Too many job applicants think of their resume as a list of the jobs they have held and the tasks they have completed over their career. They focus on their old responsibilities and job titles, forgetting the true purpose of a resume: to help them move on to their next job.
One of the statements I make over and over in these blog posts is that a resume should be targeted for the job you want, not the job you had. The requirements of the job you want are usually described by the company in its posting.
So how does a well-written resume differ from a job list?
First, a job list starts with the most recent job you held, then goes on to cover each job in reverse chronological order. A well-written resume also includes a job list, but it begins with a profile that highlights the value you would bring to your next employer. The profile also contains keywords that companies search for to find someone with your qualifications and background. If it will help your job search, a resume may also start with a “highlights” section that focuses on the achievements most relevant to the job you want. It might start with your academic career rather than your job history if your academic career is stronger. A well-written resume is written for you.
In a job list, each former position is described by title, tasks, and responsibilities. A well-written resume relates those tasks and responsibilities to achievements and accomplishments. The responsibility is to hold sales meetings with customers; but what did those meetings achieve? The task is to redesign the company website; but how did the company benefit from the redesign? The task was to computerize a manual process; but what time and manpower did that computerized process save?
In a job list, everything has equal importance. A well-written resume considers what companies are looking for in an employee and what you want in your next job. Do companies expect someone at your level to have mentoring skills? Are you looking for a more prestigious position or for the opportunity to relocate? What you emphasize in your resume should reflect both the target company’s goals and your own.
Finally, a job list is a dry recital of facts. A well-written resume (and cover letter/email) gives hiring managers and recruiters a sense of your commitment to your career and your excitement about moving on. They want to know that you are more than the sum of the facts—that you are coming to them ready and eager to contribute to their company.