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How To Make Your CV Tell A Story

Posted by: Marc


Modern bullet-pointed, concise CV styles don’t seem suited to storytelling. But some recruiters, particularly those making direct hiring decisions, appreciate a CV that opens a window to your personality as well as highlighting your achievements.

Hiring managers use the information in a CV to construct a story and image of the person applying for the role. As an applicant, you can help the hiring manager by creating a narrative that registers with them and grabs their attention.

Why Storytelling?

A strong CV can have a real impact and elevate your entire application. To understand this, you just need to put yourself in the mindset of a hiring manager looking to fill a job vacancy. They desperately want to make the right decision. The longer the position is left vacant, the more the team is understaffed, the bigger their workload grows, and the more the problems mount.

Hiring the right candidate will provide the answer to all of these stressful problems. Hiring the wrong candidate will only make the problems worse. It’s a big call for the hiring manager, and they want to make sure they get it right.

Stand Out From The CV Crowd

So, how does the hiring manager decide which resumes represent the people who are going to solve their problems, and which represent the people who are going to make the problems worse? It can be almost impossible to tell when all CVs look so alike. Most are created using familiar templates in Word, repeating the same CV cliches.

All of this tells the recruiter nothing. This is where storytelling comes in.

A storytelling CV stands out from the pack. It represents the living, breathing person who wrote it. The hiring manager is left with a great understanding of the type of person you are, and they’re now curious to meet you. Tell stories that illustrate your ability to help them succeed and you’ll pique their interest enough to secure that all-important first interview.

How to Craft A CV That Tells A Story

The stories you tell on your CV must show the hiring manager that you have solved problems in the past – and that the problems you have solved are similar to the ones the recruiter is facing now.

Choose Your Stories

Look carefully at the job advertisement of the position description for the role you’re applying and familiarise yourself with the key skills and experience the company is seeking. Think back through your career, the jobs you’ve held and projects you’ve worked on that will resonate most of all with the hiring manager. What problems did you solve for that employer and/or what improvements did you make?

 Your stories should centre on the positive impact you have had in prior positions. Most people have made great impacts on their employers, they just haven’t realised until they truly gave it some thought. Think of a problem you have solved. For example:

The IT services department of your organisation was completely disorganised. This led to customers facing long waits to solve technical issues, as staff struggled to find the relevant information.

Now describe what you did to fix this. For example:

You worked overtime each night for a week so you could reorganise things while the office was closed. Then you carried out training for the customer service team so that they all knew where to find what they needed.

Now describe the result. For example:

Queues were far shorter, your customer service ratings improved significantly, and you won the organisation’s customer service award 2 quarters in a row.

Now summarise this into a succinct story. For example:

Turned around failing customer service department by reorganising the customer service desk and training all associates. Result: store subsequently won 2 company awards for customer service and customer service ratings improved by 50%.

Storytelling tips

  • To create high-impact stories, summarise your story into no more than two or three lines
  • Filling your CV with achievement stories provides the hiring manager with a source of interview questions
  • Creating compelling stories is also great preparation for acing your job interviews.


Marc is a Director of The Talent Hive and leads our IT recruitment practice. Originally from the UK, Marc has been living in Christchurch, New Zealand for ten years and working in the recruitment sector for just as long. Marc has worked as an in-house recruiter and within multinational recruitment consultancies and independent recruitment businesses.

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Categorised as: Job Seeker Advice