Telling your career success stories effectively will significantly enhance your job search
Almost every hire I have ever made resulted from my ability to relate to the candidate’s story. Solutions, right answers, and great ideas are as exciting as watching paint dry. On the other hand, who does not love risk-takers, plain talkers, and underdogs?
For the most part, job search success depends on which candidate tells the most compelling story, a story that will compel the hiring manager to hire them. Emotions are often the difference between a candidate being hired or rejected.
Logic is not the only factor in hiring decisions; emotions (feelings) play a significant role. Our emotions determine how we perceive someone when first meeting them, and those perceptions lead us to regard them positively or negatively. The quickest way to land on the hiring manager’s “positive” side is to tell a compelling and relevant story in your resume, cover letters, and interviews.
The power of storytelling lies in its ability to influence and persuade. Opinions are often more polarizing than persuasive, and statistics, even when used as evidence, are difficult to retain. However, you can tug at heartstrings if you blend the two into an engaging narrative. All you need to do is organize your achievements into a story that elicits positive emotions.
- Start with your audience in mind.
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Most job seekers believe providing a long, chronological list of projects, responsibilities, and job activities is a good job search strategy. The belief is that if you stuff as much experience as you can into a two-page resume, a four-paragraph cover letter or a 45-minute interview, something will click with the reader/interviewer, and they will “understand” your value and fit their business.
Actually, the opposite is likely to happen.
Will the person receiving your information remember everything? Nope! It is more strategic to prioritize your career information according to the employer’s needs, to show them only what is relevant to the position and their company; hence you do not come across as another cookie-cutter applicant, which employers typically see.
Always have your audience at the forefront of your mind. What is their role? What is their level? How are their business and industry doing? What current challenges do they face that are critical to their success?
Hiring managers look for more than just a list of skills and experiences. Along with hard skills (formal education, technical, foreign languages), employers, more than ever, look for candidates with soft people skills such as authenticity, strong communication, mindfulness, and inclusivity.
- Have a theme.
Once you know your audience, stop, and consider the one thing you want your audience to remember about you. In storytelling, this is called the ‘big idea’. It is the lynchpin of every effective story and, therefore, should be woven into all your written and verbal communications during your job hunt.
Are you looking to join a marketing organization? Then the overarching theme of your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letters and when interviewing might be: I’m a person who is driven by innovation and growth. Every example you give regarding your marketing expertise should demonstrate how your creativity contributes to brands reaching a wider audience. (e.g., Created a holistic paid acquisition strategy, leading to a 63 percent ROI for every dollar spent.)
Tie all your experiences in your resume, cover letters, and interviews directly into your theme. In addition to guiding your narrative, your theme influences a hiring manager’s memory of what you do and how well you do it.
- Context! Context! Context!
Throughout your job search, you will have many opportunities to share your career success stories. Like all great stories, you need clear context to make your experiences meaningful. Storytelling experts call context the “why” that drives a narrative’s plot. Context gives your audience a reason to listen to your story to the end and arrive happily at your resolution.
Three things establish context: setting, characters, and conflict.
- Setting: The place where your story unfolds.
- Characters: The people involved in and impacted by the triggering event in your story.
- Conflict: An event that causes you and the other characters in your story to take action.
As you tell your story, make sure the context sinks in so your interviewer can see how you work with others, approach challenges, and solve problems.
- End your story with a clear resolution.
Your goal, as you wind your story down, is to give your listener a compelling reason to care about the outcome, with results that would be relevant to the job you are applying for.
Now is the time to be the hero and tell your interviewer how you resolved the conflict of your story. This is where you explain how you achieve the metrics listed on your resume and LinkedIn profile in greater detail.
The conclusion of your story should encourage your interviewer to hire you.
Telling your career success stories effectively will significantly enhance your job search.
Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job.
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