This Is Not What We Mean By ‘Telling Stories’ In Your Applications

When you apply for a job, you want your resume and cover letter to tell a story.

This applies to anyone, not just, like, PR people and journalists who craft narratives for money, you know? HR people, nurses, accountants—all y’all should always have some sort of arc to your career. Doesn’t mean you have to get all literary, but it does mean that you should explain your accomplishments (“My cost-saving initiative saved the company one hundred beeeellion dollars in the first year, thanks to the laser sharks”) rather than just say you’re very innovative, thrifty, and an elasmobranchophile.

Which is not to say we haven’t seen some good cover letters that actually set a scene: “There I was, racing down highway 95 at 2 a.m. to cover the biggest story of my life.” Okay, we just made that up, but you get the point.

What you don’t want to do is write a letter like our colleagues at FishbowlDC unearthed:

“Taking notes and pictures on the floor of the Senate Finance Committee boardroom with an H&M skirt daintily covering my folded legs.”

(FBDC cracked that the letter reminded them of Danielle Steele.) It goes on, but really? We’re not sure what the sentence’s worst sin is. Is it:

  • All predicate
  • Terrifying
  • Probably grounds for a lawsuit-averse hiring manager to throw out your application, because otherwise someone could sue for sex discrimination
  • showing the author’s poor taste in clothing (H&M screams “I’m 23 and have no money”)

We can’t decide. Please don’t put this on your cover letter.

Stories are fine. Danielle Steele, not so much.