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Keys to a winning Employment History section on your Resume

May 19, 2010

   We all have love-hate relationships with resumes, especially Recruiters, and Hiring Managers.  They need resumes to find candidates to fill job openings, but they often have to wade through piles, and piles of poorly written Employment Histories.  If you give the reviewers the information needed to make a quick decision about your credentials, you will have an edge over other applicants.

Here are 9 ways you can jazz up your Experience section to capture their attention:

  1. REMOVE THE JOB DESCRIPTION:  One of the most common mistakes is to write experience sections that read like job descriptions.  Some Job Seekers go so far as to copy job descriptions word for word.  Phrases – ok, word for word – bad.  The result is a boring recap of job duties with no indication of actual job performance.  The key here is performance.
  2. PROVE YOUR VALUE:  Hiring managers scan your resume looking for clues about what type of worker you are.  If you show that you consistently produced positive results for previous employers, you will be seen as a desirable candidate.  The key is to emphasize your accomplishments, and provide proof of your potential value.    
  3. QUANTIFY YOUR RESULTS:  Which statement has more impact?  A) Significantly increased revenues, and grew client base between 1997 and 2000.  Or, B) Increased revenues from $250,000 in 1997 to $1.5 million in 2000, and tripled client base from 2,500 to 7,000.  In both cases, the candidate is trying to convey he increased revenue, and expanded the client base, but statement B quantifies how well he achieved this growth.  Wherever possible, include measurable results (numbers) of your work in terms of #’s, %’s, or $’s.  People are attracted to numbers, so use them.  Not everyone can release company performance figures.  If presenting this information is a breach of confidentiality, find another way to present your accomplishments.  For example, use percentages rather than actual dollar figures.  If you can’t quantify your performance with numbers of what you did, it shouldn’t be there on your resume.
  4. ARE YOU A STAR?  STAR stands for Situation/Task Action Results, and is a good starting point for thinking about your accomplishments.  What types of Situation did you face?  What Actions did you take to overcome the problems?  What was the Result of your efforts, and how did your performance benefit the company?  Write down a list of your STAR accomplishments, and incorporate the most impressive ones into your resume.  Remember to always start with an Action verb.
  5. LEAD WITH YOUR WORK’S RESULTS:  An effective strategy is to write the Result of your work before listing the Situation, and Action.  This allows you to lead with the most compelling aspect of your accomplishment.  For example: Reversed an annual $2 million decline in market share by streamlining the fabrication cycle time, and building a rock-star engineering team.
  6. MAKE IT READABLESome resumes use too many bullets to outline work histories; this has been described as “death by bullets.”  🙂  Other resumes use a narrative style to describe work history, which tends to be too lengthy to read.  Instead, use a combination of sentences, and bullets.  For each employer, provide a brief sentence that describes what that company does.  Then create a bulleted list of your top contributions.  The bullets draw attention to your accomplishments, while giving the eye a place to rest.
  7. TARGET YOUR EXPERIENCE TO THE JOB:  Resumes are marketing tools, and your branding.  Your employment history should effectively market you for your current job you are applying for.  Focus on accomplishments that relate to the posting, and remove job accomplishments that don’t support your connection to the posting.
  8. USE ACTION WORDS:  The quality of the resume, and cover letter makes, or breaks your chances for an interview, so select your words carefully.  DO NO USE dull, or stale phrases such as Responsible for, Duties included, Managed, etc.  I can manage a plane into the ground.  🙂  So what!?!  Use action words that show direction (positive or negative), such as Improved, or Reduced, or action, such as Implemented
  9. DON’T LIE:  Some studies indicate that Job Seekers often lie about their work experiences on their resumes.  But with honest, and well-written employment histories, even Job Seekers with less-than-stellar backgrounds will secure interviews.  The best strategy for your resume is to always be truthful about your background.
4 Comments leave one →
  1. Cynthia Lasher permalink
    May 28, 2010 10:28 pm

    Here is a comment on point 3, quantify your results. I admit that I never paid so much attention to the numbers. If my boss was happy, I was happy. So, I set out to research the results I achieved in my previous jobs. I was amazed to find many of the results were posted on the Internet in the form of Profit and Loss Statements and Balance Sheets for the companies that I had worked for. In some cases, there were press releases about projects that I had worked on, but never knew the results. I knew that one project I revamped the EDI to avoid regulatory fines and I had successfully avoided ongoing fines. That one, I found the fine for the year before I worked on the project was $58K.

    • May 28, 2010 10:38 pm

      Very good point! But, also take the next step, and think about your ability to argue that you deserve a $120K salary when if you avoided, say 3 regulatory fines that year? That would come to $174K; thus you are a bargain at $120K. Your boss would have to admit it that it’s hard to argue against that logic when you have numbers on your side versus saying, well, my boss was happy!

  2. Frank Olmstead permalink
    May 31, 2010 2:43 pm

    You are the Rock Star….I focused on pionts 3, 4 and 5 on my resume. I was not putting numbers and % results in my resume in the correct places. Results, I am working in Austin Texas. Thanks for your help and direct input while in Arizona.

    • June 1, 2010 11:50 am

      Congrats to you! Quantifying what you bring to the table is hard to capture sometimes, but definitely worth the effort. Thanks for the kind words!

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