Telling the Right Story with Your Resume

Recently I was talking with a candidate who was concerned about how taking his next job might impact the way his resume is perceived by potential future employers. I thought to myself, what a great thought to have. Fortunately for this candidate, I don’t think the move does anything to adversely impact his resume. However it does beg the questions, is taking this job allowing me to tell the right story of my career on my resume? It’s a question I don’t think people ask themselves enough and it’s a question I believe you need to ask yourself before you ever accept a new role.

Whether you like it or not, when you accept a new role it becomes part of what future employers will look at for the rest of your life. It becomes an indelible mark on your life’s work and in virtually every interview moving forward you are going to have to answer questions about it. Why did you leave ABC company to go to XYZ company? I see you used to be a (insert role) but then you took a job as a (insert newer role), why did you do that. Questions like these and more are standard components to early phone screens with the people who decide whether or not you get further in the process and therefor you have to be able to answer these questions.

Whenever I consider a role I think to myself, how can I paint this move in a positive light to future employers? If the answer doesn’t sound right, you really have to consider the ripples it will have moving forward. For example if you are in a senior role or a people manager role  currently and you take a role that is neither senior nor managing people, you better believe every recruiter in the world who sees your resume is going to wonder why you did that. Were you laid off? Could you not handle the responsibility and therefor decided to take a step back? These are all logical questions really, if you think about it. What is unfortunate is that not only can it be hard to explain and answer these questions, but for certain roles it will also keep you from getting that first interview. Recruiters and hiring managers alike will look at your resume and make their own assumptions and perhaps pass on you as a candidate.

The takeaway here is to think about the story you tell with your resume. Too often people consider the company, the salary or the benefits but don’t realize the other impacts their decisions may have. There are indeed times when this makes sense, perhaps it’s a great company or it’s working for a manager you are dying to work with. In those cases maybe you make the move anyway but make sure you consider the consequences. Another thing to consider is that perhaps the company would be willing to offer you the title that makes more sense for you. Maybe you apply for a Mechanical Engineer role but the title you really want is Senior Mechanical Engineer because you already hold the title Mechanical Engineer at your current company. This is something you might be able to negotiate. Perhaps you let them know that while you are very interested and feel like you would be able to make a measurable impact right away, you have decided that in order to move you would need for the role to be in a Senior or Lead capacity.  Have any of you ever been in this position or took a role that you later regretted because it was hard to explain your rational?

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