The Real Purpose of a Résumé

By: Marti Benjamin, MBA

Certified Career Management Coach

Certified Professional Résumé Writer

There are many misunderstandings about the purpose of a résumé. This single document is often expected to land a job for its owner—a lot to expect of a few hundred words.

In considering the purpose of a résumé, let us first understand why a business or organization hires an employee. Of course, the company has work to be completed, but that is not the most important reason behind the hiring process. In deciding to create a job, a business leader estimates the expected value received from investing in an employee. What return does the business expect from investing in an employee, the ROI? The hiring process is the means by which the company increases the probability of a positive ROI.

A hiring manager chooses the candidate with the strongest possible value proposition. The mission of the applicant is to demonstrate him- or herself as the best investment of all the choices available. The résumé is the first element of a campaign to show the unique value of the individual, the introductory message of a well-orchestrated marketing campaign.

From this perspective, allow me to refute some of the popular résumé misperceptions and replace them with realistic expectations.

Résumé as work history

It is true that your résumé includes your work history, but that is not the purpose of the document. No one cares about your work history—they care about what you learned and achieved, and how that applies to your next work role.

The best way to showcase your skills and talents is with an accomplishments focus. Do not tell your reader what you have done; tell them what you accomplished in the process. For example, tell me how you ensured the safety the company’s daily cash receipts with 100% accuracy, not that you balanced the cash at the end of each day. Do not make your reader guess the impact of your work. Spell it out with accomplishment statements that are measureable and demonstrate the business impact of your work.

It is all about you

You are the subject of your résumé but the object of the document is the reader, the person with the power to hire you for your next great job. Speak to the reader, not to yourself.

Typically, a manager adds the hiring process to his or her already full plate. In fact, if a position is open because an employee left the company, their work may fall to the manager on top of his or her regular responsibilities. Reviewing résumés is time consuming, not entirely fun and just one more thing to do! That is the mindset of your audience. You must capture the manager’s attention and convince him or her of the value you offer.

Research shows that your résumé will initially get 20 to 30 seconds of your reader’s time. If you fail to capture their interest in that timeframe, you have lost the opportunity to move forward in the search.

The key to getting into the pool of candidates for further consideration is to submit a résumé that makes it easy for the hiring manager to see immediately how you and your skills match the company’s needs. Speak to the employer’s need; frame everything in your résumé to the requirements of the position.

The top half of the first page is the most important real estate of your résumé. Do not bury your unique qualifications amidst the recitation of previous employment.

One size fits all

A generic résumé will probably not get you an appointment with the hiring decision-maker.

No two job postings are identical, even if the position title is the same. A generic résumé will miss the target every time because it fails to address the requirements of a specific posting. Tailor your résumé to the exact position for which you are applying.

Your résumé and cover letter must speak directly to the manager filling the position and make it clear how and why you are worth the time and effort to screen further and interview. Help your reader by fashioning your résumé precisely to the position they are filling.

How does your résumé rate?

Review your résumé as an introductory marketing brochure. Does it capture interest immediately? Is it a clear representation of the value you add to an employer? Does it pass the 20-second test—persuasive, concise and appealing?

Special offer

At Career From Here, we’ll critique your current résumé at no cost. We’ll tell you how to make it stronger and more appealing to hiring managers, and provide an estimate to have us rewrite your résumé. Send your résumé by email to, with the words “Free résumé review” in the subject line.


Marti Benjamin inspires great work-lives in her career and business coaching practice. While enjoying the best possible job in the world for herself, she guides her clients to find the work that fits them perfectly. Her systems have led clients from fed-up and frustrated to fulfilled in their work-life.,


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