Using your Resume to Market Yourself

by Sherry Heuser

We all have a resume (or several); some are current, some need updating. The styles and formats vary—while some may be clearer than others, there is no single “right” way to do it. What IS important, however, is that your resume accurately reflects who you are, honestly describes your skills and experiences, and effectively positions you to appeal to the search committee or hiring manager to be invited for an interview.

Because I look at resumes every day, I am frequently asked to review resumes or help individuals update theirs. Although this is not a service I provide, I will let you in on the key to the process I use when reviewing and updating mine. Before I begin wordsmithing, I focus on the big picture and the person my resume represents. Keep in mind—your resume is a fluid document, evolving as your career evolves, and worth the value of your next salary request.

Questions I ask myself when creating or recreating my resume:


  • Who am I? Does my resume convey my professional image? Would a colleague “recognize” me based on the information presented?
  • Who is in my network? Do they know I’m looking for a new role? Would they be willing to share THIS resume?


  • What do I want to do? What do I NOT want to do? Does my resume match these goals?
  • What positions are listed and what skills and experiences are highlighted? Do they relate to the role I am seeking?


  • Where have I gained my skills? Is my work history clear? Did I remember to include related key volunteer roles?
  • Where am I sending my resume? Does it fit with the information in my resume, my goals and who I am?


  • When did I last review and update my resume? Have I made changes in my career or life that need to be reflected in this document?
  • When was I employed in each location? Can the reader easily create a career timeline for me based on the information I’ve provided?


  • Why did I include the information listed? Are there items that are no longer appropriate or related, or new things that fit better?
  • Why would someone want to hire me based on this document to represent their organization? Am I an engaging, clear, error-free communicator?


  • How do I come across to the reader? Does my personality match the organizational culture and expectations of the role?
  • How do my skills and experience relate to the position I am seeking? Is it obvious or do I need to explain myself further?

By paying attention to who I am and what I want, as well as how my resume fits with who the organization is and what they want, I gain a better framework from which to determine how to write or revise my resume. In the end, this is the first introduction and the tool that will decide who goes further in the search process and who is released.

Bottom Line: Rather than getting bogged down in the details of the text, taking a step back to ask questions about the big picture a resume presents can ensure a better product.

Sherry Heuser is president of Capability Company Consulting, a Raleigh, N.C.-based firm supporting nonprofit organizations’ searches for key hires.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]