Storytelling in Executive Resumes: How to Stand Out and Capture Attention
Your resume should tell a compelling story – one that positions you as the perfect fit for a role. Using all the elements of a great narrative captures attention, engages the reader, and paints a clear picture in their mind. Storytelling in your executive resume can set you apart.
Think of your resume as a marketing document – “Facts tell. Stories sell.” Storytelling is one tool that can help you craft a stand-out executive resume.
How to Use Storytelling in Executive Resumes
Create a compelling headline
Leading with a compelling headline helps capture your reader’s attention and sets the tone for the resume. Potential employers spend less than 11 seconds on the first scan, so you must be compelling from the start!
Craft a brand statement that defines who you are as a professional and what potential employers can expect from you in the workplace. What is your one thing – what can you achieve for the business?
i.e., As a __________, I help ______ businesses, ________ and ________ so they can _____________.
Translate your answer into a succinct statement that sits under/near the title of your resume, something like the following examples:
Include a relevant leadership summary
Lead with a short career summary that engages the reader and shows an obvious benefit to them.
Rather than starting with the type of role you are looking for, or years of experience you bring to the table (this isn’t your greatest selling point!) focus on what you have to offer the reader. What’s the overarching theme of your career? What results have you achieved? What value do you deliver? Who are you, and how did you land in the role you’re in today? What are you known for? What areas have you had consistent success in? How do you describe yourself?
Sell your accomplishments
Focus on how you grew within each company, how you approached and overcame challenges, and how your unique personality traits (combined with experience, education, and skillsets) lead to success for the organization.
Consider leading with your results when telling your accomplishment stories to grab attention. (Results/action/problem/situation). Don’t bury your best facts in dense content or long-winded statements. Start with your impacts!
Show the reader the unique situations you have faced, how you navigated challenges, and how it ultimately made you a more qualified candidate for this role.
Examples of front-loaded bullet success statements:
Elements of a narrative story
Storytelling 101 – answer the who, what, when, where, how, and why. When using storytelling in an executive resume, try a formula like this for describing your accomplishments:
Use the above to build succinct success statements that layout challenges, actions, and results.
Tips to Use Storytelling in Executive Resumes
Keep your format in mind
If chronological order doesn’t feel suitable for your resume, don’t be afraid to try a different format that highlights your story in a better light.
A combination format is most popular as it allows a blend of content where you can spotlight top/best points near the start of the file (think: achievements section) before diving into specific work experiences.
Choose your stories wisely
Be conscious of what stories you share in your executive resume. Make sure details are relatable. You’ve likely achieved many great things in your leadership career, but not every detail matters. Strategically select examples that resonate best with the target role requirements.
Use action words and be concise
Start statements in your executive resume with clear and varying action words to keep content interesting and engaging.
Also, telling a story doesn’t mean long-winded narratives. Provide just enough context and examples to help the reader identify value.
Carefully delete any ‘fluff’ and keep content rich, yet succinct. After every point, ask yourself, “Does this statement contribute to the overall theme of my resume?”. If not, remove or improve.
Focus on accomplishments
Give fewer details on your day-to-day responsibilities – the reader likely knows what each role entails. No need for a play-by-play of leadership tasks.
Instead, use resume real estate to showcase examples that provide the proof. Detail how well you did at things and what you managed to achieve for your business or organization.
Give specific metrics
Whenever possible, show rather than tell by giving exact numbers or results. Work to answer “How many? How much? How often?” throughout your file.
Remember, the reader doesn’t know what you don’t tell them. Share exact team sizes, budget oversights, sales or revenue increases, timelines, and/or cost reductions. Numbers add significant value to resume details.
Storytelling in executive resumes can help you stand out and capture the attention of employers. A narrative format allows you to display not only what you did but why it mattered. Showing specific accomplishments and how they tie into the big picture helps potential employers envision you getting the same results for them.
For more tips on crafting an executive resume that gets you noticed, check out Executive Resume Trends for 2021.