A comprehensive job search strategy should include a strong professional narrative that informs every aspect of the job seeking process. Mastering the art of “storytelling” is essential for every job seeker.
In other words, recounting your professional background should be chronological, but it should also show a progression of responsibilities, achievements and skills acquired. It’s this narrative that will distinguish you from other job candidates. Once your resume gets through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and into the hands of a hiring manager, it’s this narrative that will set you apart from other job candidates.
Storytelling also demonstrates that you have a personal brand and you know how to communicate it. Employers want to know that potential hires understand branding.
Plus, if you are offered the job, it’s this progression of experience and accomplishments that will give you greater leverage in asking for more pay or benefits, beyond what’s initially offered.
But before receiving a job offer, consider how you can infuse a narrative into your resume. This isn’t an actual “story” in the same way we think of fiction novels and children’s books. Rather, first think about your current career objective.
If you’re looking for a job in sales or revenue management, take a moment to reflect on how your career track has gradually given you qualifications for such a position. That is, if the earliest work experience was in retail and then you moved on to working as a hotel front desk associate, you can easily show career progression.
Both of these jobs require a dedication to customer service excellence. However, both of these jobs also came with the opportunity to upsell customers. So be sure to include how much ancillary sales increased –either as a total dollar amount or a percentage of total sales—during your cumulative time in the job.
Similarly, if you were promoted to a shift leader or manager in either of the roles, include how much your team’s sales amounts increased while you were in that leadership position. Also, if you’ve ever done any volunteer work that’s involved fundraising or soliciting donations of goods, be sure to include a numerical measure of your success. These metrics also give you more opportunity to leverage keywords that often appear in sales job postings: sales, volume, revenue, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and target.
Likewise, your cover letter should also tell a story. Of course, this specific narrative should be a function of the job to which you’re applying and its requirements. But it is a chance to share a little about who you are as a professional with future employers.
For example, if you’re applying for an operations job at a large hotel and the job posting states that the position requires working with a team to ensure safety and hygiene standards are met, use your cover letter to relate a relevant past experience. Even if you were working in a smaller property, summarize a time when the team met a challenge such as high season when new safety protocols had to be put into place and how you worked with your team to implement those new standards in a timely manner.
Whatever story you choose to share, it must be relevant to the position and it should also be engaging. But regardless of the story that you include in your cover letter or your resume, it must be consistent with the narrative that you convey during an interview.
More simply put, when you summarize the narrative that recounts your career history, it should concisely answer the interview question “Tell me about yourself.”
So if you’re applying for a job as a food and beverage (F&B) manager, your resume should convey what makes you a successful F&B professional, in terms of promotions, revenue and volume and new product launches. But in an interview, you’ll also need to express why you’re both an accomplished and passionate professional.
A brief synopsis of those points gives you the answer to the question “Tell me about yourself.” Think of it as paraphrasing the summary of yourself included on your resume.
But in an interview, the story of who you are as a professional should also permeate the responses to all of your interview questions. Keep in mind some of the most common interview questions such as “what is your greatest weakness?” or “why do you want to work for this company?” and consider how you can tie your narrative into your response.
That is, you may want to respond that your greatest weakness is becoming anxious when projects run past deadline. If you’re interviewing for a marketing role, this reply allows you to provide an example of a time when one aspect of a marketing campaign you were working on exceeded the rollout deadline and how that had the potential to impact other components of the campaign. But the essential element to this narrative is how you were instrumental in launching that component of the campaign close to the original deadline and keeping the overall marketing program on track.
To answer the question “why do you want to work for this company?,” you’ll first need to research the organization’s mission and values because you’ll need to explain in your response how your own professional values align. But if you’re applying for a sales or F&B job with the company, you may also want to cite a new or relevant innovation of the company’s and talk about how and why a specific facet of your own work experience and subsequent achievement make you a strong candidate for a forward-thinking company.
Finally, you’ll always want to send a thank you to the person with whom you interviewed within 24 hours of the interview. But don’t take this follow-up for granted. It isn’t a note to just say: “I enjoyed speaking with you. Thank you for your time.”
Of course, you should make those points. But you should also personalize this thank you to reference a specific aspect of the conversation that you enjoyed and found engaging. Effectively, this is a moment when you felt like you connected with the interviewer.
More importantly, you should also highlight why you are the best candidate for the job and this should reflect the personal narrative reflected in your resume and detailed during your interview.
If you explained during your interview that you were inspired to work in the F&B industry by a family member who is restaurant manager and this is what has motivated you to work your way up from a fast food cashier to upscale restaurant server, your thank you note is your last shot at reiterating this. If you’re interviewing with a family-owned company, draw the comparison to the family member who helped inform your career decision. More importantly, reiterate details of how you successfully contributed to your previous employer’s revenues.