Is It a Resume or a Job Application?

Every time I volunteer at the job fair to review resumes, I see or hear something that just makes me shake my head. It’s not that I haven’t heard them before, but I’m just amazed that people still have misconceptions about resumes. One of the more common issues I find is in the definition of what a resume really is.

Marketing vs. Telling

What distinguishes a resume from a job application is that it is a career-marketing document. Once upon a time, back in the 20th century, job seekers could just outline everything they’d done up until that point and present it to an employer in hopes that a job would be found that matched the job seeker’s qualifications. These days, however, employers don’t have the time to go fishing like that. They expect you to sell them on why you’re the best candidate for the specific position you’re seeking.

When you’re telling someone about yourself, you’re prone to over share. You may add things such as the full address of your previous employers or even past supervisors’ names. That’s job application fodder; it doesn’t belong on your resume.

Get Rid of the Bulleted Lists

A job application specifically asks applicants to list the tasks they completed at previous positions. That’s fine there, but it shouldn’t be highlighted on a resume. Too often, I see bulleted lists full of incomplete sentences or thoughts, just going on and on about what someone did. There’s no value there!

While what you did does play a role in your resume, it’s a brief one. Instead of creating a bulleted list of tasks, write a brief, 2–3 sentences in a paragraph of what you did followed by bulleted accomplishments. An accomplishment includes the action you took as well as the result. Whereas the task may be that you made cold calls, the accomplishment may be that you increased the number of calls made daily by limiting each interaction to three minutes. See the difference?

Stick to the Point

The reason a resume has a title on it is so that you know what you should be including. Everything on your resume should support that job title you’re pursuing. On a job application, you may be asked what certificates you have or courses you took; on a resume, if you are CPR certified and are going for a position as a graphic designer, that’s probably irrelevant. Leave it off.

If you remember that your resume is all about selling YOU, you’ll find that what you have will start taking shape in a whole new way.


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