DON’T LIE ON YOUR RÉSUMÉ, TELL A STORY


On Christmas Day, in one of those lulls in time between turkey bastings, I checked y email and there was an interesting by writer K.B. Schaller the Linked In groups I subscribe to. She wrote, “I have just been asked Where Do Your Stories Come From? I’m interested in your opinions on this.”

I replied from the position of a résumé writer. I wrote, “I try to bring psychological suspense, romance and humour to the résumés I write. I suppose that’s why I have so few clients.” I then attached a link to the blog posting below about channeling Ernest Hemmingway to write your cover letters.

I wasn’t expecting a reply, but she did. She wrote. Hello, Mike. I visited your link and in keeping with the topic of this thread, are we to conclude that your résumés are stories? You earned five stars from this author for originality, though:-).”

I listened to the turkey splattering in the roasting pan as I wrote, “Thanks for the vote. I hold the opinion that a resume should absolutely be a story. It should be the story of a person’s life to the point of
the job they’re applying for. Moreover, it should capture the reader’s attention long enough to generate sufficient interest to make the reader want to invite the candidate in for an interview. At that
point, the applicant has to be able to recite that story with the question, “Tell me a little bit about yourself,”

Evan Hodge chimed in with his comment, “Mike, the idea is sound. But do hiring managers and HR folk have the necessary sense of humour? I want to see Karl Marx write the next resume — for a banker.” I replied, “That’s a crap shoot, and I would go with it. Would you want to work for an employer who didn’t have a sense of humour?”

Come to think of it, Karl Marks may might include some good marketing rhetoric for the sale of mutual funds.

After working in the employment field for the better part of the last decade and a half, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on making résumés that tell stories. In the interests of helping your résumé sing, and helping you sing at your interview, I present three tips to help you and your story

1. Recognize the elements of your story
Some people have remained at on job for decades and have almost reached retirement age before they need to consider a new career – usually through circumstances they can’t control. Others, like me, have gone through many positions and total career changes in the process of getting where they are. In both cases, there are stories to tell. All you need to do is recognize that there are elements in your story will help your story write itself

In the case or a long-term worker, it is useful to list some of the elements that made your longevity possible. These might include:
• Being an active member of the Health and Safety Committee
• Being a shop steward
• Scoring high points on their performance records
• Getting stuck with a favourable labour market
• Asking for raises

In this case, the story generated is one of a loyal and hard working employee who was interested in getting involved in the company culture of the place. This may be because the worker wanted recognition within the company, better pay, and perhaps a little job security. Then there’s the element at the end that may be an obstacle that you tripped over – but hopefully it didn’t hurt much because you’re interested in another position.

In the latter case, the elements might be:
• Chasing new opportunities – both employment and training/education
• Having a lab blow up and losing a some priceless artifacts
• Working on contract
• Showing off
• Having your spandex shorts split from ass to breakfast in the middle of a fitness class you’re teaching.

Any of these and other elements can help you cobble together a great yarn. In my case, I need to find a thread of a story that connects my career history from mill worker to suicide prevention worker to archaeologist to street social worker to employment counsellor to humour writer to vocational rehabilitation counsellor. I have to watch and selectively edit my story so the poor interviewer’s eyes don’t glaze over. There’s nothing more unnerving than an interviewer with glazed eyes.

2. Know your resume, know your story
To tell a great story you need to know it from the inside out. Luckily there two good guidelines for that, and those are the two question that usually begins an interview. Ask yourself these two questions before you begin to write your resume. Ask them orally, and have someone write down your responses.
The first is “Tell me a little bit about yourself.”

When you answer this question, do it in front of the bathroom mirror with a pen and paper on the counter. Write down what you say about yourself. Then apply chronology to it. See if you can remember dates 0 at least to the nearest year. Throw in what you did at each position, and write them in point form. When you have completed it chronologically, repeat the process synchronously. What were you doing at each position? What did you think? Were there positive or negative politics? What caused you to move from one position to the next?

Stick to work issues. Omit statements about age, sexual orientation and politics unless that is the job. In most jurisdictions they cannot ask this stuff, so don’t volunteer it.

The second question is, “What do you have in your educational and professional background that prepares you for this position?”

Your answer to this one will add credibility to your resume, and therefore to your application. Notice that I didn’t say any specific skill or course you’ve picked up along the way. This will make your résumé more muscular. Nobody wants to read a flabby résumé

Practice your answers to these so you won’t forget your story.

3: Learn to use your story
Most companies conduct behavioural interviews these days. They are designed to show the interviewer might behave in certain situations. In each case, you need to be able to pull together a answers based on this. To answer effectively, you will need to think of a situation where someone was harassing you, a relationship with someone you had to cover for frequently, and someone or some thing that or who was working counterproductively. Answers to these should involve you doing something, you instituting a change, and that change was registered as a positive as you left the world a better place.

Answers to this also allows you to add communication skills, problem solving and negotiation to your resume. This is the impression you want to leave the reader and the interviewer, and these are the soft skills that employers are looking for in employees. If they aren’t part of your story now, put them there.

Mike Broderick , a one- time archaeologist, is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor with the Fraser Health Authority in Port Coquitlam where he helps people with mental health disabilities find and keep full or part time employment .
He WAS the Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he found employment for people with physical disabilities, A Supported Employment Coordinator at THEO BC (now the Open Door Group), and a case manager at Community Fisheries Development Centre where he helped people move from the fishing industry to something else because there “aint no fish.” This means he is VERY familiar with how a modern day resume should look like.
He is an active ambassador with the Vancouver Board of Trade and a member of the Labour Task Force of the Burnaby Board of Trade He does some work as a field Archaeologist, is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to Alive Magazine. He is always saying, “If you can’t be fit, you can at least be funny.”
He lives in Port Coquitlam with his spouse Cecelia. You can reach him at home at michael_broderick@telus.net or at 604-464-4105 If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates.

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4 Responses to “DON’T LIE ON YOUR RÉSUMÉ, TELL A STORY”

  1. Georgina Merry Says:

    Excellent post!

  2. Sharon Says:

    Mike,
    This is wonderful. I never thought of a resume as more than a listing of my various jobs with a short, short description of duties. When we talked about this a year or so ago, I didn’t understand what you were trying to tell me. All I can say about this post is WOW! Keep up the good work.

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