015: Want that startup job? Let your CV tell a story

Thousands of people apply join my team at Close every month. Lots of “why you should hire me”-style pitches coming my way. Once you’re on the receiving end of screening job applications, you realize: CVs suck. Almost nobody is good at writing CVs—even badass marketers and great sales people are surprisingly bad at it.

I’m pretty sure I missed out on hiring some amazing talent, just because the CVs they sent me unsold me on learning more about them.

The typical CV is almost always a list of places they studied and worked at, that doesn’t tell a story, doesn’t convey a compelling message, doesn’t give me any sense for why this person is the right fit for the role. So yes, thank you, but no.

In this episode of the podcast, I share why you need to make your CV tell a story, and how to do it well.

Thoughts? Let me know on Twitter or LinkedIn!


Hey, this is Steli Efti with Close, and this is a super short video for all of you out there that are trying to get a job at a startup, a pro at any company that you truly desire. But I’m really just qualified to talk about startups. Here’s one thing you all need to stop doing. It tries to be crazy. It pays me, breaks my heart.
When you reach out to, let’s say, the founder of the business, which, because that’s the, the example that that affects me the most. And you tell me, Steli, I want to work for your company. I want to work for your startup. Here’s the position I want to apply for. An attached is my CV. I don’t really value CVS that much, so I would always prefer you to just point me to your work, the things you’ve actually fucking done.
But anyways, if you’ve attached your CVS, I’m going to click on it on the preview. I’m never going to download that thing, but I’m going to click on the preview and scan it really quickly to see if it tells a story. 99.9% it doesn’t. It’s such a lost opportunity. Say you’re applying for a job. For close IO and what you want to do is you want to get a job as an SDR, as a sales development rep, as a sales junior sales person at closer, right?
I just got this, and then you attach your CV in a click on that CV and that CVS, basically you go into something like this. Last job was a marketing intern, was doing all these branding and marketing related things that had nothing to do with sales, nothing to do with startups. The next gig was, um, you know, working part time as a project manager and was actually doing all kinds of like logistics spreadsheets for these logistics company.
Nothing to do with sales, nothing to do with start ups, nothing to do with anything. We are doing the next thing. And it just goes on and on of like these. Unrelated gigs and jobs. Tell me about the things you’ve done that have nothing to do with sales. Um, tell me about your hobbies and things you’ve done it.
Studies that have nothing to do with sales. You’re telling a completely disconnected story, not just about sales, but also about your life. Like, I cannot follow a storyline here. I can’t really see a thread, a common thread throughout all these jobs and all these decisions you’ve made. So now what I’m wondering is, number one.
What does this person want in life? How did they make all these decisions that seem disconnected and how does this leave them? To me? And more importantly is closer. Just going to be one word, disconnected. Stop on that. Zigzag to nowhere, which is the journey that this person’s on right now and another, it’s very judgmental, but this is what you’re asking me to do.
You’re sending me a document. You’re telling me, look at it and judge me. Your assumption, your hope is that my judgment is going to be, I like it. You know, I want to know more. This person could be great for us. That CVE is a sales document. It’s a story. It needs a storyline. You need to sell me on a story.
Now, you might ask yourself, well, sell it. What if I really did spreadsheets at this company and did some mini marketing projects over here and what is my hobbies are really basketball and football and. They’re all that has nothing to do with sales, but I really want to learn sales right now. Well, ask yourself how these things relate to selling.
Ask yourself, what do you have to do to sell yourself to these jobs or sell the projects that you had in those jobs? So maybe the spreadsheet thing, maybe, and I want you to be truthful here, but maybe. If you ask this or why did you have to make these spreadsheets? Maybe it was because management had a hard time selling their board of directors on changing their strategy and they needed to generate some spreadsheets, some sub data that they’re told.
The board that they had to change their strategy or believe in the strategy that the leadership put forth. Now maybe you can come up with a storyline of how you’ve learned at that job. How to collect data and crunch it in a way that tells a story that sells really important stakeholders on buying into a strategy.
And maybe there’s total BS and there was a complete different reason why you had to make spreadsheets. But I’m just giving you an example of how to tell a story that relates to selling or sales lesson you learned during that time. Maybe you learn, you know, you did spreadsheets and you didn’t learn how to use spreadsheets to sell, but you learned that anytime you had to submit that spreadsheet or those numbers to your.
Boss, you had to explain to them, you know how you put all the numbers together and that was the most difficult part, and that’s the part you constantly, you were failing at and you realized I need to become a better communicator. And that’s why you moved on to marketing. See how I’m building a storyline here.
I did something, I realized, Oh shit, I need to become better communication. I need to be better at selling because I’m good at numbers, but I know how to communicate those numbers in a way that get bought, gets buy in from my superiors. So I thought, well, I need to learn more about marketing and sales. And then boom, I went to a a marketing gig and I learned the ABC’s of marketing, and I truly.
There it was. I realized how marketing was amazing, but sales was even more direct in terms of getting feedback loops on your communication, your communication abilities. And so I thought the next step on my journey is to learn how about sales. Now again, this storyline can also be. Tricky. If you step back and you look at it holistically, because what you might be telling me, although the thing I might be seeing as a red flag is, Oh, this person is just on a personal learning journey, which I applaud and I two thumbs up.
I love, but I have to ask myself. Am I is my company right now ready to invest in somebody. Teach them all the basics of sales, teach them everything they need to learn to understand the basics of selling so the person’s not satisfied in their journey of learning the basics, and that person will move on before my company gets a real return on that investment, right?
Because I need to teach her, I need to onboard you. I need you to get you to a level where you can perform your job. If at that point you’re happy, you move on with life, I’ve lost. All that, that that investment I made in UI, it was a complete loss for me as a business. I need to get a return on that, so you need to be careful about that.
But what I’m trying to make a ma trying to make a greater point than the, the examples that I’m giving, the greater point is that your CV is telling a story. And if it isn’t, it’s also telling the story if you like it or not. You CV the email you sent me, the reasons you give me for your past and your present, and where you want to go into your future.
All that is telling me a story and the questions is that story, a compelling story for me to want you to work at my company. So if it’s a sales job, look at your look at your life from a sales perspective and tell me that story. And tell me why all the things you’ve learned along the way are going to benefit my business and why where you are today, you bring some to the table immediately, but you also have this great growth potential that’s going to be longterm for my company.
Tell me a story that is compelling. Don’t just send me a CV with like five different jobs that had five different things you did there in five different industries. That are completely disconnected. So now wondering what is this person all about and how all these things going to benefit my business in any way.
When you send a CV, you want to edit that CV to be customized, to tell a specific story to the listener, to the main audience of that CV. And the main audience in this case was me. It was the founder of that business. What is the story you want to tell me? Make sure it’s a cohesive one. I had another example just recently in a marketing position.
This person was awesome. She came to me at a conference. She shook my hand. She looked me in the eyes, you don’t me. I want to work for you. I’m going to make it happen. You’re going to hear from me today. I love the energy. I love the passion. I love the determination. She gave me a really good reason. She was unhappy about the culture of the company she was in, and she was on the search to work for a company that had truly an outstanding culture.
My talk was all about culture, so she believed this is the place I want to be. I love that. That’s, that’s very compelling to me. But then when she sent me her CV and she sent me what you worked on, it was like a million different things in a million different areas, very, very wide. No depth in anything.
That’s not very compelling, at least not to me, at least not at this very moment. If you look at my marketing positions that we’re hiring for, so when you send a CV, make sure it’s compelling, make sure you truly tell a story through it and a story that’s going to be compelling and interesting and valuable to your audience, your audience being the founder and the hiring manager and the employees of the business that you want to work with and work for.
I didn’t put 9% of all people have that. They don’t think of their CV as a story. They think of their severes, this database collection of things that they’ve done in the past, and then never take a moment to think how to tell. A story around these experiences that’s cohesive and that’s compelling. Be different if you want a job, uh, and if you want to stand out from the crowd, make sure you just don’t send me, send people to his story.
Bullet list point of things you’ve places you’ve been at certain dates with certain name tags attached to projects who worked on, but make sure that when you sell a CV, you tell your life story, your life work journey up until this point is a compelling story for the listeners. All right. I hope that this was useful and helpful.
Please, if you have any questions, leave a comment. If you want to reach out to me directly, Steli, close.io and I’m looking forward to hear from you and now I pray to God that a, some of you people will send me CVS that are very compelling story stories to read because then you’re going to have a lot more success.
All right? I want you to crush it and I’m looking forward to see you very, very soon.

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