Telling a story with your resume

Telling a story with your resume

Most of my career coaching clients hate working on their resumes. However, resume writing doesn't have to be dry! This came up recently with one of my private clients.

“What story are you telling with this resume?” I asked my client Alyssa.

We were reviewing her resume together – which in reality was just a bulleted regurgitation of her job description.

“Story?” she asked. “I’m just telling the employer what I’ve done,” she told me. “My real concern is the formatting – I don’t know how to get the formatting right.”

As a career coach, I’ve heard this sentiment expressed many times before. Still, listening to how much concern people have for the formatting of their resume rather than what it actually says just blows my mind.

The most well formatted resume is meaningless if it doesn’t captivate your reader. Any candidate can state facts about past roles and compile previous job duties. To make your resume stand out from the pile, you need to create a cohesive narrative about yourself. After all, stories are what draws people in and makes us connect.

Here are a few ways to effectively tell your story:

1. Decide how you want to be viewed by potential employers

Before you even start writing your resume, make sure you get crystal clear on this question. This is especially important if you’re fresh out of college, or have past jobs that are unrelated. While your job experiences can’t really be changed, you can refine how you frame and write about them in order to help shape your story. For example, a more thoughtful resume could present the same candidate as the “customer service specialist” or the “friendly computer salesgirl.” This is not at all about changing the past or stretching the truth – it’s simply about using a bit of creativity to construct a cohesive narrative.

2. Determine which skills are most valuable to employers

When telling your story through your resume, there are likely many accomplishments that you’ll want to highlight. But do the accolades you’re showcasing line up with the needs of your potential employer? For example, if you’re applying for a job in design, should you be drawing attention to how many words per minute you can type – even if it’s an admirable number?

If you have an impressive accomplishment in an area that is totally irrelevant to the employer you’re applying to work for, don’t waste valuable resume space calling it out. Instead, focus on showing off the skills you possess that are going to actually be valuable to your next employer.

3. Ask yourself, “Is this word necessary?”

Unless you have over 10 years of work experience under your belt, your resume should be kept to one page. Therefore, you need make sure your resume is tightly worded and has sufficient impact. Go through your resume line by line and make sure that every word matters to the story you’re working to tell. Ask yourself, “Do I need this word in order to convey my story effectively?” A shorter, well-worded resume is likely to be much stronger than a wordy, redundant longer one.

Follow these steps as you make updates to your resume, and you’ll end up with a much clearer, compelling narrative of your work history – allowing you to stand out as the best candidate in the pile!