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  • How to Upgrade Your Resume, Part 4

    Resume photo from ShutterstockWould you like a resume that helps you advance your career by appealing to hiring managers and recruiters who review your resume? As an executive career coach who sees hundreds and writes many resumes each month, I can tell you that less than 10% of the resumes out there are effective. I want you to be in the top 10%. This series of posts discuss resumes for HUMAN readers, not those “optimized” for online applications and inhuman resume screening software.

    In Part 1, we reviewed the importance of your resume passing the “15-Second Skim Test” and examined ideas to help you avoid being instantly rejected by recruiters and others. In Part 2, we began the process of walking through the typical professional or executive resume from top to bottom and discussed the first page header and (optional) objective. In Part 3, we discussed various information groupings that people locate in advance of their work history, such as those labeled Summary, Objective, Profile, or Qualifications.

    In this, Part 4, we need to consider what you choose to include in your reverse chronological work history. For resumes being read by humans, this is the “meat”. This is where you must provide well organized information that sells your value to whatever depth the reader desires.

    Organization of work history information

    It is conventional and preferred that you group your work history by employer and list the employers in reverse chronological order. If you have had contract work or were self-employed at certain times, these chunks of your history can be shown similar to a job with an employer. For example, if you had three sequential contract jobs then you could lump these together and describe them under your contracting business entity name (such as “XYZ Consulting”, if applicable) or use descriptive wording that substitutes for an employer name (such as “Contract Assignments”).

    After listing your most recent employer name or a similar descriptive placeholder, it is conventional to list your work location beside it. On the same line, you also need to specify dates as years or months/years right justified. Using years without months can avoid drawing attention to out-of-work periods. This would look like:

    • ABC Software, Atlanta, GA          2011-Present

    On the next line, some people choose to include a brief description of the employer. I recommend this and it would look like:

    • ABC Software is a $40 million company that develops software used by auto dealership finance departments.

    List your most recent job title on the next line and, if you have more than one job title with the employer, list appropriate dates like this:

    • Software Developer          2013-Present

    After this, it is desirable to provide brief informational items that are bulleted for ease of reading.

    Bulleted work history resume items

    When someone wants to dig into your resume and learn about the details of what you have accomplished, they jump to these bulleted items. Describing responsibilities can provide basic information, but quantified results and other specifics are normally far stronger. (Exception: If your numbers are weak, then don’t quantify and specify.) Here is an example of a weak “responsibility” bullet and a strong “results” bullet:

    • Responsible for writing application code that calculates automobile lease rates and various loan data.
    • Create and verify the accuracy of an average of 700 lines of new C++ application code weekly that passes quality assurance testing at a 99.2% rate.

    Create additional bulleted items as needed to provide a balanced description of your accomplishments and activities in each job — more information for newer positions, less information for older positions.

    Resume work history summary

    If you are a new graduate or early in your career, the work history section of your resume may be brief or nonexistent. As you acquire more experience, it should expand to become the largest portion of your document. Human resume readers want this section of your resume to be in reverse chronological order, be consistently organized, and contain brief bulleted entries that include a good mix of significant, quantified results (dollars, head counts, percentages, etc.).

    Do these things and you can rest assured this portion of your resume will be of higher quality than 90% of your job competitors. Your readers will appreciate it and you will have a higher chance of gaining their attention.

    For additional tips beyond what is covered in this series of blog posts, check out Chapter 6 in my job search book Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!).

    Good luck and best wishes.

    Richard Kirby is a Vistage Chair (http://www.vistage.com), executive coach (http://www.executivecareerconsultant.com), and author of the book/eBook Fast Track Your Job Search (http://tinyurl.com/k39rb2u). He helps business owners improve their business operations' financial performance and helps individuals improve their career financial performance. Richard is a Board Certified Coach (BCC) in career coaching and an ISO-recognized Certified Management Consultant (CMC).

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