Why using your proposal resume for your job hunt is holding you back

Posted by Oliver Hogue on 03/12/2018
Proposal resumes v personal resumes

One resume does not fit all. A personal resume for a job application should be a very different document to a proposal resume. Yet, many feel their proposal resume is suitable for their personal job applications. Unfortunately, it’s not - and it could be the reason you’re not getting called for interviews.

But my resume has just been updated!

So the marketing department at your company has spruced up your resume for that must-win proposal, and your skills and experience never sounded so good. But what you may miss (and recruiters won’t) is that that your resume is now targeting a specific project and client, and this tailoring can easily hold you back from the new position you’re really after.

The proposal resume is created for a very different purpose - it’s a pitch for work and a demonstration of capability against project-specific requirements. When done well, a proposal resume will clearly link your skills to specific tender requirements, including narrowly-defined evaluation criteria.

A good personal resume, however, is all about selling you. It provides a concise overview of your experience and achievements relevant to the position you want, which is a new employment opportunity, not the multimillion-dollar contract your employer was targeting.

A proposal resume doesn’t define your career path, it doesn’t provide a broad overview of the value you offer a prospective employer, and it won’t articulate your personal career goals the way like a good personal resume should.

Is your resume connecting with the hiring manager or recruiter?

Let me ask you a question: Have you ever read a personal resume written in the third person? Sounds weird, doesn’t it?


Third person is the least personal of voices and your personal resume is all about you and what you offer an employer. It couldn’t get more personal.

Proposal resumes are written in the third person rather than the first person because it demonstrates professionalism and formality - again, this is a business demonstrating their resources and capability against project-specific requirements.

A personal resume is your opportunity to introduce and sell yourself. Using first person creates a personable impression, all the more important considering you may not meet face-to-face until after shortlisting has occurred.

While the days of listing hobbies and interests in your resume are behind us, it’s still important to connect with the recruiter or hiring manager - and writing in the third person will hinder this.

Don’t over-format

Proposals often have stringent page-limits and table-formatting is used to maximise space and highlight criteria compliance. The internet also provides a multitude of fancy templates, but remember the role you are applying for: unless a significant level of graphic creativity is a prerequisite (for example, graphic designer), overly complicated formatting that combines multiple elements onto one page will muddle communication.

Stick with traditional templates for personal resumes. It should read left to right, with a set number of headings. It’s generally also the way recruiters and HR managers like to receive them. The only significant technical requirement that is new, is how to best to meet the requirements of the HR department’s Application Tracking System, and the format of a proposal resume definitely doesn’t help you with this.

Content matters

Proposal resumes often reduce or entirely omit ‘Career Highlights’ and ‘Achievements’ sections. In your personal resume, this information should be on page one. The content in a personal resume demonstrates your ability to ‘kick career goals’. A proposal resume simply emphasises your track record in delivering project-specific objectives.

A similarity between both types of resume is the length. Two pages is ideal for both and three pages is OK for the personal resume. If you’re submitting three-page resumes or more for proposals, you risk wasting the evaluator's time, and it’s even possible they won’t read those extra pages.

Limit information but don’t omit

Any resume, no matter what you are using it for, will feature your past successes. However, a proposal resume may completely omit anything irrelevant to the proposal or project, even if it is a strength or key achievement.

While it is also necessary to adjust the amount of information you provide in your personal resume, including reducing dated information or less relevant past jobs, you shouldn’t omit anything. Recognising your previous roles gives clarity to recruiters and potential employers regarding your career progression, and gives true insight into your experience.

It’s also worth noting that the majority of content in your proposal resume will favour your current employer, or at least lack fair mention of your role and achievements with others. Suddenly, your proposal resume is top heavy and awkward when used for your job application. Worse still - your career path looks complicated and confusing. 

We perform resume overhauls for various sized businesses, and recently introduced a ‘Work History’ section for a client. This feature works well for their purposes, but this tactic is rare, and only recently have some government agencies started asking for this information.

Who sets the standard?

The customer.

Your customer is either the client whose project or contract your business is hoping to obtain, and thus your resume should reflect the specific client and tender requirements, or the hiring manager and recruiter of the position you are applying for. Either way, ask yourself what the customer wants to see in the resume provided, and give it to them. Personal and proposal resumes are never the same, and your customer will know the difference.

Do you have a resume that needs improving, or tailoring to a specific proposal, employment opportunity, or tender?



Certified Bid Writer