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Storytelling As A Resume Strategy

job search, spoken word, resume confidential, karen siwak, resume creating, story telling, resume writers, siwak, literature, culture, story, strategy, resume, karen, storytelling, tell This is a guest post from Karen Siwak.  Karen is an approved career expert here at Tim’s Strategy.  She is a top notch resume writer and blogger at Resume Confidential.  Karen’s strategy post is the perfect follow-up to last week’s post called “Tell Me About Yourself“.

“I have never met a boring person, but from time to time I’ve failed to ask the right question.”

Spend some time in a networking event, and chances are that the people who you will remember most are the ones with whom you exchanged stories. Hiring managers will tell you after a day of interviewing candidates, the ones who stood out were the ones who had an interesting story to tell.

Good marketing is good storytelling. And a job search is all about good marketing. But if you wait for the interview to tell your stories, you may be missing an important opportunity to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Stories, when told in the right way, to the right audience, can be a terrific resume differentiator, the key to standing out in a pool of qualified candidates.

So, what are the critical success factors to making a story-telling strategy work?

1. Before you start writing your resume, create a detailed map of your career plot line, all the stories that define your career path. I’m not talking about simple CAR/PAR/SAR statements, but the nuts and bolts of how you came to be where you are today. What was going on the company, in the industry, when you first came on board? What was your mandate, the first challenge, and how did you go about tackling it? And then what happened? And then what happened after that? You will end up with dozens of stories, far more than you will need for your resume, but this is good. You are better off having a lot of stories that you can choose from, than a limited number of stories that have no connection with each other or with your audience.

2. Develop a detailed picture of your target audience – the kind of company or hiring manager you want your stories to appeal to. Marketers spend huge amounts of time defining their target markets, and so should job seekers. What are the issues and challenges that your ideal company is dealing with right now? What is their strategy? Their pain points? What are their buying motivators when it comes to hiring? What matters to them? The more time you spend on this, the easier it will be to figure out which of your dozens of stories your target audience is likely to want to hear.

3. Winnow through all the stories you’ve collected, and identify which ones will have the greatest impact on your target audience, which ones will “speak” to your target’s goals and challenges. Be ruthless in deciding which stories to include or exclude. Every story must pass the “so what” test. If the reason that it’s on the resume isn’t immediately obvious, then either it doesn’t belong, or it needs to be rewritten so that your target audience isn’t left wondering. Some great stories may end up on the cutting room floor, and that’s okay. Save them for your interviews.

4. Create context for your stories, so that your reader will understand the full scope and scale of your contributions. For each position, you should include information about the company and your mandate. For example: “Headhunted by this mid-sized widget manufacturing company to develop the Timbuktu market from the ground up.”

5. Write your stories in succinct bullet points. A basic “Generated $2.5M in sales of widgets to the SME sector within six months of launch in a greenfield territory” tells a much better story than a long paragraph with details on your responsibilities, the meetings you attended, the tasks that filled your day.

6. Sequence the bullets in a way that makes logical sense to the reader, which most times will be in the same order in which they occurred: did this, then this, then this, then this, culminating with a big bang legacy impact. In some cases it might be better to organize the stories around subject headings or case studies. Think like the hiring manager – what makes the most sense of them?

7. Make the first impression count. There are 72,000 self-described “visionaries” on LinkedIn, and no doubt hundreds of thousands more in resume databases. Purple prose sucks in a novel, it’s even worse in a resume. Self-aggrandizing profile statements are “white noise” to a reader. They get ignored at best, ridiculed at worst, because after a while they all sound alike, and they all sound hallow. A good storytelling resume will have an adjective-free profile that showcases, in tangible terms, exactly what the candidate is good at doing. “Sales Executive who knows what it takes to open up new regional and vertical markets and achieve $MM in first year sales through solution selling and active pipeline development.” Makes sure that your statement is backed up by proof in the stories you’ve selected.

8. Keywords, keywords, keywords. Use them in your stories. In your profile. In a keyword table if necessary. The first time around, the reader is going to do a resume eye-dance: resume heading, down to titles, across to dates, back to companies, down to education, back up to profile. Strategically placed keywords, bolded throughout the document, will jump off the page and give the reader an indication of why it will be worthwhile reading the document in more detail.

It is the rare person who doesn’t have at least a few interesting career stories. Finding the right stories to tell, and telling them in the right way, to the right audience, will make the difference between a “blah” resume and one that says “this is a candidate worth meeting.”

Resumes, Professional Resume, Karen Siwak, Career, CVKaren Siwak, aka @ResumeStrategy, is Executive Director of Resume Confidential and specializes in helping executives, senior managers and credentialed professionals market themselves for their next career move.

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Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Cover Letters And Resumes

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