How to Design a Resume That Tells Your Story

Last Updated on October 11, 2016

A close up portrait black male college student with black glasses and bow tie, isolated yellow white background.At its core, writing a good resume is a lot like staging your furniture when you sell a house. If the people who visit your home can picture themselves living there, they’re a lot more likely to buy it. In the same way, if the people who review your resume can see themselves working with you, you’re more likely to get an interview.

Your resume’s story should be so clear and so compelling that readers will know right away whether or not they’d want to work with you.

What’s Your Story?

 write out a story about your career.Instead of sitting down at your computer and typing out a resume, take a few hours — or even a few days — to write out a story about your career. Don’t let the story bounce from job to job or accomplishment to accomplishment; that’s not a story that anyone would want to read. Instead, make it more like a memoir in which you’re the main character. Let the ideas flow out, and don’t worry about it being edited or polished. After it’s finished, let it rest for 24 hours before you re-read it.

In her book “Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together,” career coach Pamela Slim suggests three main questions that can help you find the thread in your career story. Read through what you’ve written to find the answers to these questions.

What are Your Roots?

Your story should share something about what you value and why you do what you do.
Your story should share something about what you value and why you do what you do. Maybe you want to pursue this career because of something you learned in college, a professor who inspired you, a volunteer experience, or a passion you’ve had since childhood.

In addition to thinking about where you’ve come from, look at what you want to accomplish in your work. Identify who you want to help, what’s driving you emotionally, and how you’d like to change your corner of the world.

What Are Your Ingredients?

Every person possesses a unique set of skills, experience, history, and ideas. Your story should discuss the ingredients that you bring to your career and explain why those ingredients are important. As you write your story, you might discover that you’re missing some things you need to meet your career goals, and that’s okay. There’s always time to finish your bachelor’s degree, get a certification, or add a skill that you’ll need for your ideal job.

How Do You Like to Work?

When we’re kids, we often think of careers in terms of college majors. When we’re asked what we want to be when we grow up, we answer with a noun: doctor, accountant, psychologist, and so on. However, as adults, many people discover that career satisfaction depends more on enjoying how they work. Your story isn’t complete if you haven’t identified how you like to work.

For some people, happiness at work revolves around the setting. These people prefer to work in groups or work alone, or they have an ideal work environment: a traditional office, outdoors, a busy retail store, a garage, or a home office. For others, the tasks they do at work matter more than anything else. They like working with numbers, giving advice, solving problems, or closing a big sale. Instead of asking yourself what you want to be when you grow up, as yourself how you’d like to work when you grow up. Instead of aiming for a job title — the noun — apply for positions that let you work the way you want to work.

Turn the Story Into a Resume

Include a summary at the top of your resume that contains three bullet points. Include a summary at the top of your resume that contains three bullet points. Each point should explain what drives you, what you contribute, and how you like to work. Then, as you list your skills and on-the-job accomplishments, make sure you explain how every ingredient — your education, your experience, your personality traits — has created the person you described in your summary.

When your resume is less of a list and more of a story, the right hiring manager will read your story and think, “I could see myself working with this person.” Your working relationship begins even before you get your first interview question. If a hiring manager can’t see herself working with you, keep submitting resumes elsewhere. Eventually, someone who likes your story will offer you an interview.


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