How to Use Job Descriptions to Write Your Resume

How to Use Job Descriptions to Write Your ResumeI have received many inquiries from clients who think it’s a good idea to copy their current job description into their resumes, and/or copy the job description of the position they’re applying for into their resumes. I STRONGLY recommend against using job descriptions to write your resume. Here’s why neither of these tactics is effective:

1. Copying Current Job Descriptions

Your current job description is just a list of job duties. The cardinal rule for resumes in today’s job market is to write your resume as a list of achievements and accomplishments, NOT as a list of job duties! I would go so far as to say that your job description has very little to do with what you actually do and accomplish in your position.

I’ll take myself as an example. The job description for my position at the University of Wisconsin Law School said that I counseled students on their legal career search. It didn’t say what my success rate was, or how creatively I worked with students’ cover letters and resumes, or that I created a PowerPoint presentation on Resumes for Law Students. It did not mention the 5 job search resource manuals I created for various big cities across the United States, or the positive feedback I got from the students I worked with.

It was my job to put these successes, which were nowhere to be found in my job description, into my resume. They spoke much more to what I can accomplish in any similar position than a statement that I “assisted students with resumes and cover letters.”

You don’t need to emphasize the job duties in your job descriptions to write your resume. Instead, focus on the things you’ve done that will be relevant and impressive to the reader.

2. Copying Future Job Descriptions

A lot of people make the mistake of copying the job description of a job they want into their resume, thinking they will score high with Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) systems. While you might get past the ATS with a resume like that, once a human lays eyes on your resume, you’ll land in the “no” pile. Copying and pasting requires no creativity and, ironically, makes it appear that you did NOT do the things you claim you did. Using job descriptions to write your resume just shows a hiring manager or HR person that you can cut and paste.

Some people have copied and pasted the job description of their targeted position using white “invisible” text. Warning: Once a resume goes through an ATS system, that text will no longer be invisible! So you take a risk, once a human is looking at your resume, of being seen as trying to play the system. Not good.

3. The Right Way to Write Your Resume

Instead of copying and pasting job descriptions in order to capture keywords, FIRST write your resume to highlight your accomplishments. Create the best document you can create. AFTER you have put together a great resume, THEN see what tweaks you can make to include some of the keywords from the future job description.

For instance, I worked with a client applying for a Senior IT Director position. The position description listed “Develop and approve exceptions to policy…” His finished resume did not have the phrase “exceptions to policy” in it, but in reality, he worked with exceptions to policy regularly. He was able to add this phrase into an already existing bullet regarding his program management accomplishments.

For more on how to use keywords in your resume, see my article, Top 20 Tips on Writing ATS-Compatible Resumes for ATS Systems.

In general, when crafting a winning resume, truth and honesty are the best policy. Don’t get lazy or think you’re “working the system” by using the cut and paste functions on your keyboard. What will get you an interview is your unique accomplishments. And another important thing that will get you a job is your integrity. Focus on those and you will see success in your job search.

Still need some help to make your resume great? Contact The Essay Expert about our Resume and Cover Letter Services.


    • Jake, I’m not sure what you are saying about cover letters in your comment, but what I would offer is that a cover letter is a great place to make yourself relevant, no matter what your experience. It’s a chance to go beyond what lies in your resume.

  1. I do recommend putting job description in a word cloud to use the same language as the position you desire. That way you aren’t completely copying the job description but still getting the ATS benefits

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