How To Make Your Resume Stand Out: Tell A Story

Written by Debra Olshan Cooper,
President and Founder of Your Career Design lab

How Sofia, without solid experience, landed each one of the 5 interviews she went to.

When I met Sofia, she was a beautiful, bubbly and outgoing young girl. She had just graduated from FSU Florida State University and was working as a front desk person at the Ritz Carlton in Miami. She loved and wanted to be in sales. However, her resume was spotty when it came to sales.

Something inside me said, ask her who she was as a child, and out came one of the most iconic answers I have ever heard.

Well, when I was 5 years old, my mother opened up my Dora Explorer backpack, and out came $20 bills. She looked at me in confusion and with a stern voice asked “how the hell did a 5-year-old in kindergarden get so much money?

I had to fess up. I responded, with a quiver in my voice, that I always wanted to buy food in the cafeteria, but she wouldn’t let me. Every day she made me salami sandwich’s and would put 5 slices of salami in white bread. When I got to school, I would do a whole sales pitch on how lucky I was to have this incredible Italian salami sandwich but they had to eat pizza and hot dogs. Soon I had everyone lined up and I sold each slice for $5! 

I was blown away! This story clearly illustrated her “thinking.” Selling wasn’t through internships or jobs or wanting to sell, it was in her DNA!!!!

When potential employers would ask, “Tell me a little about yourself?” This story became her signature. She went on to interviews at 5 sales opportunities and landed each one. Sofia now works at a television station in sales in Tampa, Florida.

Reframing the resumes

Resumes today are a conversation starter. The days of being interviewed where it feels like me against the interviewer are gone. Today, interviewers are looking for individuals who make them feel something. Like Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel.

Do you know how to communicate what you feel? Can you convey your passion? Do you know what your passion is? Do you know what your strength and weakness are? If you typically answer, “I am really good at managing people, organization and like research”, then you are using words that convey your talents without feeling them or being able to express them in a story that shows a company your passion and your value. 

Typically, there are three distinct areas of questioning that most employers or companies use to assess:


  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What do you know about this industry?


  • What do you do if you are working with someone that annoys you?
  • When was there a time that you failed?


  • What are you most proud of
  • Give an example of a project that you led?

If you get anxious or nervous it is because you might not know what they are asking. You are in your head and your ego is telling you to answer it correctly or you will not get the job. What most young people don’t understand, that your story tells volumes of who you are and what kind of person they are going to be hiring. It is not about the answers, it’s about YOU!

Depending on your industry a branded resume that stands out is essential. For others in finance, law, and medicine, a straightforward resume is a must. Do you know the difference? 

In addition, your resume is your calling card but it holds your story. You want to weave a consistent thread through the question of Who Are You through to What Have You Done to illustrate your passions and your pursuits. Your resume MUST tell a story. Do you know the leading verbiage to use when writing your resume? 

Don’t use words like:

  • Worked at
  • Filed documents 
  • Results driven
  • Go-getter


  • Led
  • Created
  • Designed
  • Orchestrated
  • Launched
  • Managed

Today’s resumes are an extension of who you are and not so much of what you have done in your life thus far. It is also a part of the overall strategy it takes to find your dream career and it starts with finding out Who You Are and where you want to go. You can get there but sometimes a little GPS to get you there smarter not harder is the way to start.

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