4 Ways to Turn Your Resume Into an Engaging Story!

I'm a marketer, and in laymen’s terms this simply means I help brands tell their stories. These are true stories of course; otherwise I’d be a lawyer. (I kid, I kid.)

So when my colleagues and peers ask me to look over their resume, my approach isn’t the same one as a traditional editor or career counselor; I’m looking for a resume that tells your story and be an excellent representation of your personal brand. There’s a reason why bedtime stories are a thing but no one says “Read me a list of bullets.” Plus, anyone who’s had to review countless resumes will agree that the resumes that make it to the top of the heap are most likely the ones that highlight not only an ability to do the job well, but an ability to communicate their successes and what they uniquely bring to the table.

Here are four tips to help ensure your resume tells your best story:

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  1. Mirror your resume’s style to the style of the employer or industry you’re applying for. One way to subtly communicate that you are a good fit for a particular company’s ethos (and also show that you’ve done some research) is to let it show in your resume. Are you an Art Director looking to work for an offbeat boutique creative agency? I’d recommend ditching the traditional resume with default fonts and opt for a simple, but creative resume that shows your flair. If you’re looking for work in the finance industry (or another conservative trade), it is likely best to stick with a more formal design. (For examples of creative and formal resumes – and everything in between – I recommend Canva!) Note: when submitting resumes to an online portal, it is best to have a plain text resume on hand that Applicant Tracking Systems can easily read.
  2. Find the common thread: If you’re like me, you have experience doing various types of work that don’t seem similar, and you may feel your resume doesn’t tell a linear story. But more often than not, you can find a common thread running through your positions that will help an employer make sense of your journey. For example, I started my career as a nonprofit administrator, shifted to radio and media sales in the private sector, and eventually landed in advertising. At first glance that all seems wildly different, but my common thread is at each position, I was primarily responsible for managing and developing relationships with external clients, (first Board members and funders, then with small businesses and potential advertisers, and currently with advertising clients.)
  3. This is totally the time to brag: It is tempting to copy and paste from the job description document you were likely provided when you started. However, there is likely a chance that other candidates you’re competing with have done the same thing and have similar job descriptions. What reason does an employer have to choose you? For example, instead of saying “I managed social media campaigns on Facebook”, you should tell a story like “I increased social engagement on Facebook for three CPG brands by 14 percent on average.” The latter shows empirical evidence that you not only managed social media campaigns, but that you also managed them well.
  4. Let someone else sing your praises too: Did you impress a client or colleague enough for them to send you a kind email or message? Why not share it? You can work this into your introductory message (versus an outdated objective) or in the cover letter that accompanies your resume. Which one sounds better?
  • “I’m an accounting manager with five years of accounting experience in real estate and marketing industries. I am fully knowledgeable in general accounting, payroll, budgeting, and journal entry preparation. I am also adept at implementing innovative accounting practices and procedures to improve efficiency.”
  • “I’m an accounting manager with five years of accounting experience ranging from payroll and budgeting to journal entry preparation. I was most proud when a client shared, “Brian has patiently addressed every detail and tax break opportunity for our firm for the past three years and I wouldn’t trust anyone else to manage our accounts.”

Of course, if you’ve done all the work to ensure that your resume tells a story but you didn’t a) complete a spelling/grammar check; b) include a list of specific software/platforms you're proficient in (if applicable); c) include your phone number, email address and your city/state... then … you may have wasted your time crafting such a great story! Don’t forget the basics.

Do you have any tips or methods you’ve used to help your resume stand out from the crowd? I’d love to hear them!

This article also appears on LinkedIn.