Connect Your Story to Their Needs

5 minutes

You’re reading an excerpt of Ask Me This Instead: Flip the Interview to Land Your Dream Job, a book by Kendra Haberkorn. This powerful work is written by a veteran recruiter for job-seekers who want to find their dream job—not just the next job. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, worksheets and a question database, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

One of the reasons I recommend taking the storytelling approach to updating your resume is that it helps you think about your journey and accomplishments in a new light. When confronted with a blank document, the pressure to put the “right” examples down is real and there is a tendency to fall into self-doubt. This can result in bullets that are bland (when you’re writing something to fill space) or even untruthful (when you don’t think a particular bullet is strong enough so you modify the details to sound more impressive). Then, because many people write resumes in isolation without feedback from those who worked with them or know them well in a professional capacity, resumes often fail to capture the reader’s attention—and that’s the entire point! Recruiters and hiring teams want to connect dots quickly between candidates and their role. Think about what they are looking for and how you can specifically and clearly connect your experience to their needs.

important If time and capacity were unlimited, resumes should be customized to a specific company and role. Because that level of tailoring often requires more time than you have available, consider developing one or two versions, each emphasizing a unique angle on a potential company’s needs. For example, you might be open to manager and individual contributor roles. Consider framing one resume about management and leadership, going deep into your ability to get results through others via coaching, delegation and feedback. For the other version, you could focus on the depth of your expertise, technical or functional accomplishments, and examples of your ability to collaborate.

Or, let’s say you are applying to a Fortune 500 company and a Series A startup. For the Fortune 500 company, you might choose to include more information about your cross-functional talents, project management capabilities, and communication skills. For the version you’d submit to the startup, you’d highlight examples of your flexibility and resilience, when you delivered results under pressure, and your ability to take on new and diverse challenges.

As you review job descriptions and begin to think about how your experience either directly or indirectly contributes to your ability to fulfill the different roles, remember it’s rare for anyone to have a line for line match with a job description’s “requirements”—do not let this deter you. For example:

  • If the role you’re pursuing has different goals than what your prior experience can speak to, take the chance to highlight the “how” more than the “what.” Include details on the way you approached setting a goal and breaking down the milestones, along with indicators of how you tracked and measured success.

  • If there is a new system or technology required that you don’t have experience with, share details about similar technologies or your experience learning a new tool to get results.

  • If the role is a management position and you’ve never led a team, incorporate information about your experience mentoring colleagues, leadership experience outside of work (in academic or volunteer contexts), or examples of when you made decisions or delegated work as a peer or project manager.

  • If the role has an expanded scope over a workstream or team that you have not led before, reference your cross-functional collaboration, shared initiatives, or instances where you influenced the work product or outcomes for that function.

When you are connecting your experience with the responsibilities and requirements listed in job descriptions, make sure you expand your brainstorming. Your experience in academic programs or community organizations could demonstrate the skills needed. It’s also a good time to reflect on feedback you’ve received. There, you might rediscover insights about learning and growth that are transferable. It is critical in these instances to give specific examples of curiosity, learning, impact or expertise that you believe is indicative of your ability to take on the responsibilities of this role. Simply saying you have a growth mindset or are a life-long learner is not enough! Take the opportunity to show the hiring team what you have to offer rather than just telling them.

Activity: Translate Your Story Into a Compelling Resume

Find the activity in this Google Doc!

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