Most job seekers that I work with don’t realize how badly their own resumes are hurting their confidence. When I hear a job seeker say, “I don’t feel challenged at my workplace,” “I feel underutilized,” or “I can’t find anything to take pride in at work,” their resumes show why.
Job seekers often create resumes that look and read more like a list. The problem with this approach is employers can’t compare candidates and determine which is the best fit for the job by a list alone. Your unique career story is what will make you stand out from other candidates, not a flashy resume.
Do you consider your resume your story? Simply by using your resume to tell your unique story, you’ll start looking at the work that you do and the value you offer to employers differently.
Here’s how you can apply storytelling tactics to write a great resume that stands out from your competitors.
Step 1 | Analyze The Job Posting
To make sure that your resume tells your story in a way that speaks to the employer’s needs, start by analyzing the job posting. You want to identify the mission or goal of the organization, the primary goals of the role you’re applying for, the qualifications or requirements for the ideal candidate, and the preferred skills.
These details will help you create mini-stories that will present you as the best fit for the job. Addressing both the mission of the company and the primary goals of the role you’re applying for in a Branding Statement at the top of your resume will also help present you as the best fit for the job.
Not sure how to get started? This Branding Statement Cheat Sheet should help!
Step 2 | Create A List
Create a list of 8-10 of the qualifications and skills listed in the job posting that you possess. If you’re struggling to narrow down the list, some of the qualifications that you can eliminate from this list because they will be listed elsewhere on your resume are your degrees and certifications. Focus on statements like, “8+ years of experience in…”
You may come across a job posting that lists only a few qualifications and skills. Start your list with these and then research similar job postings in your area to add additional related qualifications and skills to help set your resume apart from the others.
Step 3 | How Did I Demonstrate This?
Start with the first item on your list and answer this question: How did I demonstrate this skill or experience? You should have two answers. The first will be a summary of your typical tasks and responsibilities while working for specific employers. The second answer should be more detailed because it relates to a certain project, contribution, or achievement.
For example, how did you demonstrate “excellent customer service skills” for a previous employer? You would start by describing your typical tasks:
"I answered a multi-line phone to answer questions, recommended products based on what the customer was looking for, handled cash, completed purchases and returns, etc."
Next, you would describe a more detailed answer related to a certain contribution:
"I got great customer satisfaction surveys because I listened to customers’ needs, tried to be helpful by recommending products that would meet their needs, directed them to the products, and completed the purchase."
Step 4 | Why Was This Necessary?
Adding context to your mini-stories will help set you apart from other job seekers who simply state what they did on a daily or weekly basis. The context could describe why your contributions were necessary, who was affected by your contributions, how long it took for your contributions to make an impact, and who recognized you for the contributions.
For our customer service example, your answer to this question may look something like this:
"Even though I’m a cashier, I asked customers what they were looking for as they entered the store when we were short on sales associates for a few weeks. More customers bought our products instead of browsing and leaving without any purchases."
Step 5 | What Resulted From This?
Employers love measurable achievements! Highlighting how much you increased sales, how many customers you assisted, how much you improved customer service ratings, or how much you improved accuracy in some area of your work is key to presenting the value you offer to employers.
In some fields, getting access to your sales or ratings may not be realistic. Instead, you can focus on adding measurable context to your mini-stories. For our example, you could answer this question by stating:
"My contributions raised our customer satisfaction ratings from 85% to 98% in one month."
Step 6 | Put The Stories Together
Combining the tasks you completed to demonstrate the skill, why it was necessary, and what resulted will create a mini-story that supports the qualifications and skills that you claim you have on your resume. This is typically referred to as the C-C-A-R (Challenge, context, actions, and results) method for telling stories.
Your mini-story may look like this:
"When we were short staffed for several weeks, I assisted customers with finding and purchasing products that would meet their needs. Customers thanked me for actively listening to their needs, recommending and directing them to products, and completing the purchase. Supervisors recognized me for being so helpful and for helping to raise customer satisfaction ratings from 85% to 98% in one month."
Step 7 | Trim Down Your Stories
Since you only have one to two pages to showcase that you are the best fit for the job, you’ll need to trim down your stories into two or three-line statements. Your resume will be easier to skim and more engaging to read with concise statements rather than blocks of text.
One tactic that I use to draw attention to the unique value my clients offer to employers is to showcase the result first. You could trim down our example mini-story to something like this:
“Impacted customer satisfaction rating growth from 85% to 98% in one month by actively listening to each customer’s needs and recommending appropriate products while short on sales associates in addition to completing purchases."
Step 8 | Organize Your Stories
The final step is to organize your stories appropriately. Applicant Tracking software recognizes standard headings such as “Experience” and “Education,” so adding a separate section for “Achievements” or “Major Contributions” may not be the best approach. Instead, use paragraph summaries to describe your typical tasks followed by a bullet list to highlight your achievements or major contributions beneath each job you have listed on your resume.
This approach will make your resume easier to visually scan and skim for important details.
Separate yourself and your resume from other candidates and their resumes by telling your unique story and showing how your contributions impacted company goals.