Resumes to Pursue Promotions

By Georgia Adamson

Years ago I encountered my first client who needed a resume for an internal promotion opportunity. Puzzled, I asked her, “Why do you need a resume? Don’t they know what you do?” Naively I assumed her performance would be well known in the company and thoroughly documented by HR—readily available to the hiring manager if additional information were needed.


My new client set me straight right away on at least a couple of points:

  1. The company had a standard procedure for applying for promotions, and providing a current resume was part of that procedure.

  2. The people in charge of the hiring process didn’t have the time or inclination to search through an employee’s file to gather all the data they needed, although they might consult it at some point.

Since then, I’ve heard at least one other possible reason for requiring the resume: It helps the company evaluate the employee against possible external candidates for the position, who would naturally be submitting resumes. Whether or not this is true, I don’t know, but it’s one more thing for your clients to consider if they are interested in getting ready for a possible promotion.


Here are some ideas to share with them.


Four Good Reasons to Keep Your Resume Tuned Up


If the employees you are coaching or counseling are happy in their current job and not particularly concerned about preparing for a promotion, they might think this isn’t a subject that means much to them right now. However, savvy employees in today’s economy and employment situation keep their resumes as current as possible for at least one of the following reasons:

  1. To take advantage of advancement opportunities that can occur with little warning. For instance, someone might leave to take a job at another company, move with a spouse to another area, or need to resign in order to deal with personal health issues—thus opening up a position that wasn’t previously available.

  2. To document new responsibilities and accomplishments that might otherwise be overlooked or forgotten as time goes on—by the employee or by management.

  3. To prepare for unexpected negative events, such as a layoff due to loss of a key contract or a disaster that shuts down a manufacturing operation.

  4. To use during their annual review, which can be a good time to talk about promotions.


Internal versus External—Similarities and Differences


If they need a resume for internal advancement opportunities, it would probably include some of the same elements as it would if they were seeking outside employment, such as titles, dates, and key aspects of each position held—what they were expected to accomplish in those positions and what they actually did contribute.


On the other hand, an internal resume might include elements that wouldn’t necessarily be put into an external version—or at least not in the same way. For example, information that would be considered proprietary or company-confidential would normally not be explicitly stated in the external version; however, your clients could well decide to use it in the internal resume. The obvious reason is that it probably isn’t a secret within the company, and such information might be highly relevant in presenting oneself as a candidate for the promotion.


Jargon—What to Use and When


Another point to consider is the use of company versus industry jargon. An internal resume is likely to contain a fair amount of company jargon, because that’s the language people speak within the company. Not only will others in the company understand your clients when they use it, but also they might find it odd if an internal candidate didn’t. When submitting their resume for an internal promotion, they can and probably should use at least some of the most relevant company jargon.


However, there is a difference between company jargon and industry jargon. A company’s internal jargon might not be understood clearly, if at all, outside the company. Industry jargon, on the other hand, would probably be common to many companies within the industry and understood across a much wider range than just their company.


For example, in the oil and gas industry, you will find references to “upstream” and “downstream” sectors. Anyone in the industry would recognize those terms if you used them in your client’s resume—they’re not company-specific. Readers would know that upstream relates to the exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas, while downstream has to do with the selling and distribution of natural gas and crude oil products. You wouldn’t need to explain or restate those terms in order to communicate clearly to the people reading your client’s resume.


The Effect of Internal Politics on Your Resume


Internal politics can also play a role in how your clients shape their resume for advancement opportunities. For instance, your clients might have been the prime movers behind an accomplishment that benefitted their company. However, if their boss decided to take the lion’s share of the credit, it could be a risky move to claim that credit in their resume, even though their claim is legitimate.


The Ultimate Goal


Whether those you coach or counsel are preparing their resume for internal advancement or for external possibilities, you will want to help them present themselves as consummate professionals—individuals who take their careers seriously and make a strong effort to maintain a high degree of excellence in the quality of work performed and the value contributed. That always matters, regardless of whether they’re heading up or out.



Georgia AdamsonGeorgia Adamson, MRW, ACRW,is a Master Resume Writer who has created professional resumes, cover letters, and executive bios for thousands of clients. She has worked with clients across the US and internationally to identify and communicate their value-added message. She specializes in helping senior management and executive clients maximize their time and conduct job change or career transition campaigns faster and more effectively.  She has delivered workshops,written a newspaper column and authored articles for several websites. Her work has appeared in 12 books, including Executive’s Pocket Guide to ROI Resumes and Job Search and Resume Magic. She can be reached  at success@ablueribbonresume.com and through her blog: www.asuccessfulcareer.wordpress.com



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Michal Orenstein-Orpaz   on Monday 10/01/2012 at 10:13 PM

Hi Georgia,

Thanks for shedding light on this subject which is not addressed very often.

Great tips and rationale.



Roberta Z. Muir, SPHR, M.A.   on Tuesday 10/02/2012 at 08:51 AM

Georgia, as an HR professional the resume of a current employee for a promotion can be even more critical than that of an outsider. The higher the position, the more essential it is to apply what you know about your employer's business and who you are to create a very compelling document. Candidates should want the employer to see them as not only promotable but as risk of being losing their talents to a competitor if they are not rewarded.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.