Starting with your present position, list the title of every job you have held on a separate sheet of paper, along with the name of the company, the city and state, and the years you worked there. You don't need to list addresses and zip codes, although you will need to know that information when it comes time to fill out an application.
You can list years only (1996-present) or months and years (May 1996- present), depending on your personality. People who are detail oriented are usually more comfortable with a full accounting of their time. Listing years alone covers some gaps if you have worked in a position for less than a full year while the time period spans more than one calendar year. For instance, if you worked from September 1996 through May 1997, saying 1996-1997 certainly looks better.
From the perspective of recruiters and hiring managers, most don't care whether you list the months and years or list the years only. However, regardless of which method you choose, be consistent throughout your resume, especially within sections. For instance, don't use months some of the time and years alone within the same section. Consistency of style is important on a resume, since it is that consistency that makes your resume neat, clean, and easy to read.
Step Six: Duties
Under each job, make a list of your duties, incorporating phrases from the job descriptions wherever they apply. You don't have to worry about making great sentences yet or narrowing down your list.
Step Seven: Accomplishments
When you are finished, go back to each job and think about what you might have done above and beyond the call of duty. What did you contribute to each of your jobs?
Did you exceed sales quotas by 150 percent each month?
Did you save the company $100,000 by developing a new procedure?
Did you generate new product publicity in trade press?
Did you control expenses or make work easier?
Did you expand business or attract/retain customers?
Did you improve the company's image or build new relationships?
Did you improve the quality of a product?
Did you solve a problem?
Did you do something that made the company more competitive?
Write down any accomplishments that show potential employers what you have done in the past, which translates into what you might be able to do for them. Quantify whenever possible. Numbers are always impressive. Remember, you are trying to motivate the potential employer to buy . . . you! Convince your reader that you will be able to generate a significant return on their investment in you.
Step Eight: Delete
Now that you have the words on paper, go back to each list and think about which items are relevant to your target job. Cross out those things that don't relate, including entire jobs (like flipping hamburgers back in high school if you are now an electrical engineer with ten years of experience). Remember, your resume is just an enticer, a way to get your foot in the door. It isn't intended to be all-inclusive. You can choose to go back only as far as your jobs relate to your present objective. Be careful not to delete sentences that contain the keywords you identified in step four.
Step Nine: Sentences
Step Ten: Rearrange
Make sentences of the duties you have listed under each job, combining related items to avoid short, choppy phrases. Never use personal pronouns in your resume (I, my, me). Instead of saying, "I planned, organized, and directed the timely and accurate production of code products with estimated annual revenues of $1 million," say, "Planned, organized, and directed. . . ." Writing in the third person makes your sentences more powerful and attention grabbing.
Make your sentences positive, brief, and accurate. Since your ultimate goal is to get a human being to read your resume, remember to structure the sentences so they are interesting to read. Use verbs at the beginning of each sentence (designed, supervised, managed, developed, formulated, and so on) to make them more powerful (see the power verb list in the Resume Center).
Make certain each word means something and contributes to the quality of the sentence.
You are almost done! Now, go back to the sentences you have written and think about their order of presentation. Put a number 1 by the most important description of what you did for each job. Then place a number 2 by the next most important duty or accomplishment, and so on until you have numbered each sentence. Again, think logically and from the perspective of a potential employer. Keep related items together so the reader doesn't jump from one concept to another. Make the thoughts flow smoothly.
At the bottom of your resume, think about anything else that might qualify you for your job objective. This includes licenses, certifications, affiliations, and sometimes even interests if they truly relate. For instance, if you want a job in sports marketing, stating on your resume that you play tennis or are a triathlete would be an asset.
Last but not least, write four or five sentences that give an overview of your qualifications. This profile, or qualifications summary, should be placed at the beginning of your resume. You can include some of your personal traits or special skills that might have been difficult to get across in your job descriptions. Here is a sample profile section for a computer systems technician:
Experienced systems/network technician with significant communications and technical control experience.
Focused and hard working; willing to go the extra mile for the customer.
Skilled in troubleshooting complex problems by thinking outside the box.
Possesses a high degree of professionalism and dedication to exceptional quality.
Effective team player with outstanding communication and interpersonal skills.
Current Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmentalized Information security clearance.
It is also acceptable to use a keyword summary like the one below to give a "quick and dirty" look at your qualifications:
Hardware: IBM 360/370, S/390, 303X, 308X, ES-9000, Amdahl V6-II, V7, V8, 3705/3725, Honeywell 6000, PDP II, NOVA, Eclipse, Interdata 8/32, Wang OIS 115, 140, VS-80, VS-100, HP 3000, 9000, Vectra, IBM PC-AT, XT, and numerous other computers and mainframes.
Languages: FORTRAN, PL/1, COBOL, BASIC, BAL (ALC), JCL, APL, DL/1, SQL, DS-2, HP-UX, and various PC-oriented software and support packages.
Systems: DOS, OS, CICS, VSI/II, MVS, SVS, VM/CMS, IMS, MVT-II, MFT, POWER, TOTAL, DATANET-30, JES-2, JES-3, BTAM, QTAM, TCAM, VTAM, TSO, ACF, NCP, SNA, SAA, ESCON, SDLC, X-25, TCP/IP, UNIX, and TELNET.
This type of "laundry list" isn't very interesting for a human being to read, but a few recruiters in high-tech industries like this list of terms because it gives them a quick overview of an applicant's skills. You can use whichever style you prefer.
Busy recruiters spend as little as ten seconds deciding whether to read a resume from top to bottom. You will be lucky if the first third of your resume gets read, so make sure the information at the top entices the reader to read it all.
This profile section must be relevant to the type of job for which you are applying. It might be true that you are "compassionate," but will it help you get a job as a high-pressure salesperson? Write this profile from the perspective of a potential employer. What will convince this person to call you instead of someone else?