How to Tell a Story with Your Resume

A great resume should read like a story, not a rap sheet.

A great resume should read like a story, not a rap sheet.

Not long ago I had lunch with a former TV reporter who was ready for a career change and wanted me to review his resume. I agreed. But when the resume arrived in my inbox a few days later, I was taken aback. What he sent looked more like a rap sheet than a resume and certainly wasn’t an argument for his success in a new role.

How could someone who had spent a career poetically telling the stories of others come up so short in telling his own? Happens all the time.

All journalists know their job involves more than just cataloging the facts. They must weave them into a relevant, compelling and accurate narrative. Yet, when it comes to telling their own tale, they---like all of us---often revert to a data dump. Every location, title, date and award is recorded. What’s missing is good information about how those previous jobs have prepared them for the next.

Journalists and all resume writers should ask themselves  “What’s the storyline that shows my future employer I’m a great candidate for this job?”

Here are a few ways to use storytelling to improve your resume:

Summarize your storyline. Briefly stating an objective is an excellent way to connect what you’ve done and what you want to do next, particularly if you’re changing careers and it’s not obvious. For example: “Veteran salesman seeks to apply competitive spirit, passion for science, and 25 years success in automotive to new role in pharmaceutical sales.” Just keep it short and steer clear of meaningless clichés like “proven track record,” “results-driven” and “demonstrated success” that typically signal the opposite of what they intend.

Paint a picture. Take the hiring manager’s view and think, “In what way does this person fit our company, our culture and our challenges?” Then accentuate experiences and skills that align with what your new employer needs and let go of some of the others. If you focus too much on the details that don’t apply to the next job, you’ll look like that’s all you can do or want to do.

Use slow mo and fast forward: Movie directors do it all the time: They draw out every detail of a key scene, then compress years or even decades that are less important. When writing your resume, the “real estate” you allot your experiences need not be proportional to the years you spent toiling at them. So long as you don’t distort the truth, it’s OK to elaborate on the few projects that most pertain to your next job while glossing over the time consuming tasks–or entire jobs–that don’t.

Bottom line: Apply a few simple storytelling techniques to your resume and interview process and your job search just might have a happy ending.

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you or what else has worked better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.