Why You Have to Show Instead of Tell
Sadly, you can’t walk into a prospective employer’s office and say, “Give me the job for the day and let me show you through my actions that I am the right employee for you.”
You must show this prospective employer through the words contained in your resume and the words you speak during the interview. Thus, you have to make sure your words aren’t meaningless.
They have to be backed up with proof: show, don’t tell.
We’ve all the heard the phrase “Actions speak louder than words.”
While I understood the phrase and could easily see the validity, I had a hard time viewing words as less than. After all, words of affirmation is my love language, I have built an entire business based on the power of the written word, and I enjoy perusing writing and grammar forums for fun.
But you have to pick the right words. Words that show.
If you would rather learn how to show, don’t tell in resume writing through watching a video tutorial, check out my YouTube tutorial on this topic.
The number one mistake is people merely stating they possess a certain quality. This is telling. Saying you possess a specific ideal characteristic is meaningless.
I can tell you I am funny; I can even tell you that when I taught English, at least one person laughed in every single one of my classes every day. But what does that mean to you? You are reading my little blog here, and I have not said anything funny, so that is not a characteristic you would attribute to me.
However, you may say I love writing with sentence introductions, I like to set the stage before I deliver the content, and I am not the most concise when I write because these are things you may have noticed through reading my writing.
So stop telling your prospective employer how awesome you are and start showing.
How to Turn Telling Statements Into Showing Statements
Speaking of showing, let me show you what I mean.
This is all telling. This job seeker has done nothing to prove that these statements are true. A prospective employer reading this would simply toss this aside.
So how should the job seeker write this to show these statements are true?
Let’s take the first bullet point in the experience section: Worked hard to fulfill customers’ needs.
To show, the job seeker should ask, “What action did I do to show I worked hard to fulfill customers’ needs? Did he serve multiple tables at once? Did he deliver food quickly and check in on all customers periodically? If so, how about:
- • Managed multiple tables in the largest serving section and maintained prompt and accurate food delivery consistently.
The fact that he was assigned the largest serving section shows his former employer recognized he worked hard and achieved success.
Consistently being prompt shows the worker was not distracted and was committed to the work while on the job.
What about the third bullet in job experience: was a great team player? This job seeker needs to prove he is a great team player.
So again, he should ask, “What specific action did I do to show I was a team player?”
Either of these would work:
- • Aided other servers with their tables during my downtime, ensuring all customers were always served in a timely manner.
- • Stepped in to help the busers clear tables
Of course, there are other ways to show it. These are just some ideas.
The idea here is to turn all of your TELLING statements in your resume into SHOWING statements.
Examples of Changing Telling Statements into Showing
This chart below shows some great showing statements.Two of them include underlined results.
Comparison of Telling Versus Showing
Let’s compare the experience section for one of my clients before I rewrote his resume and after.
Before—all just telling what he did at his job
After—put the job duties into a paragraph, and then wrote statements showing his accomplishments
With his first job: the first two bullets show he is an innovative, problem-solver. The third bullet shows he has good time management. The last two show he is a good communicator and leader.
So since words of affirmation is my love language, I would appreciate it if you would use your words to tell me how awesome this tip is by SHOWING not TELLING how much this blog helped you out. Go ahead and post how you have changed your telling statements into showing statements.
Katie Chambers, owner of Beacon Point, is a nonfiction and fiction substantive (developmental) editor and copy editor for independent authors, content writer and editor for business professionals, and online teacher and tutor.
As an editor, she acts as a beacon by building partnerships with authors and encouraging them.
She loves books and believes they have the power to transform lives. And as such, she wants to ensure that nothing stands in the way of an author’s message or story by reducing errors and strengthening their writing and plot and character development.
Visit her business website, follow or chat with her on Twitter, or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.
If you’re an author, take a look at her writing resources page to access free resources for you.