Question: “Can you explain the relevance of storytelling in job-hunting?”
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
So much of what happens in life is cyclical, and I think the trend of storytelling in general, and more specifically storytelling in careers and job-search, is a perfect example of this theory. (This subject, by the way, is more my partner Dr. Katharine Hansen’s domain. Read her article, Tell Me About Yourself: Storytelling that Propels Careers.)
As life gets more and more complicated, as technology makes things both easier and harder for us at the same time, as communication itself gets truncated into Tweets and text messages (ani1 can c 4 urself, lol), I find it both unusual but also not unexpected that storytelling would make a comeback, perhaps because we seek deeper meaning or because of a nostalgia for simpler times.
Storytelling comes into play in job-hunting most specifically in cover letters, resumes, networking, and interviewing. (Of course, part of the growing personal branding phenomena also relates to telling the story of the value of your personal brand.)
In writing cover letters, your goal is to still to produce a dynamic letter that will provoke enough interest on the part of the hiring manager to review your resume or CV, but in composing your cover letter, you can also make it more compelling by telling a story that shows your fit with the job you seek.
In developing your job-search resume, you must come to terms with the fact that there are two very distinct types of resumes. There’s the resume that is the traditional, formatted resume that looks nice and then there is the resume that focuses on keywords that is designed for lurking in an employer’s database waiting to be plucked by a search for a specific job opening. With the traditional resume, while bullets are still the preferred method of delivering your key accomplishments, trends point to having the resume also tell the story of your worklife in a way that is compelling to the hiring manager.
In networking, the elevator speech has always held importance, but as the influence of storytelling grows, the importance of the elevator speech — in its various lengths and forms — grows as well. An elevator speech can be anything from 15 seconds to 3 minutes, depending on the situation, that tells your career story in such an interesting and intriguing manner that the listener wants to hear more about you — more about your story.
In job interviewing, storytelling can make the difference between just another job interview and a job offer. Using storytelling techniques in a job interview, you reveal anecdotes that show your key accomplishments, skills, and talents — rather than simply telling them by rattling off a list. Research shows that people remember stories much more than other types of communication, so by telling compelling stories of your career accomplishments, you become a more memorable job candidate.
Here are some resources to give you more depth on the issues discussed in this answer:
This article is part of a series from The Career Doctor’s Cures & Remedies to Quintessentially Perplexing Career and Job-Hunting Ailments. Read more.
See a list of all the most common college, career, and job questions — and Dr. Hansen’s solutions.
Who is the Career Doctor? Learn more, read his current career column, or browse the column archives when you visit the Career Doctor’s homepage.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is a nationally recognized career and job-search expert. He is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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