Your resume is not an unchanging, static document. Every job has different responsibilities, and every business has different tastes; based on where you’re applying and who will review your resume, you must be able to adapt the way you highlight different aspects of your work experience, skillset, and personality.

How to Make Your Resume Shine for Small Businesses

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For you to stand out as a winner over a vast sea of capable applicants, you have to sell yourself as the type of person that will fit perfectly into the business’s open slot.

Small businesses have vastly different requirements than larger companies. Sending the same resume to a small business as you sent to a corporation will almost certainly sift you out immediately: the resume you sent to a corporation that highlighted your specific technical skills might be thrown out by a small business who needs more of a generalist.

Listed below are some traits that small business owners are looking for; rebuild your resume around highlighting these traits, and you’re sure to succeed!

1. You Don’t Need to be Always Told What to Do

Imagine all the responsibilities of the managers you’ve worked for in the past. Now roll all these responsibilities together, and you have a general idea of what small business owners have to deal with every single day.

They are responsible for absolutely every aspect of the day-to-day AND big picture functionality of the business, and don’t really have much time to micromanage and train employees, even new employees.

Understand that small businesses don’t have “management” positions: everyone has a job, and they are responsible for managing themselves. Take the time to highlight why you’re a person who can be immediately trusted with the responsibility of getting your job done, no questions asked.

Don’t just vaguely refer to yourself as a “self-starter”; give examples of experiences where you took the reins and didn’t need to be told exactly what to do.

2. You Have a Lot of General Aptitude in Different Fields

Small businesses often don’t run like a well-oiled machine: don’t expect to be a cog that performs only a few specific job duties as part of a fine-tuned, large machine. Often, you’re required to be a generalist, someone who feels comfortable with all of the various aspects of an extremely large wheelhouse like “human resources”, “accounting”, or “programming”.

I once consulted with a Jackson, MS pool design company that was trying to hire someone to manage their “programming”. We received around 30 resumes; as I reviewed each resume, I found that the majority of them were making the mistake of highlighting their SPECIFIC knowledge, rather than their general and adaptable skillset.

One spent almost 1/3rd of his resume highlighting the deep nuance of his knowledge of coding Python. While I don’t doubt that he knew Python well, he didn’t spend any time describing how his skills could have generally applied to the pool design company’s specific needs; without knowing how his specific knowledge could help us, we passed on calling him in for an interview.

3. You Can Teach Yourself New Skills

Small businesses don’t have big training budgets, and they don’t have a lot of already set-in-stone business processes. Owners are always looking for a new edge, and are willing to change their current approach.

Employees must be malleable and capable of learning new skills for the business: it’s entirely possible that the job that they’re hiring for will evolve into something completely different within 8 months, and they need to know that you can handle this flexibility.

A small women’s clothing retailer that I consulted for was looking to hire someone who could simply manage their poorly-performing warehouse.

Many of the resumes I reviewed had high degree of experience in similar management roles; however, the business’s owner insisted on bringing in only the candidates that had listed work experiences in which they had facilitated a large change in the way the warehouse ran.

The owner recognized that things in the warehouse needed to change, but she didn’t want to be micromanaging this change, hoping that her new warehouse manager could facilitate this change. She ended up hiring an applicant who had spent 1/4th of her resume highlighting a time where she taught herself how to use workflow management software (not a simple software solution, by any means) and implemented it at her old company.

This ability to learn new skills is worth its weight in gold for any small business that’s still trying to grow and figure out its business processes.


Small businesses are often looking for a completely different type of applicant than large corporations are: don’t get caught sending to a small business the same resume you sent to a large company, because it’ll heavily decrease your chances of finding employment. So much about resumes has become stagnant and overused; don’t be part of the problem!

Written By
Lewis Robinson is a business coach by day, and guest blogger by night. His passion for all things business strategy flows deeply into his work. He can be best reached by Email.

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