Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Write a resume that generates results
Arvind Sharma

How to present your work history, education, etc.

Most resumes are not much more than a collection of “evidence”, various facts about your past. By evidence, it means all mandatory information you must include on your resume: work history with descriptions, dates, education, affiliations, list of software mastered etc. If you put this towards the top of your resume, anyone reading it will feel like he is reading an income tax form. Let’s face it, this stuff is boring no matter how extraordinary you are. All this evidence is best placed in the second half of the resume. Put the hot stuff in the beginning, and all this less exciting information afterwards.

We divided the resume into a “hot” assertion section, and a more staid “evidence” section for the sake of communicating that a great resume is not information but advertising. A great resume is all one big assertions section. In other words, every single word, even the basic facts about your history, are crafted to have the desired effect, to get them to pick up the phone and call you. The decisions you make on what information to emphasise and what to de-emphasise should be based on considering every word of your resume to be an important part of the assertion section. The evidence includes some or all of the following:

Know thyself

Begin by assembling information about yourself. Some items appear on virtually every resume or application form, including the following:

  • Name, address, telephone, e-mail, and fax number

  • List your contact information at the top of your resume.

  • Avoid nicknames.

  • Use a permanent address

  • Use a permanent telephone number with area code. If you have an answering machine, record a neutral greeting.

  • Employers find e-mail addresses helpful, if you have one. Try to use a professional e-mail address.


List jobs in reverse chronological order. Don’t go into detail on the jobs early in your career; focus on the most recent and/or relevant jobs. (Summarise a number of the earliest jobs in one line or very short paragraph, or list only the bare facts with no position description.) Decide which is, overall, more impressive — your job titles or the names of the firms you worked for — then consistently begin with the more impressive of the two, perhaps using boldface type.

You may want to describe the firm in a phrase in parentheses if this will impress the reader. Put dates in italics at the end of the job, to de-emphasise them; don’t include months, unless the job was held less than a year. Include military service, internships, and major volunteer roles if desired; because the section is labelled “Experience”. It does not mean that you were paid.

Other headings: “Professional History”, “Professional Experience” — not “Employment” or “Work History”, both of which sound more lower-level.


List education in reverse chronological order, degrees or licences first, followed by certificates and advanced training. Set degrees apart so they are easily seen. Put in boldface whatever will be most impressive. Don’t include any details about college except your major and distinctions or awards you have won, unless you are still in college or just recently graduated. List selected course work if this will help convince the reader of your qualifications for the targeted job.

Do include advanced training, but be selective with the information, summarising the information and including only what will be impressive for the reader.

No degree received yet? If you are working on an uncompleted degree, include the degree and afterwards, in parentheses, the expected date of completion: (expected 200—).

If you didn’t finish college, start with a phrase describing the field studied then the school, and then the dates (the fact that there was no degree may be missted).

Other headings might be “Education and Training”, “Education and Licenses”, “Legal Education/Undergraduate Education”.


If the only awards received were in school put, these under the education section. Mention what the award was for if you can (or just “for outstanding accomplishment” or “outstanding performance”). This section is almost a must, if you have received awards. If you have received commendations or praise from some very senior source, you could call this section, “Awards and commendations”. In that case, go ahead and quote the source.

Professional affiliations

Include only those that are current, relevant and impressive. Include leadership roles if appropriate. This is a good section for communicating your status as a member of a minority targeted for special consideration by employers, or for showing your membership in an association that would enhance your appeal as a prospective employee.

This section can be combined with “Civic/ Community Leadership” as “Professional and Community Membership.”.

Community leadership

This is good to include if the leadership roles or accomplishments are related to the job target and can show skills acquired, for example, a loan officer hoping to become a financial investment counsellor who was financial manager of a community organisation charged with investing its funds. Any Board of Directors membership of “chairmanship” would be good to include. Be careful with political affiliations, as they could be a plus or minus with an employer or company.

Personal interests

Advantages: Personal interests can indicate a skill or area or knowledge that is related to the goal, such as photography for someone in public relations, or carpentry and wood-working for someone in construction management. This section can show well-roundness, good physical health, or knowledge of a subject related to the goal. It can also create common ground or spark conversation in an interview.

Disadvantages: Personal interests are usually irrelevant to the job goal and purpose of the resume, and they may be meaningless or an interview turn-off (“TV and Reading”).

You probably should not include a personal interest section. Your reason for including it is most likely that you want to tell them about you. But, as you know, this is an ad. If this section would powerfully move the employer to understand why you would be the best candidate, include it; otherwise, forget about it.