Nearly half the time when clients send me their resumes, the resume is a hybrid of resume and job application. But there are important differences between your resume and job application, and an impactful resume doesn’t conflate the two.
The main difference between resumes and job applications has to do with their separate functions. Resumes are marketing tools used with the goal of netting job interviews. Job applications, on the other hand, are legal documents, and are used to provide information needed to conduct background checks on potential employees. While both documents must be scrupulously truthful (no fudging titles, dates, educational or skill credentials), job applications must be complete, while resumes can be selective in what type of information they contain and the extent to which that information is described.
The differences between your resume and job application include the following:
- References belong on the job application, but never on the resume
- Exact dates of employment are important for the job application, but just including the years you worked at a particular company is sufficient for the resume.
- Employer locations are irrelevant for resume purposes, but complete addresses are usually needed on a job application
- Names of managers or supervisors, along with their phone numbers or work email addresses are asked for on job applications, but have no place on resumes
Several clients have asked me how job applications are used by potential employers. As I mentioned, job applications are legal documents, so you are accountable for what you write on them. In my human resources role, I would submit a copy of the job application to the vendor who conducted our background checks. To learn more about background checks, here’s a good infographic.
Any information resulting from the background check that deviated from what the candidate had written on the application was flagged. Most of the time, the deviation was minor – the former employer may have referred to the candidate as Marketing Manager, while the application used the term “Manager of Marketing. Irrelevant difference, so I could ignore it. Same if a candidate had said he or she started work at a former company in April, when the company said it had been May – no big deal. But sometimes, the differences were significant, and in rare cases, outright falsehoods, and in those cases, the candidate had some explaining to do. If the explanation was unconvincing, I didn’t make the offer.
Not understanding the differences between your resume and job application won’t necessarily cost you the interview, of course. But conflating the two can make you appear naive or uninformed – not the impression you were going for. Focus your resume on your value proposition and significant achievements, and leave the mind-numbing details to the job application.
Need help navigating your job search, beyond the differences between your resume and job application? Let’s talk: