The Power Of The Story

by: Joanne Meehl

When job hunters strive to make their resumes fit a "proper" format, and thus sound flat and colorless, I cringe. When job interviewees turn quiet and obedient in an interview practice, I wince. Somehow, someone, somewhere must have told everyone there was/is only one way to do a resume, do an interview, and the lesson stuck.

And now a paragraph that seems to have nothing to do with the one above: Human beings love stories. From the dawn of time, we've sat around the fire, listening to stories. Today, it's sitting around the dining room table on a December holiday, or on the commuter bus with a Kindle, and yes, next to the fireplace curled up with a book -- each taking in a story. Family treasures include stories of how great-great-great grandma came to this country, or how grandpa moved everyone west for more farmland, or how Mom went back to get her GED. It must be in our DNA.

Back to our article: If stories are so much a part of us, why do we stop telling stories when it comes to job search? It should be the opposite. Employers have pretty much the same DNA as other humans, and need to hear your stories. I don't mean the one about Grandpa, I mean illustrations of how you have been successful. As I like to say to my clients, "Don't tell me, show me. Show the employer."

So the candidate who says "I am a good manager" is telling me. It's flat, blank. But the candidate who says "Let me give you an illustration of how I manage. When I came to the team, three of our best people were about to quit. I sat down with each of them, then the rest of the team. I listened a lot, talked about what I could change and not change, and negotiated with them to stay at least three more months to see if they could live with my proposed changes. They agreed and we made those changes -- I didn't want to lose my top producers. One thing I did was increase the bonuses for 'biggest increases for the month'. Not only did those three stay, they increased their performance AND the rest of the team moved up, too. It was fun to hand out those bonuses, which cost only 10% of the increase the team gave us! Now it's the most desired team to be on, in the whole company. I believe I can bring that same kind of management style to you here."


As that candidate tells that story, the interviewer is picturing him sitting down with his people, talking with his people, and then is eager to here where the story goes. The story's payoff is the success (increase in performance/$). THIS is what makes the candidate the one who gets the second interview and third and the offer.

It's the same with resumes: job hunters have to get away from making their resumes sound "proper" or legalish or tepid. Make it come alive with successes and before-and-after info. Put in a juicy quote from your manager or a client. If you were recruited to a particular job, tell us that. Use numbers as numerals, not spelled out -- a "rule" I love breaking. Then go crazy on your LinkedIn profile by repeating your keywords over and over again. Do what gets results -- calls for interviews --- and then do interviews that are alive with stories -- not what was once considered "proper".

So what's your story?


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