Resumes: Tell Me Your Story, Don’t Sell Me a Line

sales guyI am not a big fan of being sold anything. When it starts to happen, my special BS radar is activated quite quickly. I thank my son for this radar, he helped me fine tune it as a wild teenager. He was a master BS-er.

I can sense pretty quickly when it goes from showing me the value of something and trying to convince me or get me to buy into something. When I was looking at vacuum cleaners, it was sounding off like a siren. The sales person was trying to tell me I needed the fancy-smancy cleaner that had all these bells and whistles for all types of floors.

I have two types of floors: dirty and hairy. I have three dogs. They either shed or bring in the great outdoors. I need a vacuum cleaner that picks up dirt and hair. My floors are hardwood and low pile carpet. Nothing fancy.

But there he was, insisting on fancy-smancy that could navigate from hardwood to carpet in an instant. I don’t need that. My transition is a flight of stairs. I found our conversation sounded a lot like this:

“But it has this great feature” – Sales Guy
“But I don’t need that” – me
“But you might” – Sales Guy
“But I don’t” – me
“But you might in the future” – Sales Guy
“But I don’t now” – me
“But wouldn’t it be nice to have for when you do need it?” – Sales Guy
“No. It would be nice to have three dogs that don’t shed” – me
“Oh, we have another fancy-smancy that has a shedding attachment” – Sales Guy

And so on. I think he made that last part up.

I went to another store and told that Sales Guy about my floors and dogs. He said, “Then all you need is this one, it is on the low end and will do the job for you just fine. Here’s what it does….” Sold!

He told me, not sold me.

The same principle applies for your resume. When people read your resume, their BS meter is up and running and on high alert. Why? Because they have read too many sellers rather than stories, too much fluff and not enough substance.

One of the most common statements I hear when talking to people about their resume is that they do not know how to convey or communicate their value. I will ask them to tell me about a piece of their history and they tell me a story. Then I tell them to use what they just told me.

When you tell your story, including what you did, how you did it, who it helped and how it helped them – that is telling your value based narrative. When you use job description bullet points and unanswered claims – that is selling a story. It does not even sound like you.

The key to a good resume story is including three parts: demonstration, value and you.


Rather than use job description bullet points that tell the reader what you were hired to do, write statements that actually tell what you did. No one cares what you were hired to do, they care about what you did and the value it provided. What did you do and how did you do it?


Not everything is measurable in numbers. Value is added in many ways from creating a more efficient system, training others for them to utilize new technology more quickly, opening communication between departments for collaboration – these are just a few value adds that are not measurable. The value comes in who received benefit from what you did and what the benefit was that they received.


Does your resume sound like you? It should. Just like when you read a book and form an image of the characters based on the words provided, people reading your resume are forming an image of you based on your words. When the resume image and the phone/in person image match this gives them greater confidence to believe what you have said; it gives you credibility. When they do not match, the reader wonders which one you are, and are they going to hire the wrong one.

If you are a behind the scenes kind of guy, do not use outgoing words like dynamic, innovative, driven etc. Use words that are professional and convey your energy and work style. If you are a go-getter kind of gal, then use words that reflect that persona.

Story Telling

One last tidbit on how to write your story – stop trying to write it in resume language! No one talks like that and it is not something that comes naturally for most people. Trying to write your resume each round in resume language is going to stress you out. Stop it.

Instead, have a conversation with yourself and write it out. Get on your computer or laptop or whatever you can type or write the most quickly on and take one piece at a time. Start small to get the ball rolling. Take a bullet point.

● Created workflow diagrams

This on its own screams “so what” – why does the reader care that you created these? It is your job as a storyteller to tell them the importance of this skill and more importantly what value it brings to them.

Under this bullet point start asking yourself some questions to get the ball rolling:

  • What does this mean?
  • Who do I create them for?
  • Why do I create them?
  • Who uses them?
  • What value does it provide for them?
  • How do they utilize them?
  • What is the result of them using the diagrams that I create?

Then type out your answers as though you were talking to a real person, not in resume language. Your answer does not have to be complete sentences or thoughts. Just start typing. Get the feel for it. The more you type the more you will begin to remember and also take yourself out of the forest for the trees syndrome. It can be as long as it takes to type it out, there are no rules here.

Once you get it all down then you can start bringing it together. Maybe you have two paragraphs on one little bullet. Fabulous! Take a look at it and see where it is taking you. If the value is that you help a department become more efficient, than that is the main point, not the creation of workflow diagrams – that is the true value and one that a prospective employer is going to care about because it is something you can do for them.

From there you can start fine tuning and condensing the thoughts into a solid, single bullet point. You may find that one single bullet point will lead to others. For example, you might find that in describing this bullet point you go off on a tangent about collaborating with various departments to analyze their productivity and optimization – this could lead to a whole new value statement.

Do not limit yourself to the confines of your duty based bullet points. You have more to offer than what you were hired to do. Your job with your resume is to convey your value, not tell them what you were hired to do. This can be done by taking your time, exploring what you did, how you did it, who you worked with and how you provided benefit. Once you open the door on one bullet, you will find a whole world of value that you have been hiding – and one that is worth reading.

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