​Job Search Tips #3 “So What?” Stories

Published on
July 25, 2021
Time to read: 
Close up of an old fashioned typewriter with the words
I'm grateful to Suzy Hazelwood for sharing her images on Pexels.com. Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

This blog shares why “So what?” stories are so important in your resume and cover letter.

"So what?" stories help employers understand why they should care about your accomplishment. A well-crafted story detail what the issue was, how you dealt with it, and what you accomplished. Some people call this using the “SMART” method. I can never wrap my head around all 5 components of the SMART acronym. I prefer to illustrate important concepts and information using stories.

A “So what?” story that includes numbers (also known as metrics) and descriptive words (which can include adjectives) helps put your accomplishments into perspective.

Another way of describing this concept is that “So what?” stories share qualitative and quantitative evidence that what you accomplished is worth noting.

Resumes and "So what?" stories

Here’s a couple of examples, lightly edited to protect identities, from resumes that I’ve helped people refine over the last 4 years:

Original text "Safely operate skidder and chain saws"
Transforms to "Safely operate skidder and chain saws with zero accidents for a 3-year period"

Original text “Led the day-to-day trading operations for 5 funds, alongside other Managers”
Transforms to “Managed the day-to-day trading operations for five investment funds worth more than $350 million”
These samples are short on purpose, they each fit on a page as a resume “bullet” point. Stories can be as short as five words.
When drafting your “So what?” stories use your own words, to showcase what you actually did. Add numbers where you can like "4 years" or a percentage if that's appropriate. Numbers help tell a compelling "So What?" story.
Cover letters and “So what?” stories

The most important thing to remember about a cover letter is that it's not about you! Frankly many employers aren’t that interested in candidates’ dreams, passions or aspirations. They want to know how you can help them.

This is where research can come in handy. Invest time researching your prospective employer (see Job Search Tips #1, for hints).

Try to identify what is important to that employer. Are they proud of their safety record? Are they actively seeking a more diverse workforce? Do they value their employees volunteering in the communities where they have offices? Has the job you’re applying for been turned over 6 times in the last 3 years? Why might that be?

Once you have a decent idea of what is important to the employer, showcase your gifts (skills, experience, knowledge) using “So what?” stories in your cover letter.
For example, when I applied to become a PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise service provider as a Business Growth Advisor (BGA) my cover letter read in part:

“I love how inclusive PARO is, from your logo to programs tailored for women from all backgrounds and abilities. I strive to communicate with people in a way that works for them. For example, last week, I had a friendly and productive typed chat in Zoom with a deaf business woman, about creating inclusive online training programs. She connected me to Canadian companies that provide live closed captioning services, ASL Interpreters, and LSQ (French) Interpreters. I am also integrally bilingual, English and French.”

You’ll note, this “So what?” story doesn’t include any numbers, instead I describe that I practice inclusion, and that I strive to communicate effectively with people from many different backgrounds, something that I knew, from my research, that PARO was looking for.

When writing cover letters (and resumes) tell the truth, don't make stuff up! What you're doing in the cover letter is giving them a feel of what kind of person you'd be like to work with.

As an aside, I’m happy to report that I’m really enjoying my first month as a PARO BGA. I’ve already got a couple of new client intake conversations set up for August!