Explaining Your Progression on Your Resume

Most resumes don’t explain how the job seeker made their career changes.  They just list the jobs they have held, in reverse chronological order.  This is fine for the vast majority of people.  Most people have a career path that makes sense. 

I want to share with you a resume that doesn’t make sense.  The individual that sent me this resume had this progression: graduated with a bachelor’s degree, worked as a production coordinator in mfg, was promoted to production planning manager, was hired as national sales manager at another company and recently became unemployed.

This individual was looking for a sales management position and had some great accomplishments on their resume.  Here are a few (I took out the numbers for confidentiality – the sales growth listed is very impressive):

  • Increased nationwide revenues from $# million to $# million per month in year one and to $# million per month in year 2 through product launches, new market penetration, and customer acquisitions.
  • Negotiated a multi-million-dollar contract with *** Corp., boosting revenue $# million dollar per month.
  • Raised <product> sales 40% by implementing marketing campaign for <brand name>, integrating television, radio, and field events.

Just reading that, I would say that this is someone I want leading a sales team.  The problem is their progression.  Let me explain.

I almost never see a person make a career move that changes their company, promotes them to a higher level and completely changes the type of work.  It just doesn’t happen.  I’ve seen people get promotions into a different field within the same company.  I’ve seen people take lateral positions with another company in a different field.  It’s just very rare to get promoted into a higher level role where you have no expereince. So, how did this person do it?

The other question is, why are they unemployed if they were so successful in leading sales for the company – more than doubling sales in two years.

There may be great reasons for this and this person may be a superstar sales manager.  Unfortunately, with the information they’ve provided, I have a lot of doubt. 

To address this, I would explain the transitions in a cover letter.  This person has a well written cover letter, focusing on accomplishments.  It didn’t say anything about how they got into sales or why they’re out of work.  Another option would be to put an executive summary at the top of the resume that includes this information.  I prefer the cover letter option, but both would work.

When you look at your resume, make sure it looks believable.  That doesn’t mean you water down your best accomplishments – just that you should explain things that you know are going to raise really big questions.  For many job seekers, their progression makes a lot of sense.  In that case, explaining their transition probably won’t add any value.