My Resume is What?

Posted by

Among the many resources available for attracting the attention of potential employers, the resume stands alone in one distinct way – it offers the chance to leverage One Way Communication. It’s an opportunity to present information, sway opinions, and create a desired response without any discussion or debate. This is magical, so before getting into the specifics of how to construct a resume – what to write, what not to write, how to write it, and so on – let’s take a moment and challenge your thoughts and assumptions about something you probably take for granted…the resume itself.

What, exactly, is a resume?

Rather than jump to conclusions or fall back on preconceived notions, think about it for a minute. What is a resume?

If you’re like most people who answer this question, you probably came up with a phrase or sentence to the effect of “an overview and summary of personal skills, interests, employment history, attributes, and professional experience.” Sound about right?

Now think about this: did your response relate in any way to the PURPOSE or function of a resume? Did it speak to what your resume is designed to do? For that matter, what is the purpose of a resume? What is it designed to do? Without reading forward, take a couple seconds and complete the following sentence:

The purpose of a resume is______.

If you really thought this out, you’re probably much closer to understanding the goals of this section than you were just a few minutes ago. If you answered these questions honestly and thoroughly, you’ve recognized a few basic responses –

“To help me land interviews.”

“To catch the attention of prospective employers.”

“To help me find a new job.”

In other words, what your resume “is,” is far less important than what your resume is designed to DO.

Your resume, like everything else, is designed to serve a purpose. A very specific purpose. To be very direct, specific, and blunt…

Your Resume is a Sales Letter

Yes, you read correctly. Your resume is a sales letter. The idea of marketing or selling yourself may be a bit uncomfortable. But opinions and judgments aside, you are absolutely using your resume to market, sell, and promote yourself to prospective employers. It’s not a question. It’s a fact.

If it makes you feel better you can think of it as “licensing” rather than selling or marketing. But you’d be better served by just grasping the basic concept and learning how to use it to your advantage. Marketing yourself effectively ensures that the value you can add is obvious and clearly defined for your audience. This encourages prospective employers to interview and hire you, and ultimately requires that they provide adequate compensation for your time and talent. This is good.

Now, having learned (or been reminded) that a resume is actually a sales and marketing tool, it’s important to bring up a point on ethics. You can think of it as the Guiding Principle of Resume Writing, because that sounds fancy. But it’s really just common sense and old fashioned honesty.


Guiding Principle: ALL information you present on your resume and throughout the hiring process must be truthful, factual, and accurate. Always.

So, your resume is a sales tool and you’re going to be presenting all included information accurately and truthfully. Does that mean you’re stuck with whatever information you’ve already got? Absolutely not! There are plenty of clever ways to polish and refine a resume that fall well within the bounds of good ethics and high integrity.

As it turns out, the rapidly accelerating pace of decision-making means that effective positioning of facts and details is an absolute necessity. The key is learning how to creatively present your skills and experiences in a way that works with the resume reading tricks used by the people making decisions about you as a potential candidate.

For starters, it’s useful to remember that your resume has a window of just a few seconds to catch the attention of anyone reading it. You have to be prepared to make a very fast and positive first impression in order to move things to the next level. That means your resume needs to be optimized for maximum results. This fact is the driving force behind the New Rules of Resume Writing.

Rule #1: Know Your Audience.

Resume readers have limited time and an almost unlimited number of candidates to review. It’s a very good idea to use this knowledge to your advantage. If you want to write a great resume, start by paying attention to the way employers describe their hiring goals in the job descriptions they write. Read as many of these as you can, paying particular attention to the words, phrases, and titles used by the people who are searching for individuals with your skills and experience. Understanding what they’re looking for and using the right language on your resume will help you attract more viewers, more interest, and more interview activity.

Rule #2: Get to the Point

You’ve heard the saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” It’s as true in resume writing as it is in dating. One glance often sets the tone for an entire first date, and that same infinitesimally small opening is what you can reasonably expect from a resume reader. That means you have to get right to the point and show them something relevant, and do so without a lot of preamble and wasted space. As one of my mentors used to say, “Treat the beginning of your resume like the front page of a newspaper and make sure it JUMPS out at readers.” The advice is even more relevant today than ever before.

The rest of the rules require a bit more depth of explanation than can be offered here, but all point to a common theme – making sure resume readers can readily find and identify you as a viable match for their opportunities. The internet empowers you to market and promote yourself to a far broader audience than has ever been possible before; understand the rules of the game will help set you up for a far more productive and rewarding job search. And that’s a beautiful thing.


Michael Junge

Michael B. Junge is the author of Purple Squirrel and a member of the leadership recruiting team at Google, Inc. Previously, he was a five-time Recruiter of the Year with a national staffing firm and helped hundreds of clients land positions with blue-chip companies. Michael can be found online at


This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 7:28 am

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of updates to this conversation