Does your CV tell your story?

Posted by on

How interesting is your CV? Do your covering letters capture attention from the start? 

The brutal truth is that most employers only glance at the parts of a job application that catch their eye - and the average CV gets just a few seconds to make an impact.

To end up firmly on the ‘yes’ pile, savvy candidates are now turning to what’s known as ‘storytelling’.

No, this doesn’t mean that to get hired you need to become best-selling author material overnight. Instead, it’s about trying to give a real impression of who you are, hopefully making an emotional connection with the reader (your potential boss).

How can you do this? By turning dry facts about your work history into more interesting accounts of the challenges you’ve faced and what you’ve accomplished along the way.

As well as following our HR GO advice on how to write a great CV and covering letter, here are some quick pointers you can bear in mind to add some storytelling to your applications - even if you’re just starting out.

Make each job a chapter in your story

It's powerful powerful to be able to show a potential boss how each role has helped you grow. On your CV, you probably already divide up your work experience into sections for each job you’ve had.

So think about writing about each job as a chapter of your story, highlighting what you’ve learned and achieved, as well as reflecting on how that role had a hand in shaping you into the employee you are today.

Use success stories

Duties and responsibilities of previous roles do have a place in CVs and covering letters, but storytelling means focusing on how you made a difference in each position. That’s true even if you’re at the start of your career and don’t feel your accomplishments are worth shouting about yet. 

For example, say you’ve worked in customer services at business conferences. Talking about how you helped create a positive experience for delegates sounds too generic. But a specific story of positive feedback from managers or clients could be better, especially on your covering letter where you have a little more space. 

Take this scenario as as example: ‘At one event, I was able to give extra support to a delegate who had challenges because of a disability. Before leaving, it was great to be singled out for praise when she told my manager that my discreet and friendly help had made her conference her most enjoyable yet.’

Include little details 

Conjure up a picture of the type of employee you are by including specific details (as long as they’re relevant). For example, if you feel you’ve taken initiative to solve a problem, weave that into a few lines. 

Bringing the situation to life will make you seem more memorable than the average candidate who just throws in stock phrases like ‘problem-solver’ or ‘team player’ without backing anything up.

Avoid fiction 

While you’re aiming to make yourself the hero of the story, that doesn’t mean telling fibs. Keep things real and authentic, as storytelling should be something that gives a potential boss a real insight into you as a great employee - rather than a warning sign about how believable and trustworthy you could be. 

You might be aiming to make your CV and covering letters more engaging, but you still need to back up any claims.

Speak your story 

Interesting CVs and covering letters make great fodder later on in the application process. 

At HR GO, we encourage candidates to prepare for interviews by practising excerpts out loud, fleshing them out with extra details they may not have had space for on the written version. 

After all, we know that telling a story on a CV as well as job application may just be the secret formula for engaging a future boss – and landing a great role.

Recent blogs