Contrary to what you may have been taught, there’s no rule – or law, for that matter – that says your resume has to be written a certain way when you apply for jobs. In fact, the latest trend in job hunting is submitting what’s known as a narrative resume. This approach shucks the standard bullets and impersonal short phrases for a human resume that lets your personality shine through and tell a story.
Here’s everything you need to know about narrative resumes and when to use them in your job search.
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The Difference Between a Functional and Narrative Resume
Most of us have what’s called a functional or traditional resume. This is a resume that follows a standard format and typically lists our name and contact information at the top followed by an objective section and maybe our skills. This is followed by jobs we’ve held in chronological order (with the most recent jobs being listed first.)
For each job, we’ve been taught to list bullet points that contain our accomplishments or job duties for each position held. We usually put these in the past tense and keep them short and sweet while making sure they’re peppered with industry jargon and action verbs.
There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with this approach. However, if you’re sending a printed copy of your resume and cover letter directly to a hiring manager and you want to make a more lasting impact, this is when the narrative resume can really do the trick.
A narrative resume uses a little bit of storytelling to describe yourself upfront in a summary followed by the same for each job. The key to making it sound successful is to describe how you made a positive change in the department or company or solved a problem for them while you were there.
As an example, here’s a narrative resume sample of what a marketing pro might write for one of their last held positions:
“I was hired as a marketing manager for Piehole Pizza Company after a friend who worked there raved about my past marketing and PR accomplishments to the hiring manager.
The company at that time was still in start-up mode and struggling to grow its social media channels and email list on a budget. As I love helping my employers save money and am passionate about the ins and outs of shoestring marketing and PR, this was the perfect fit for me.
Within six months I had grown their Facebook page by 325% and their Instagram account by 200% by launching giveaways, starting a coupon program, and connecting with social media influencers who were a perfect fit for the Piehole Pizza brand. I also increased their email list from 250 to 25,000 subscribers.”
As you can see, this tells a story of how a marketing manager solved a problem and saved money for Piehole Pizza Company. By breaking the story up into smaller paragraphs, it helps make it easier to read and also gets to the point right away.
Had this been written with bullet points in a traditional resume, it would have made the reader work harder to weave the story together. It also tells a bit about the job candidate’s personality and what drives them – in this case, low-cost marketing tactics and helping a business save money.
Your Summary is a Narrative, Too
Instead of a bland sounding objective at the top of your resume, try writing a pithy summary instead with a similar narrative feel to it. This is your chance to interject what makes you stand out (professionally, of course) and what drives you to succeed in the workforce.
When NOT to Use a Narrative Resume
Here is the downside of using a narrative resume: you definitely don’t want to submit one through the employer’s online application website.
Why? Because the employer is going to be screening resumes based on keywords and how many match up between your resume and the job description. You can still rework your narrative resume so that it includes some words from the description, but you may not want to hold your breath on receiving a response.
The reason why is because 95% of resumes submitted through an online screening will never be seen by a person. The software is scanning resumes simply for keywords and phrases.
What To Do Instead
However, this doesn’t mean you don’t have any chance of getting an interview. All you have to do is locate the hiring manager’s name if possible by searching for employees with the company you’ve applied to on LinkedIn. There’s a chance that employee may not be using the site, but it’s worth the few extra minutes to double check.
Also, another option is to simply target companies making a product or service that is fascinating to you. Locate the name of the hiring manager for the appropriate department, and mail them a physical copy of your narrative resume and cover letter.
This is something that so few job candidates actually do, and you will stand out!
Don’t Forget to Narrate Your LinkedIn Profile As Well
This narrative approach works well for your LinkedIn profile as well. In addition to making sure you have a recent and professional corporate headshot, try narrating your introduction and your accomplishments at each job.
You may just stand out to recruiters and hiring managers. Don’t be afraid to write in the first person, just as you do in your narrative resume.
The world is changing and both employees and employers are now appreciating a personalized, human approach. Why not give the narrative resume a shot?
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