Careers’ Useful Mnemonics For You

Careers advice can be complicated, so to make things easier to remember it’s often presented as acronyms made up of the key words and phrases. This is known as a mnemonic device, which (as well as being a cool looking word) is any technique you can use to recall the details of something (for example, Never Eat Shredded Wheat is used for the order of points on a compass).

We’ve compiled some of the most interesting examples that may well be useful in your career planning and job search, so here’s our CUMFY* selection for you:

STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result)

This is a way of structuring your answers on an application or at interview to fully demonstrate your skills and experience. By breaking your example into these sections, it’s easier to concentrate on the details that the recruiters are interested in and show how your actions made a difference. This is particularly useful for competency-based questions, such as “Can you give an example of when you have worked well as part of a team?”

Some variations on this include STAR D – the D stands for what you would have done differently), SBO: Situation, Behaviour, Outcome and CAR: Context, Action, Result.

See more details here:

WHEAT – (Workplace successes, High stakes, Experience, Approach, Temperament)

Picture source: Author: Bluemoose

This is a technique to concentrate on your unique qualities at interview and helps to focus on why you may be better at the job than other candidates. Here are some suggestions on how this technique might help you:

  • Workplace successes: (this could also be academic or extra-curricular success if you’ve not had much work experience) think about occasions where your actions have made a difference and you’ve had positive results and accolades.
  • High stakes: When have you achieved results when it has been important? (e.g. working in a busy environment, working to a tight deadline)
  • Experience: Why do your skills and experience make you the best fit for this role?
  • Approach: How do you tackle a challenge? Are you a logical or creative problem solver?
  • Temperament: How do others view you? How do you work well in a team and communicate and negotiate with others effectively?

See more details in this article from Job Search Bible.

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time-bound)

This is commonly used as a way of organising tasks within a team so that everyone is clear about what the intention of the activity is, and what is expected of them to complete this effectively. For example, if you were working as a group on a charity bake sale and wanted to create a poster you could break it down like this:

  • Specific– create a poster for the event which features the event name, date and location
  • Measurable– there will be 50 copies printed
  • Agreed – the designer will take responsibility and feedback to other team members on progress
  • Realistic – the poster will be a simple design with no additional photography required with a maximum budget of £25 for printing
  • Time bound – this will be required a minimum of 2 weeks before the event

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)

If you’re looking to research an employer as part of your preparation for an application or interview, a SWOT analysis is a good way of breaking down the categories to analyse. See our example below and find more detail on our interviews pages under preparing for

SUCCESS (Sense of direction, Understanding, Courage, Charity, Esteem, Self-confidence, Self-acceptance)

This is a nice positive one to finish on that attempts to sum up the characteristics of successful people. Perhaps it gives us all something to aspire to…

There’s loads more information about preparing for applications, interviews and teamworking on our website, and don’t forget that we’re here to answer all your careers-related questions, so please get in touch with us to find out how we can help you.

*As you may have gathered, it stands for Careers’ Useful Mnemonics For You (admittedly not the greatest acronym).