Your Resume & Cover Letter: Tell a Consistent Story

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As you submit your resume and cover letter to hiring managers, make sure you align these documents in terms of tone, theme, and messaging. Not only will this keep your information coherent and consistent, but it can also support a core goal of any successful sales or marketing campaign: Strong storytelling. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Choose a tone. Your life is complex. And with every year that goes by—in fact, with every passing day—your story takes on a new tone and look. Sometimes it’s a madcap comedy. Some days it may vary between a horror story, a lighthearted romance, and a domestic disaster all within a 24-hour timespan. But while the genre of your life story may be inconsistent, your resume has to present a straightforward picture of the journey you’re on—and just one. Pick a theme and stick with it.

2. Create a compelling protagonist. You’re the main character in this story. So no matter what you want, or where you’re headed, readers have to care about you. And they have to be willing to root for your success. Why should they invest in you? Answer this question in your cover letter, and weave the same answer into your resume. Are you a strong leader? A patient and empathetic manager? A detail-oriented go-getter? Choose a recognizable type and build both documents around the same core traits.

3. Repeat the same major points in both documents. You don’t have to repeat every detail—in fact, it’s a major turn-off to read a cover letter that reiterates your resume. But choose three primary points that explain why you’re perfect for this job. Then make sure each of the three show up in both places.

4. Solve a problem. Almost all compelling storylines work themselves around the same simple premise: A problem exists. The problem gets serious. A solution is identified. It works. The end. Build your employer into this simple tale. Something isn’t right—there’s a need, a lack, a crisis, an opportunity going unnoticed, a train heading over a cliff. And who should arrive to save the day but…you! Fill in the details—especially the happy ending. This is a bestseller that practically writes itself. Make sure each turning point in the resume version of the story aligns with a corresponding point in the cover letter version.

5. Study, and study some more. Remember that strong storytelling often requires careful research. Before you decide what your employer needs, and before you establish yourself as the hero arriving with a solution, do a little fact checking. Visit the company webpage and learn a bit about this organization’s culture, history, strengths, and shortcomings.

Get Rid of Plot Holes & Confusing Twists

Inconsistency between a resume and cover letter can feel jarring, like a badly paced novel or poorly edited movie. These awkward jumps and clunky transitions are often related to organization and formatting. Create a seamless experience for your readers by keeping relevant information exactly where they expect to see it. Use Northern Career’s resume and cover letter builder for some help.

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