How To Tell Accomplishment Stories Effectively
You’ve organized the information you want to use for your resume. You’ve followed some good advice you’ve seen on identifying “accomplishments,” not just what tasks you performed or the skills you have. But now come the most important next steps: translating these accomplishments into effective “stories” for both your resume and your interviews. Stories? Absolutely! Related: Can Listing 'Awards' On Your Resume Portray Arrogance? Stories have three compelling components that make them a powerful part of your career search strategy:
- Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
- Stories include emotion: excitement, suspense, humor, or strategy.
- Stories spark interest in the reader to know more.
Resume StoriesYou should create 3-4 stories for your current and most recent positions. Each story should be no more than 3-4 lines – that’s about a 20-30 second story. There are some different formats suggested by experienced recruiters. I find the “Challenge-Action-Result” format to be one of the best. What was the “challenge” you faced? What did you “do” to meet the challenge? And what was the result? Here’s an example from a “Construction Manager:”
Organized and executed out of state deployments with only 2-3 days to prepare, successfully overcoming obstacles and issues to ensure crews arrived punctually and ready to complete the task at hand.“Executed, overcoming obstacles, ensure” are strong words. “2-3 days, arrived punctually” are specific results. What’s important about this statement is that, as a hiring manager, this statement sparks my desire to know more about how the candidate “overcame obstacles.” I want to know more about the story. The same is true for this example:
Designed and presented an employee “onboarding” program at the request of department managers. Involved representatives from each department in presenting department visits as part of the program. Produced video on company history for program. Presented program bi-weekly for one year while training department managers to take over presentation.
Interview StoriesMuch is the same for your interview preparation – but there’s one big difference. Your interview stories cannot be 20-30 second responses. That’s too short. So for interviews, you need the “Goldilocks” solution. Stories that are too short will lead the interviewer to believe there’s not much substance to your responses – or at least you’re not prepared. But if you give a wandering five minute response, your answers are too long. So your need to prepare – and practice – interview stories that are “just right.” Hiring expert Lou Adler has an outstanding format for preparing a “universal answer” to interview questions: the Say-A-Few-Words 2-Minute response. The SAFW 2-Minute response should:
- Have an opening statement
- Amplify the opening statement
- Add some examples
- Wrap it up
- Open: I directed the training for all managers and employees…
- Amplify: One of my most important responsibilities was developing new, highly experiential training programs.
- Example: I developed a completely new employee orientation program… (details)
- Example: I responded to a request from the owner to improve the effectiveness of managers meetings…(details)
- Wrap: The programs I developed were all reviewed positively with excellent participant attendance.