Category Archives: freelance

That interview just isn’t ‘to be’.

With all due respect to Shakespeare, ‘to be’ plays little role in landing interviews for that job you want.

No, it’s all about ‘to do.’

When viewing your resume, employers want to see your values, skills, and experience demonstrated through specific actions you have taken and tasks you have accomplished—not just titles you have held.

Take, for example, the case of an engineer looking to move up to a supervisory position. In his resume’s ‘Experience’ section, he might have written something like, ‘Design for new automotive engine.’ (I have seen resumes with bullets like this.) What does this statement tell us about the job seeker as a supervisory candidate? What does it say about the skills and strengths that might suit him well for the job?

Not much. It just tells us that he was there doing … something … related to the engine design.

Starting an experience section bullet point or sentence with a noun often makes for a weak point, indeed. Does reading ‘Design for new automotive engine’ invoke any strong action image in your mind?

How about ‘Designed a new automotive engine’? Does that call up a picture? To me, it does.

Thanks to the simple change of the first word from noun to verb (‘Design’ to ‘Designed’) alone, I now at least picture the candidate taking action—rolling up his sleeves, taking responsibility, and designing the engine.

But can we do even better?

What if that engineer had written instead, ‘as part of design team, conceived and drafted plans for new, more fuel-efficient throttle system,’ or ‘suggested to team leader new design that reduced emissions by 20%’? What does that tell us?

To me, it suggests strong analytical and creative thinking (when he designed the new throttle system) and initiative (when he drafted the plans and made suggestions to the team lead). It suggests he took action and got things done—and tells us exactly what he got done, allowing us to picture his work in our head clearly and decisively.

Pairing specific details with precise, powerful action verbs (that is, verbs other than forms of ‘to be’) brings your experience to vivid life in the employer’s mind before they even meet you. It impresses them. And if they are impressed, they are curious. And if they are curious, they just might call you in for a job interview.

But what if you are looking to advance in some field other than engineering? Or if you are just starting out and don’t think you have done anything that impressive? (You have, by the way. Trust me!) Can simply rewording your resume’s experience section by adding details and action verbs really make a difference?

Try it. Think of moments or even ‘little’ accomplishments that you remember with pride and/or that coworkers, customers, and supervisors might have complimented you on. (For more on that, see my ‘Compliment Bucket’ article.) Then, weave one or two of those feats into the description, pairing them with verbs that conjure up images of you doing something.

Now take a step back. Look at the description as an employer would.

Would you want to talk to the person with that resume?

Experience alone impresses. But, expressed in the right words, it amazes.


Stories that Sell (

Keywords: resume writing, cover letter writing, job search

Top off your compliment bucket.

In your resume, who best to tell potential employers how good you are at what you do? How about your current employer or customers?

I’m not the first to suggest it, but it bears repeating: Customer statements such as “Your agent made me feel really good about buying from your company,” and performance evaluations such as “Steve excels at identifying and addressing customers’ needs, resulting in higher customer satisfaction,” can be turned into bullet points to really juice up your resume’s opening statement, where you boil your main strengths down quickly and powerfully into one or two lines, or to strengthen the body or your cover letter.

For example, if you were looking to advance your sales career, and you have received repeated compliments like the ones above, you might boost the description of your performance by adding a bullet such as

“Increased customer satisfaction and confidence, developing trusting customer relationships.”

  • Of course, if employer evaluations give you the data to back it up, sharpening your statements with precise numbers always adds punch. (E.g., “Developed customer satisfaction and confidence, leading to a personal sales conversion rate in the top 10% of my department.)

Compliments from customers and positive feedback from performance evaluations can even clue you in on talents you might have overlooked. (Talents that might line up with job descriptions). Also, performance evaluations (since they come directly from your employer) can provide precise, objective, and professional backup for talents you claim, both within your resume and cover letter and during the job interview itself. Both can add great power to your job search.

But only if you remember them. And that is where the aforementioned ‘compliment bucket’ comes in. It’s simply a pad of paper or a computer file that you keep handy. Whenever you receive customer compliments or positive job feedback, you toss the highlights in there for safekeeping, filling it up like a bucket. Then you carry on with your work. When you are ready to craft your resume, they will be waiting.

Again, this isn’t a new idea. But it is one that many don’t think of.

So keep your compliment bucket full; it’ll remind you of what makes you memorable.


Ted Perrotti, Founder

Stories that Sell (


Keywords: resume writing, cover letter writing, job search, job interview preparation, career growth

Find your best failure.

_DSC0316_smallOne key to getting yourself a job interview is demonstrating the qualities you have—especially qualities like leadership, which many employers crave.

But, like many job search candidates, you might be wracking your brains to find the accomplishments in your career that bring those qualities to life.

Well, have you looked to your failures?

Yeah. It’s easy to look at successes. But failures, those moments you would rather forget happened, can provide some of the most powerful evidence of the qualities that make you a great fit for the job.

As a professional freelance writer of resumes, cover letters, and many other things, I have seen this first hand. I remember interviewing a very bright aerospace engineer. He had had a very successful career working for others. But he wanted to get into Harvard to learn the business side of things so he could start his own company. But Harvard, with its long tradition of producing bold business entrepreneurs, wanted candidates that would take charge and flourish.

And so, he needed to show in the admissions essay that he was such a person—that he was a leader. And he had no idea how.

So, he hired me. And I questioned him, asking him about key areas such as

  • “What’s the hardest challenge you’ve had to overcome?”
  • “What is the most difficult crisis you have ever faced? What did you do about it?”

I knew questions such as these would help him to start probing his background, and I followed them with other, more specific questions based on his answers.

And, well, what came out was this:

Once, he had led a team in designing and building an important system for a new prototype aircraft. With only about a week to go before the craft would be unveiled to the world in a big maiden flight, his team had wrapped up their job. All was ready.

Then, a part fell off the plane.

A part. His part. You see, the company had been running a test flight when a piece of the plane—the system he and his team had designed, had fallen off and clanged onto the runway like a rusted old muffler dropping from a junker.

Seven days before the plane’s unveiling and his team’s work sat useless on the tarmac. How humiliating is that?

But, he didn’t hide away or sulk; he called his team together and got them to work. He got them focused. He led them. After all, they had only seven days to find out what went wrong and fix it.

And, well, they did. I won’t go into detail how his team fixed the plane, but in his handling this failure that might have spelled disaster, my client had provided a true story that proved his bold leadership in a time when he could have folded.

And he did get into Harvard, by the way; I like to think that the essay I crafted for him based on that story helped to make that happen.

And, just like with that essay, you can weave stories into resumes and cover letters (and later, interviews) in powerful ways to demonstrate your own qualities as a job candidate.

So, the next time you find yourself staring at a job description that calls for things such as ‘leadership ability,’ ‘team management skills,’ and ‘creative thinking,’ ask yourself questions. Ask questions and think, “How did I handle it when things fell apart for me?” The answer just might be the story you need.


Ted Perrotti, Founder

Stories that Sell (


Keywords: resume writing, cover letter writing, job search, job interview preparation, career growth

The best job search news I ever hated: Registering clues to your life’s passion.

“He said you had no passion for it,” my dad told me, hanging up the phone. He had just gotten a call from a friend who had interviewed me for a mechanical engineering position earlier that day.

The news hit me like a punch to the gut. Would I ever get a job? Would I ever get a second interview? I had been out of work for two years since getting my Master’s in Mechanical Engineering, I was in my mid-twenties and living with my parents because I couldn’t support myself financially without a job, and I was wondering if it would ever end.

Why didn’t I have a job? Why wasn’t I getting past the first interview with anyone? I was so good at math and science! And my dad was an engineer! Surely that was the field for me, too?

But no. That career was going nowhere. No passion. Was that the reason? No other interviewer had ever told me why they weren’t asking me back. But, thanks to this call (which I thank God for moving the interviewer to make—and the man himself for making it), I finally had a clue that maybe I was chasing the wrong career.

Now, it didn’t happen overnight (not even close), but I eventually moved my focus to writing—where I most definitely do have a passion. And I am pursuing that, in both fiction and nonfiction, in both a novel and in helping job seekers get their interviews by bringing their skills, values, and other strengths dramatically to life for prospective employers through great resumes and cover letters with my business, And, as a result, I am finding some success and peace. (And I’m out of my parents’ house, too!)

I’m still building toward that level of writing success God purposed me for, but I am already benefitting from pursuing it. So I urge you to seek that passion in your own career and to pay close attention to the clues you receive about the field you are meant for.


Ted Perrotti, Founder

Stories that Sell (


Keywords: career growth