Five Tips for Resumes When You Can List Only One Employer

Published: Apr 01, 2009

 Career Readiness       Resumes & Cover Letters       

When you've worked at only one employer for your whole career, writing a resume that wins interviews may be no easy task. The reason: Some hiring managers and recruiters may take a dim view of your single-company job history. While you might see signs of loyalty or job security, they may wonder why you haven't moved to a better opportunity or been recruited, among other questions.

"It's an absolute red flag," says Daniel Barr, a partner with Christian & Timbers, an executive search firm in New York. "I would proceed with caution before recommending someone with a real long tenure with one corporation to a client." His main concern, he says, would be a candidate's ability to adjust to a new work culture.

If you have been with one company, it's important to quickly defuse any qualms a hiring manager might have about your job history.

To lessen the odds that it will hinder your efforts to move on, organize your resume using these five tips.

1. Show progression.

If you've been promoted, your job titles are likely to reflect your career advancement, says John Marcus, a resume writer and job coach in Sarasota, Fla. For example, you may have gone from accounting supervisor to assistant controller to controller.

Start your "Job History" section with your employer's name as a heading in bold, says Ms. Kursmark. On the same line, list your starting and ending years with the company, she says.

Emphasize your titles by giving each its own treatment, says Ms. Kursmark. List each one, flush left, and in bold, and, if you have been promoted consistently, provide the dates. If your most recent position has been for four years or longer, Mr. Marcus advises leaving dates out to avoid raising doubts about your potential for promotion.

For each position, list your achievements and responsibilities in bullet points, says Ms. Kursmark.

2. Show adaptability.

When Harvey Brackett, 42, of Fresno, Calif., wrote a resume after leaving his employer of 21 years, he listed each of his past positions separately and added descriptive bullet points. For his position as a co-manager, he stressed management skills, and for his position as a human-resources technician, he highlighted organizational and recruiting skills

"I wanted to show potential employers that I was versatile and my skills weren't limited," says Mr. Brackett.

Can't come up with a diverse range of skills and experiences? Think about your company's changing needs and how you adjusted to them over time, says Jewel Bracy DeMaio, executive resume writer for in Sanatoga, Pa.

"Just because you may have worked with the same company, it doesn't mean that you've done the same thing eight hours a day for 20 years," she says.

Make it clear that you have worked in different positions or offices to show that you can adapt to different managers and co-workers, says Mr. Barr.

If you have remained in one position without being promoted, highlighting a broad background is especially important, says Mr. Marcus. He suggests making the first bullet point under your title a task directly related to the position you are seeking and listing other areas of expertise with an emphasis on variety.

3. Use numbers.

Quantify your results for hiring managers. Mention the amount of money you were able to save or generate for your company and the number of people you supervised.

"Dollar signs and percentages carry the highest impact," says Ms. Bracy DeMaio. If you are unsure about a figure, use a good estimate, she says.

4. Group skills together under subheadings.

Subheadings are good ways to showcase different areas you've worked in. These groupings may include results, training and skills acquired in several positions. You also can create subheadings for special projects you were involved in, Ms. Kursmark says, using bullet points to stress results or achievements.

If you have remained in the same position with the company, subheadings will help you avoid a lengthy list of bullet points and will help make your resume more readable. When recruiters do a quick scan of your resume, they may get the impression you have a varied background, says Mr. Marcus.

5. Bolster experience.

If your resume looks a little bare, including relevant internships can show additional experience, says Mr. Marcus.

After working for three years with a district attorney, Brandi Brice, 29 of Philadelphia, was worried she would be typecast as a prosecutor while trying to break into white-collar defense. Ms. Brice, who hasn't accepted an offer yet, listed her internship with the defender's association to bolster her experience and show that she is capable of working for either side of the law.

Recruiters may be concerned that adjusting to a new work environment may be more difficult for someone with experience with just one company. Volunteer work and other activities where you interact with different people can show that you are comfortable in a variety of settings and that it won't be difficult for you to adjust, says Lindsey Pollak, a career-advice writer and speaker in New York.

Providing additional relevant information such as professional organizations, leadership and civic activities also can add credibility, says Ms. Kursmark.