A Resume Should Not Be Just a Job Description

By Joe Stein

Resumes really have come a long way over the years.   They not only have evolved from a “nice to have” document to essential, but also the content has really changed. In its initial origins, the document was really just a recap of everything a person does…in essence, a version of a person’s current and past Job Descriptions.
 
This focus on tasks has really evolved over the years, however, many resumes I read are still, unfortunately, stuck in that “old” style. What this type of format does not do for you anymore, is provide a reason for the reader to differentiate you from everyone else. In today’s world, there are usually many candidates who have similar basic skills, but it is really how they have applied them that differentiates one person from another.
 
There are probably a variety of reasons why a job seekers feels compelled to rewrite their Job Description. Amongst the reasons that come to mind are the three items listed below:
 
·         It is probably the easiest and fastest way to write a resume. In essence, the job description format is just transferring over what you do onto the document. The resume practically writes itself and can be done relatively quickly. If you are like most people, the thought of having to “sell” yourself makes you a little nervous and perhaps a bit uncomfortable. You can avoid all of that by just listing your tasks, but you will be left with a document missing some key pieces.
·         There can be a misconception that Hiring Managers really only want to know what you do and see if it matches up to their open position. While having a pretty good idea that someone can do the job is important, most Hiring Managers are looking for much more. Even an entry-level type position in a retail environment is not just looking for someone who can run a register, but also someone who has won an “Employee of the Month”, or an attendance incentive at their last employer.
·         Many job seekers just do not know any better. This is where you, however, will take advantage of this ignorance and provide yourself with a competitive advantage.
 
So, now that you know how not to draft your resume, I am sure you are naturally wondering about what you should insert into the document. First, let me state that some task listing is appropriate to give the reader a flavor regarding what you did, however, you should always try to accompany the statement with additional information.
 
·         Instead of just using a generic “Objective Statement” that usually just states something related to wanting to add value and grow in a company, substitute a “Summary of Qualifications”. In this section, focus on what you know how to do and what you have done.
·         If you are like most, you are going to write a resume in the chronological employment format. In this resume, you will list your employers (from most recent to oldest). With each employer, include something about your tenure there. Since you have already listed your qualifications in the section above, you are now free to add detail regarding what you accomplished. Focus on items such as your productivity, your accuracy and any awards that you won. Did you come up with any ideas that were implemented to save money? If you did, make sure this is included. The idea is to have the reader generate a visual picture of you as a worker not just getting the job done but also adding significant additional value.
·         Separate from your resume, but usually included with it, is your Cover Letter. Similarly, this document should have the same theme of adding specific notes selling your candidacy. Most Cover Letters are merely a brief document that states the job you are applying for and how you can be contacted. Certainly functional when written that way, but why not also add a short paragraph in the middle stating what makes you special and why. It will certainly stand out amongst all the identical looking documents being read.
 
A resume is one of the key items you have to attract an initial interest from the employer. Take advantage of the fact that you control the content placed on your resume by providing more information than just the task you accomplished. By the way, in case you were wondering, this same concept works for those just completing an application for a job. If the application allows you some space to write your strengths or key accomplishments, please do not leave these sections blank or with only some generic statements. Take advantage of the opportunity and write down specific information that will draw the attention of the reader. 
 
As always, best of luck in your job search!