Even if you’re not a salesperson, when looking for a job, your only job is to sell yourself. You’re convincing employers that they need you, that they can’t keep doing business without you, and the best way to do this is to craft a compelling professional story.

The resume is the the first tool available to you to tell this professional story. Think of it as your brochure, the job of which is to sell you, the product to your target audience, the employer.

The resume presents your best professional self, and acts as a sort of table of contents for your professional story. Your familiarity with it should be such that any questions posed by an interviewer regarding what’s on your resume will bring an immediate and thorough response. After all, you should be able to “do” what your resume says you do.

To use the resume effectively requires a strategy and some hard work.

Here is a suggested plan to get started:

  • Know your resume inside and out. You are accountable for every word on your resume, and you should be able to generate a success-oriented story out of each item listed.
  • Highlight those words that refer to soft skills, such as communication and writing skills, and those that refer to hard skills, such as certifications earned or specific job functions. Also know relevant data points about your positions, such as budget or personnel managed, revenue generated, or costs saved. Study these keywords, and use them during networking opportunities and interviews.
  • When telling your professional story verbally, do so chronologically, to keep your audience in tune with your career growth. Start with the first job for which you received relevant job experience and move up in time, finishing with a detailed explanation of your most recent position.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Your professional story should contain at least three basic elements:

  1. Main responsibilities and accomplishments for each position
  2. Skills or lessons learned from each position (Related: Is your resume robot-ready?)
  3. A transitional sentence that would allow you to move on to the next position, such as: “Those lessons and experiences gave me the right platform to move on in my career, so I took a position with XYZ company, as a (job title)…”

If you keep these tips in mind at an interview or networking event, your knowledge of not only what is listed on your resume, but also of the accomplishments you achieved at your previous companies will make an impression. Your professional story is what will make a contact think of you when presented with a job opening. If the resume tells that story and you’re able to flesh out the details, you will perform well in interviews and meetings. (Related: How to Build and Connect to Your Network)