3 key takeaways
- What a narrative resume is and how it can be compelling to readers
- How to write a stand-out narrative resume (or any resume) with the Teal AI Resume Builder
- Why a chronological or more traditional resume and narrative cover letter are a better option
A narrative resume tells the story of your professional experiences and skills through engaging storytelling techniques.
Unlike more traditional resumes listing job responsibilities, a narrative resume uses vivid language and compelling examples to showcase your qualifications.
Teal Note: While narrative resumes can be compelling, they're just one of many formats.
Busy hiring managers often prefer reverse-chronological resumes with their clean and concise presentation. The best combination tends to be a traditional resume with a more narrative-style cover letter.
What is a narrative resume?
A narrative resume, often called “storytelling resumes,” tells the tale of your professional experience and qualifications in a more creative and detailed way than a traditional resume.
Instead of simply listing your work history and skills, a well-written narrative resume uses paragraphs, resume stories, and more descriptive language to illustrate your career path and convey your unique value as a professional.
Due to the spacing constraints, the key elements of a narrative resume focus mainly on the following two parts:
- A professional summary section that provides an overview of your candidacy in a compelling, story-driven way. This section replaces the standard resume writing objective.
- Expanded descriptions of your resume work experience, with achievements framed in a story-based resume style. Rather than just listing job responsibilities, you illustrate your accomplishments through narrative examples.
Optional: Include hobbies, interests, or volunteer work supporting the story you want to tell about yourself. But remember that you need to fit all of this into one page, two pages for ten or more years of experience. This is a major drawback to writing a narrative resume rather than a traditional one that often uses clear, concise bullet points.
A narrative format is best suited for experienced professionals with a clear career trajectory they can describe through focused storytelling. It allows you to demonstrate soft skills and intangible value beyond the hard qualifications listed on a traditional resume.
The main differences between a narrative and a traditional resume include:
- Formatting your resume with paragraphs versus a bullet point list
- Storytelling versus brief factual descriptions
- Emphasis on personal branding versus qualifications
- Creativity and customization versus standard sections
At the end of the day, a narrative resume allows you to bring your experience to life through colorful examples while showcasing your unique background in the job market.
It goes beyond a list of job post duties to illustrate who you are as a candidate.
The art of storytelling in your resume
Storytelling is a powerful tool that can help make your resume stand out.
In a sea of generic, bullet-pointed resumes, incorporating narrative elements allows you, as the job seeker, to showcase your skills, accomplishments, and experiences more compellingly, capturing the reader's attention.
The key advantage of using storytelling techniques in a resume is that it allows you to go beyond just listing your qualifications.
Storytelling on a resume:
- Demonstrates how you applied your skills and drove impact in previous roles
- Helps the hiring manager better understand your capabilities and get a sense of you as a potential employee
- Can be more engaging to the reader.
- Illustrates your skills in action rather than simply stating you have those skills.
- Enables you to connect the dots on your resume and craft a cohesive narrative about your professional journey
Remember, the various sections of your resume—the short professional bio, work history, skills, and accomplishments—should tie together and explain who you are as a candidate.
This continuous, logical flow allows the reader to better comprehend and retain information about your background.
In essence, incorporating storytelling elements allows you to transform your resume from a dry recitation of facts into an interesting, memorable overview of your most relevant qualifications and achievements.
How to write a narrative resume
If you're intrigued by the idea of a narrative resume and are considering crafting one, here's a roadmap to guide you.
Remember that writing a compelling narrative resume takes thought, practice, and a good amount of trial and error.
If you’re committed to this format, though, follow the steps below to craft an engaging resume story.
Start building your resume with Teal
Teal’s AI Resume Builder can help craft an engaging narrative resume to grab attention. The customized guidance makes it easy to highlight your background and skills without forgetting any important details.
Step 1: Identify your audience.
Understand who will be reading your resume and what they are looking for. This will shape what details to focus on and the type of language you use to craft the story.
Step 2: Determine your narrative arc.
Your resume needs a clear beginning, middle, and end, just like a good story. Outline the main points you want to cover and follow that outline throughout your resume.
Step 3: Grab attention upfront.
Lead with an interesting resume summary or profile statement. Summarize your background in a storytelling style, but try not to sacrifice professionalism for creativity unless you’re applying to a more creative role.
For example, if you’re using a narrative resume to apply to a sales position in tech, you’d want to stay more professional than if you were applying to a teaching job for a high school theater department.
Knowing the context of the role you want will help shape your story (and help you decide if a narrative resume is really right for you).
Step 4: Strengthen your story.
In each resume section, use concrete details, stats, and examples to illustrate your skills and achievements.
Step 5: Show, don't just tell.
Instead of just listing job duties, describe how you applied skills or the impact made. Be sure to quantify results and avoid vague descriptions of accomplishments.
Step 6: Use active voice and varied sentence structure.
Keep the reader engaged with concise, compelling writing. Like all writing, do your best to avoid a passive voice (Ex. “I worked at…” instead of “I was employed by…”).
Step 7: Be authentic and back it up.
The details must ring true and align with the rest of your application.
Step 8: Review for continuity.
Make sure your story flows well from section to section.
9. Refine and finalize your storytelling resume.
Edit carefully for spelling, grammar, formatting, and overall polish.
Finally, keep find mind it’s highly recommended to save your storytelling for your cover letter and stick with a more traditional resume.
Hiring managers are swamped with applications, and when reviewing a resume, big blocks of text can be overwhelming and lack clarity. Instead, it’s best to capture their attention with your resume using as few words as possible.
Compare the following example of a storytelling resume:
With that of a traditional resume:
If you were tasked with reviewing 200 resumes tomorrow, which one would you prefer to see?
And, again, once you’ve piqued their interest, you can use your cover letter to showcase your storytelling skills.
Give it a try, and let your next resume paint a picture of who you are as a candidate.
Resume narrative examples by section
A narrative resume tells the story of your professional experiences and qualifications through illustrative examples and anecdotes. By transforming your resume into a compelling narrative, you can better showcase your unique background to employers.
Here are some examples of narrative resume sections and the pros and cons of each approach:
A professional summary is typically the first section of a resume. This overview should provide a snapshot of your candidacy for the role.
From the dynamic world of start-ups to the high-stakes arena of leading retailers, my 10-year journey in sales has been nothing short of a thrilling ride. In each chapter of my career, I've embraced one role above all: the architect of growth. I've had the privilege of steering passionate teams, not just toward targets but beyond, cultivating environments where talent, incentives, and data dance together in perfect harmony. This synergy didn't just create results; it catapulted sales figures, consistently marking annual increases of 25-50%.
But numbers only tell part of the story. Behind them are relationships forged, challenges tackled, and innovations born. As I look ahead, my vision is clear: I aspire to step into a director-level role within an expanding retailer, bringing with me not just a track record of impressive figures but a commitment to building and leading a sales force capable of shattering ceilings. The next chapter awaits, and I am poised to make it the most exhilarating one yet.
Why this works: The narrative style professional summary effectively captures attention with its engaging introduction and story arc, weaving past experiences with future aspirations while using emotive language to make the journey memorable and relatable.
Whether you go with a traditional or narrative resume format, Teal’s resume summary generator can help you beat the blank page fast:
The “Work Experience” section provides more detailed descriptions of your responsibilities and accomplishments.
In 2018, I took the reins as Sales Manager at Acme Inc., with the vast and diverse Western territory as my canvas. Recognizing the potential of the region, I meticulously recruited and forged a 10-member sales team, each chosen not just for their sales prowess but for their passion and vision.
Our initial challenge was to understand our market. With this in mind, I delved deep into comprehensive market analyses, sifting through layers of data to uncover the genuine needs of our customers and identify untapped growth areas. This insight became the foundation of our strategies.
2019 ushered in an opportunity to innovate. I conceptualized and rolled out targeted incentive programs focusing on cross-selling. The result? A remarkable 32% surge in product bundles sold a testament to the team's adaptability and the efficacy of the program.
But I've always believed that a team's strength lies in its continuous growth. To this end, I curated coaching workshops centered around the art of consultative selling. It was a proud moment to witness three of our junior representatives not only grasp the essence of these sessions but also apply them to exceed their targets by over 20%.
Why this works: The narrative-style "Work Experience" section weaves responsibilities and achievements into a compelling story, using descriptions to highlight the journey's challenges and successes, making the candidate's tenure both engaging and memorable.
Projects (if space allows)
Highlighting major projects and their outcomes can showcase skills not obvious from your work history.
In the final quarter of 2021, I was at the helm of a cross-functional team tasked with bringing a new product concept to life. With a tight timeline of just six months, we embarked on a journey that began with rigorous market research and focus group sessions. These initial steps were crucial in validating our product-market fit.
As the project progressed, I spearheaded the development of a pricing strategy, confidently forecasting an incremental revenue of $2M. Parallelly, my oversight extended to the design of our website, the creation of essential marketing assets, and the rollout of sales enablement training. Our collective efforts bore fruit when, upon launch, we not only met but exceeded our first-month sales target by an impressive 35%.
Volunteer Work (if space allows)
Volunteer experience presents opportunities to highlight relevant skills and passions outside of your day job.
Local Animal Shelter, Volunteer Coordinator (2019 - 2021)
In 2019, I stepped into the heartwarming world of the Local Animal Shelter as a Volunteer Coordinator. The shelter, a haven for countless animals, thrived on the dedication of its volunteers. Recognizing the need for a larger force to support our growing responsibilities, I embarked on a mission to bolster our ranks. Through targeted recruitment drives and comprehensive training sessions, I proudly brought on board over 100 new volunteers, effectively doubling our strength.
But recruiting was just the beginning. I recognized the importance of a seamless integration process. With this in mind, I crafted new onboarding and training protocols, ensuring every volunteer felt equipped and confident in their roles. This streamlined approach also extended to scheduling, where I meticulously managed rosters to guarantee that every shelter event had adequate hands on deck.
However, the true measure of success lies not just in recruiting volunteers but in retaining them. By fostering an environment of open communication and consistently recognizing the hard work and dedication of our volunteers, I was elated to see our retention rates soar by 25%. It was a testament to the sense of community and purpose we had cultivated together.
Teal’s AI Resume Builder can help you craft compelling narrative examples like these for each section of your resume.
The key is selecting the accomplishments and metrics that best demonstrate your qualifications and fit for the target role.
Should you write a narrative resume?
While the allure of a narrative resume is undeniable, it might not always be the best choice for every job application. Here's why you might consider sticking with a traditional resume and saving the storytelling for your cover letter:
1. Difficult to customize
Narrative resumes can be harder to modify for specific roles. They often focus more on the applicant's journey rather than the specific requirements of the job.
Successful applicants know the importance of tailoring their resume to match the job description, and this can be more straightforward with a traditional format.
2. Efficiency for hiring managers
Hiring managers often sift through hundreds of resumes for a single position. Large blocks of text can be daunting and time-consuming. They typically prefer to quickly and concisely understand your achievements and how they relate to the role.
A traditional resume, with its bullet points and clear structure, facilitates this rapid comprehension.
4. Cover letter's role
The cover letter exists for a reason.
It's the perfect platform to weave your story, explain transitions, or provide context that doesn't fit neatly into a resume.
Using storytelling in your cover letter, you can engage the hiring manager with a compelling story while keeping your resume succinct and to the point.
In less than 30 seconds, Teal’s AI Cover Letter Generator can help you create a compelling letter that aligns your resume with any job description.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out these 1200+ examples of cover letters.
Craft a compelling career story with Teal
It can be tempting to showcase your creativity with a narrative resume. And let’s face it: sometimes, writing a narrative of your work experiences is simply more fun than listing a bunch of bullet points.
But the goal isn’t to have fun; the goal is to help hiring professionals see what a qualified candidate you are for the role you want.
Your primary objective should be to make this decision as easy as possible for hiring managers, which often means a strong traditional resume.
But you don’t have to let your story go untold. Your cover letter is the ideal place to let your personality and professional journey shine. Use it to connect the dots of your career in a narrative that complements your resume.
And no matter what format you choose, Teal has a suite of tools like AI and cover letter generation to help you tell your story.
Sign up for Teal for free today and bring your career story to life.