Having entrepreneurial experience on your resume gives you skills that you could not have learned in a typical workplace. This new business is your brainchild. You are responsible not only for conceptualizing the idea but also for implementing it through careful research.
Unfortunately, the transition from an entrepreneur to an employee is not always easy.
This is because potential employers may see you as someone who cannot commit to their business. They may feel you will use their company as a stepping stone for your next venture.
You may be strongly committed to your next job. But, if your resume doesn’t capture your commitment, employers may dismiss you for being “overqualified.”
In this article, we will discuss:
- When to avoid drawing attention to your entrepreneurial experience
- When to talk about your entrepreneurial experience
- How to mention entrepreneurial experience on your resume (with examples)
If you’d like to grab a quick, two-page, annotated resume guide based on the profile of a marketing manager who was able to use their resume to double their salary offer, you can grab it by signing up below:
As a business owner, you were very likely responsible for sales and marketing. Pulling ideas from my annotated example, which you can download by submitting your information above, will help you put together a powerful resume that shines a giant spotlight on your best accomplishments.
Now, let's talk about the instances when it is better to NOT mention that you have owned a business.
When to avoid calling yourself an entrepreneur
If you currently own a startup
Don’t list a startup that you’re still running because if (and, hopefully, when!) it takes off, your hiring manager may expect you to leave. Think about it from their point of view. The last thing an employer wants to do is hire someone who may leave in a few months. They also want you to focus on your current job and not your startup. They may doubt your ability to multitask.
If you are finding a job in the same industry
In some cases, it may not be wise to mention your startup if it’s in the same industry. The hiring manager may think that you either want to grow your knowledge or obtain trade secrets.
If you are applying for a job in an old-fashioned company
Some employers believe that entrepreneurs do not make good employees. You think differently than traditional employees. You are always questioning and finding better ways to do everything. This is a strength, but can be a hindrance when working with a highly-structured, bureaucratic company.
With that being said, when entrepreneurship is relevant to the prospective employer, talk about it! Some businesses encourage risk-takers to apply. They will appreciate your out-of-the-box thinking and leadership abilities.
How do you identify such organizations? Look for postings that call for someone who can take initiative to drive business and develop relationships. You can use your resume to talk about how you utilized your entrepreneurial thinking to achieve business success.
This approach also helps prove that you're a highly-skilled candidate.
With that being said, you should draw attention to your entrepreneurial experience when…
Applying for a job with entrepreneurial giants
Both Google and Facebook famously hire entrepreneurs. According to Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google until 2011 and executive chairman after, "…in a fast-growing company, we need people who can pivot around whatever the new challenge is."
Larger companies like hiring entrepreneurs because they inject innovation and the startup spirit. Both add creativity to growing operations.
When applying to new businesses
At startups or smaller businesses, your jack-of-all-trades skillset can be a great asset. In your resume, mention the challenges you faced at your startup. How did you overcome those problems? How did you ensure growth?
Even if you're applying to a company where mentioning entrepreneurial experience on your resume is not advisable, you can still talk about it in a way that shows your strengths. So how do you convey your skills to an employer without scaring them away?
How to talk about your entrepreneurial experience in your resume
Change your job title
You might want to say you worked for your company. Leave it unsaid that you were the owner if you are comfortable doing so. Instead, describe yourself as the company’s manager, or list another role that you played.
Additionally, you can even use the title of the job that you are seeking since you probably fill that role in your own company. For example, let's pretend you are applying for a Director of Sales position and have overseen business development for your business. Calling yourself a Director of Sales on your resume helps the reader understand your work through their frame of reference.
However, if giving yourself a job title is not something you're comfortable with, try titling your experience like so: Owner (Direct of Sales Role), Business Name, 2020 - Present. Doing so will help you ensure that Applicant Tracking Systems aren't dinging you and automatically screening you out for not having the right job title on your resume.
Write a cover letter
You may want to explain in your cover letter why you are interested in transitioning from self-employment. This should only be done for companies that like hiring entrepreneurs. Otherwise, you may be drawing attention to something that your reader considers a liability.
Highlight your skills
Do not include information on your resume that is not related to the job posting. Focus only on your transferable skills.
You may have lots of skills, but they may be more useful to the company in a later stage.
Is this something you're struggling with? If so, in this article, I break down how to put a strict filter on your experience so that you're drawing attention to your best strengths. I talk about how to avoid overwhelming the reader with information that may not be relevant to their hiring needs.
Talk about teamwork
Employers often presume that entrepreneurs are one-person-army. Therefore, you should stress your ability to work with others for a common goal. Use language like…
- Collaborated to achieve multimillion-dollar deal…
- Supported the creation of a new revenue stream…
- Part of a team that secured first place in…
Transform older entrepreneurial experience
If your entrepreneurial experience is older and you have held a job more recently, including it as a side project might make you look less intimidating to the recruiter.
Here are a few examples of entrepreneurial experience on a resume
One of my clients was targeting Business Development roles. So, I pointed out how they successfully developed their own business.
Another client was aiming for business consulting and operations roles. They had trouble getting a job because of their experience being an angel investor and advisor for 10 companies. I toned down this role by highlighting the business side of their work:
Another client was targeting restaurant manager roles. They had owned a restaurant for over a decade. I divided up his experience and changed the job title like so:
If you are self-employed or freelancing, consider mimicking this example, which was created for a consultancy service provider:
This client was running a car wash business for two decades and now wanted to be a CEO at another company. This is how I approached this:
Reentering the job market after owning your own business is a big career move, and it is important to acknowledge.
Give yourself credit for making the switch, take pride in the small wins, and watch them build toward your goal of landing the right role.
Entrepreneurial Experience in Interviews
After redoing your resume, you'll need to be able to "defend" your entrepreneurial experience in interviews. This article has detailed scripts that you can use as an entrepreneur to answer questions like:
- Why did your business fail?
- Are you sure you won't be bored if you're not the one in charge?
- What's stopping you from starting a new venture?
If you're anticipating having an interview any time soon, I highly recommend bookmarking the link above. Even if you're really great at talking about the work you do, going through the scripts above will help you refocus your passion from your business to the team that you'll be joining next.
On that note, if your resume screams "entrepreneur," you'll get grilled about it your interview. To make sure your interview focuses on your strengths and not on your perceived shortcomings, download my resume cheat sheet by submitting your information below. Wow them before you even get to the interview so they understand that the return on investment (ROI) for hiring you is massive:
If you're interested in our one-on-one resume and interview help, you can use this link to schedule a free consultation call with us.