over that. The CV is treated as noise, no real information value. That section content is hardly ever read.
    – Balog Pal
    Jun 21, 2013 at 18:29
  • @balogPal Your comment seems to go against the commonly-accepted thoughts about how important a resume is, if the career-advice folks are to be believed.
    – Irwin
    Jun 21, 2013 at 19:44
  • @Irwin: Well, as we're on a general site, and it can be misrepresented: that stands for for SW developer and like area. I don't know if the carrier advice folks are good elsewhere, in this niche my experience with their advice is extremely poor. But I speak not from their side but from "company looking for usable staff". And if you play the same field and actually read the said section, just say so, that counts.
    – Balog Pal
    Jun 21, 2013 at 21:47
  • Are you applying for academic positions? At least at US universities, a lengthy vita is much more acceptable than other industries. Get an example from some of your professors and have them evaluate yours before sending.
    – user8365
    Jun 24, 2013 at 20:15
  • @JeffO No, I'm not applying for academic positions.
    – Irwin
    Jun 24, 2013 at 21:43

1 Answer 1


In my personal experience, just a few lines saying contributed in requirement gathering, architecting, testing etc. is way more than enough for most technical evaluators. All technical evaluators know that a project is team work and even a leader, is just a contributor. A discussion of the details of the project form a major part of the technical evaluation.

Of course, for your resume to reach a technical person you will have to catch the attention of the resume reading HR (Non technical, mostly) for which most of the times all you need to do is to maintain a summary/list of your skillset technologies on the front page/cover letter.

In my personal experience if you continue with this format of a resume, sooner than later your resume will consist of too many pages and risk the chance of being deleted without given due credit. For many interviewers, including me and friends, it becomes mentally taxing to go through really detailed explanations of projects when most of us are only skimming through the resume.

  • +1 the resume is meant to get you the interview. I ask the detailed questions about your projects there, I just need a quick broad rundown of what you've done.
    – Randy E
    Jun 22, 2013 at 17:57

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