Building a storytelling resume isn’t about holding story time to lull the reader to sleep. Instead, storytelling resumes are akin to miniature action movies. They include a beginning, a middle, and an end – or “rising action,” “climax,” and “falling action” in storytelling terms.
The problem with most resumes is that they leap from rising action (challenge + action) to falling action (result), omitting the climax along the way. For example, in describing a market and culture renovation, a careerist might say:
“Transformed regional culture, triggering $1.5 billion boost in regional orders and revenue plus market share gains in 36 months.”
While the above is a solid achievement, a more energized action movie resume would deepen the story:
“Converted underperforming, weak team into winning high-performers capable of wrangling down challenges of bureaucratically weighted geography and formidable competitors devoid of meaningful collaborations. Led and influenced complete culture revamp, igniting market share and financial improvements.”
The point of enriching the story with details is to catch the recruiter’s attention while also appealing to their emotions. By contrasting an underperforming team with the dragon-slaying high-performers who took on formidable competitors (climax) and ultimately skyrocketed regional orders by $1.5 billion (result), you’ve painted a compelling and immersive scene for the decision-maker reading your resume.
Furthermore, you’ve satisfied the decision-maker’s emotional proclivity for winning. By playing the hero in your story, you further sell your value and compel the recruiter to contact you – even if just to see whether you are for real.
A few more strategies that make a storytelling resume attractive to recruiters include:
1. Sell, Don’t Tell
A resume that focuses on duties and accountabilities will drive the reader off and onto the next candidate. Instead, market your wins and your valuable traits that contributed to those wins. For example, if you are an articulate communicator who boils down complexity and you’re seeking a technical sales role, tell a story about a time when you wrangled down technical complexity in order to land a profitable sale and a long-term client.
2. Don’t Generalize – Focus
If you have been an operations manager in the mobile technology arena and that is the career you wish to pursue going forward, then own it. Headline your resume with this specific title and industry target. Diluting your brand with a “senior manager” resume will not connect with a recruiter’s needs. Recruiters represent companies who need to fulfill specific positions in particular industries.
3. Invigorate People, Don’t Bore Them to Tears
Recruiters are masters at reviewing resumes because they have looked at thousands. Writing “developed,” “produced,” or “achieved” over and over in your resume can be fatal. While using words like “skyrocket” and “slashed” may initially feel unnatural, you should sprinkle this attention-grabbing language throughout your resume.
4. Weave in Sophisticated Language
Your resume is a professional document. It does not need to abide by the myth that everyone reads at an eighth-grade level. While your resume shouldn’t send the recruiter to a dictionary every three lines, it is important to incorporate fresh, smart language throughout to demonstrate your refined understanding of the hiring company’s needs.
5. Clarify Your Timeline
Regardless of the strategies you may employ to close employment gaps, bridge your lack of experience, or deflect age discrimination, you must always be clear on where you worked and when. In other words, getting too creative with a functional resume on a fuzzy timeline won’t cut it. Recruiters do not have time to puzzle through and connect the dots. If they are pressed to do so, your resume will be tossed from the stack.
6. Take Ownership
Whether you are submitting your resume for an early career role or a more advanced senior position, make sure you sit at the helm of your resume stories. While team players are valuable, hiring decision-makers also want to know that you can take the wheel and move a project along. Covering your achievements with the cloak of teammates or managers will weaken your value – and your shot at the interview.
Storytelling resumes are not one-and-done writeups of responsibilities interspersed with metrics. A richer resume that delves into the complexities and nuances of your career will be more likely to spark a recruiter’s interest. A strategic storytelling resume that uses the above tips and focuses on the target reader’s needs will help move you from the review pile to the interview shortlist.