Do You Have a Résumé or a ‘Job Description’?

Job SearchPersonal Branding

Editor’s Note: This blog is a modified excerpt from professional “headhunter” and bestselling job-hunting book author Skip Freeman’s next book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets series of job-hunting books, CAREER STALLED? How to Get Your Career Back in ‘High Gear’ and Land the Job You Deserve─Your Dream Job. Publication is scheduled for early 2013.


Is your résumé more characteristic of a “job description” than it is of a professional document that clearly and quickly brands you as unique and sells your experience, qualifications and your  potential for success to prospective employers? Unfortunately, the résumés of many professionals today more often resemble the former type of document than the latter type.

As a professional “headhunter” I have literally hundreds of résumés pop up on my office computer screen each and every business day, in response to positions I am trying to fill for my hiring company clients. In truth, a significant number of these résumés read more like a job description than as a professional résumé that can—and does!—give me what I refer to as “cause for pause” and make me want to read further. (Be assured that I am not the only hiring professional who feels this way.)

Let me give you a real life example of what I am talking about here, and this example, I’m sorry to report, is not at all unique.

Earlier this year I was recruiting for candidates to fill a Quality Manager position for a major manufacturer I represent. Although the phraseology varied somewhat, here is how the typical applicant usually described his or her experience/qualifications for the position in his/her résumé:

Quality Control Manager – Name of Current Employer – 2005 to present

  •  Responsible for improving manufacturing processes and reducing defects and downtime. . . .

While the candidates who utilized this approach more than likely thought it to be entirely acceptable and appropriate, the fact of the matter was (and is), all this approach actually accomplished was to immediately relegate the applicants who used it to the “me too” pool! Why? Because this approach sounds as though it was literally lifted right out of a written job description—and in some cases it quite probably was! This approach gives the reader (who may spend 45 seconds or less on the résumé to begin with) no reason whatsoever to read on and learn more, i.e., there is absolutely no “cause for pause”!

The end result for résumés which featured this approach? Hit with the big DELETE key! Applicants out of the running.

Does this mean that I may have missed some really exceptionally qualified candidates by not reading more of their résumés? Maybe, but in my professional experience, highly unlikely. Plus, I, like all hiring professionals, simply do not have, and cannot take, the time to “plow” through hundreds of résumés in search of a “diamond in the rough.”

Résumé Should Both Tell and Sell!

A résumé that reads like a job description does indeed accomplish at least one goal of an effective résumé: It tells the reader what the applicant actually does (or has done), i.e., “duties and responsibilities.” A hiring professional of course needs to learn (and quickly) if an applicant possesses the basic, relevant experience to even be considered for a particular position. But far, far more important is how well the applicant has performed these duties and responsibilities! In other words, an applicant must include those things in his/her résumé that makes him/her unique, different and better than the typical, “run-of-the-mill” applicant.

Referring back to the above example, consider how much more effective (and stronger) an applicant’s résumé would be if he or she had taken this approach to explaining and amplifying his or her experience and qualifications for the position:

Quality Control Manager – Name of Current Employer – 2005 to present

  • Reduced equipment failure rate by 89% in first year as Quality Manager, while increasing annual production by 15%, resulting in an overall revenue increase of $12.5 million.

Not only do applicants who take an approach like this tell the hiring professional what their current (and previous) duties and responsibilities are/were, more importantly, they are selling how well they are now performing these duties and meeting these responsibilities—by using the concrete “yardsticks” of dollars and percentages! The not-so-subtle, underlying message to a hiring professional, of course, is that “I can also do this for you and the company you represent!”

If you were a hiring professional, which approach would most likely give you “cause for pause,” and make you want to learn more about the applicant?

Résumé First Glimpse into Your Professional Brand

It’s important to keep in mind that, for the overwhelming majority of job applicants, the résumé is the first (and many times, the only) glimpse into their professional brand. If you “blow it” out of the “starting gate” because your résumé doesn’t immediately give the hiring professional sufficient “cause for pause,” you won’t be getting a second chance! And, while a résumé, no matter how “sparkling,” will never actually get you the job, you certainly can’t expect to progress to the next important step in the job search, either, i.e., getting an interview, if your résumé doesn’t both tell what you do and effectively sell how well you do it!

Obviously, there is much more that goes into a job-winning résumé than what I have included in this blog, e.g., visual appeal, overall length, appropriate use of keywords, to cite just a few of the elements that comprise an effective résumé. Take a long, hard look at your résumé before you send it out in application for another position. Does your résumé read more like a job description than a well-designed, professional document that sells what is unique, different and better about you? If so, then take the time and make the effort to rebuild it, so that it becomes an accurate, complete picture of your true professional brand and moves you ahead in your job search!


Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.