How Telling Stories Could Help You Land Your Next Job

How Telling Stories Could Help You Land Your Next Job

Standing out is what this job search malarkey is all about. You need to clearly stand out to get your CV to the top of the pile. Only then will you be able to show how outstanding you are as a candidate.

It’s a sad fact that, even at the highest levels, the majority of CVs are bland and generic. A recruiter’s desk is often covered in CVs fashioned from poorly considered templates or documents littered with generic, overused phrases like “a highly motivated self-starter” that do little to showcase the candidate’s unique skillset and USPs. Most CVs don’t accurately represent a real, living, breathing person and instead rely on pat descriptions and ‘expected’ phrasing. As a result, they are often ordinary and unengaging, and show very little about how the candidate will fit into the target organisation.

Mug of coffeeIt doesn’t have to be this way. With clever techniques you can create a powerful CV that expresses the very essence of your professional self, presenting your background and experience in a unique and compelling way.

One of the best ways to create a stand out CV is to incorporate stories. And it’s a great discipline to get into, not least because you can use these stories again at interview to really bring your background and experience to life.

Painting stories means providing clear context for the achievements you describe. Giving this context allows the reader (or interviewer) to immerse themselves into the situation and have a thorough understanding of the impact you made. They can then see for themselves the way in which you worked and how you succeeded. They can start to imagine how you would fit into their own organisation.

Rather than saying something like:

‘Responsible for managing a portfolio of Marketing Agency clients and winning 4 new accounts in the first year”


‘Appointed during a tumultuous year following the previous Client Director’s abrupt departure when accounts were down 30% on 2016. Grew a portfolio of clients from 2 to 6 in the first year, leading to +40% revenues and 12% overall profit year-on-year.’

See how more powerful it becomes when you provide a little context and engage the reader to show what you did and the impact that had?

Another great example for a not-for-profit marketing executive is:

‘Designed, planned and publicised National Carer’s Week 2017 event in partnership with Company AB which resulted in record 45% new enquiries and extensive media coverage, including in the Guardian and on BBC Breakfast News. As a result, the organisations formed an ongoing alliance which continues to this day’.

Stories should be compelling, and relevant. You need to show that your past experience means you could successfully deal with similar scenarios in the future. So, be clear on what your target organisation’s challenges are (and how you could help resolve them). Showcase your stories that show similar scenarios, and the positive impact you had.

pencil and paperIf you’re targeting a new industry or sector, or completely new job role, do your research and think carefully about transferable experiences and skills that you can build your stories around. And always think ultimately in terms of the impact you had and the positive difference it made (this is almost always related to growth, sales, efficiency, profit and customer or employee satisfaction).

Stuck on where to start?

Put your CV to one side. Grab a blank piece of paper and spend 10 minutes brainstorming the stories of your success. Make lots of notes. What was the context of the story? What was the problem or challenge and who did it affect? How was the business or department performing at the time? What was the culture like? What did you do? What impact did it have? How did it change things? Who noticed the differences?

Build up a list of several stories like this from various job roles that you can use both in your CV and also discuss at interview.

Think about each story carefully. Consider the best words to use to describe the scenarios. And then if it’s for use at interview, practice, practice, practice. If it’s for use on your CV, refine your story down into clear, succinct sentences with punch.

Everyone loves a great story. So don’t be afraid to use them.


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