You hear the word intern, and you probably assume that the person was responsible for coffee runs and picking up the dry cleaning while being paid nothing but valuable ‘life skills’. Now meet Jesse Moore and Monet Eliastam, two former interns who worked at on NBC shows who stood up and represented thousands of unpaid interns against NBCUniversal and won a $6.4 million settlement as a result.

Suddenly they don’t sound so insignificant now, do they?

Regardless of whether you interned or not, Moore and Eliastam can still teach you a thing or two about making your ordinary past jobs sound incredible.

What’s the secret? Adding detail to create drama and impress your potential employer.

If you were anything like me coming out of high school with one or two part-time jobs under your belt, you probably thought nothing special of them and went straight to Google to get your template for a CV and rushed through, filling it with words that you think an employer would want to hear.  Hard-working, high attention to detail, team player, and responsible are among the most common words to make an appearance here but little do you know that by using these words you could be throwing your application in front of a bus.

These are not the words an employer wants to read. These should go without saying and be the underlying message in what you say throughout your CV. In order to really help your CV stand out you need to ask yourself one question:

Where’s the flair?

Regardless of whether you cleaned dishes in the back room of a cafe or deliver groceries for a living, EVERY job has its moments of urgency and stress attached to it. This is where you have a real opportunity to get an employer’s attention and show them how you are that hard-working, accurate worker who fits well into a team environment. As we saw above, the job title can mean nothing, so forget about how unimpressive it might sound and spice up your CV with a bit of creativity and sit back and wait for the phone to start ringing.

Let’s say you work as a receptionist at a legal firm where you are responsible for answering calls and occasionally reporting as a personal assistant to Senior Partners. When putting your work experience down on a piece of paper it probably looks similar to:

-Answer incoming phone calls and emails and redirecting them to relevant parties.

-Meeting visitors and assisting them in a kind and courteous manner.

-General administration duties, filing paperwork. photocopying, etc.

-Data entry into our client database.

You might think you are simply laying out your key responsibilities but where is the urgency? What can you add to this to make an employer look twice?

Try thinking about it like this:

-Answer over 80 phone calls per day at one of the most successful legal firms in Auckland.

-Managing approximately 50 visitors each day and often managing 3-4 people at a time.

-Assist with documenting and digitalising critical legal documents for over 100 of our clients.

-Handled confidential information to prepare strategic reports.


See the difference? By altering how you perceive your job responsibilities, these two pieces of work experience sound like two different people. In the second example, there is emphasis on the more dramatic elements of the job where the employer can see how often you had to operate in a certain kind of work environment.

“Assist with documenting and digitalising critical legal documents for over 100 of our clients” sounds much more impressive than “General administration duties, filing paperwork. photocopying, etc.”.

Now you are painting a picture in the employer’s mind where you operate at a fairly high level in the organisation to be trusted with such information in an industry where attention to detail is paramount.

So, to recap, start to think about how your jobs were dramatic and what moments had you emotionally invested in a task? Next, incorporate them into your CV.