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How to Write Effective Descriptions for the Employment Section in Resume

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Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. -Unknown

For most people the employment section will be the longest section of the resume. Employment has four main purposes:
  1. it reveals your career progress;

  2. it describes duties and responsibilities;

  3. it describes results and accomplishments; and

  4. it accounts for where you've been and for whom you've worked.
Employment history should not be just a recitation of duties and responsibilities. You have a definite goal in mind: you want employers to sense your future worth to their organizations. Everything in your resume should demonstrate your ability to master the type of job you are seeking. Include whatever information will create that sense of value; exclude whatever information will not.

Describing results and accomplishments in each job you've held will do more to reveal your capabilities than anything else. Each job description should consist of concisely described duties and at least one accomplishment. The employment section should begin with your most recent position and move backward in reverse chronological or der.

Writing effective job descriptions can be difficult, but we can find out techniques which will ultimately save you time and produce a better resume. The most important technique is to begin by creating a job sketch.

Using Job Sketches to Strengthen Your Resume

"If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first six sharpening my axe." -Abraham Lincoln

A job sketch is simply a listing of all the major duties you've performed in each job, plus a brief description of special projects, and an analysis of the results you achieved in each job.

Before you even begin to write your resume you will write a job sketch for each job you intend to list in the employment section. Without a job sketch a person is forced to stare at a blank sheet of paper or a blank computer screen. Suddenly the person is under real pressure to produce. The questions come flooding in-"where should I start, what's important, how much space should I devote to each job?"

A job sketch prevents that type of pressure and panic. Instead of beginning by staring at a blank page, you begin your resume with each job sketch in front of you. And each job sketch covers everything that could go into the resume. You produced each job sketch under low stress conditions because you were merely writing down everything that came to mind, not worrying about spelling, grammar, sentence structure, or polished writing. In other words, you were not trying to write a resume.

With your job sketch before you, it is much easier to decide what the key points really are, and what emphasis you should give to each one. Because your job sketch is so complete, you will have more information than you will actually put into the resume. But that's okay. Information which is not used may be great material to bring up in your interviews.

To produce each job sketch, review the job in your mind and then list major duties, less major duties, and even selected minor duties which might be relevant for the type of position you are seeking. Those minor duties may have taken up less than 1% of your time, but maybe critical in demonstrating that you at least have exposure in a key area.

After you've listed job duties, think about any projects you worked on. Then write a brief description of them, including their results or outcomes. A project is anything that has a definite beginning and ending. Bookkeeping includes certain things that are done daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly-bookkeeping is not a project.

Analyzing the present bookkeeping system and recommending and implementing changes would be a project. Some occupations consist of repetitive duties that rarely or never involve projects. People in occupations such as engineering, programming, chemistry, and consulting, continually move from one project to the next.

Thinking through all of these duties, responsibilities, and projects for all of your jobs will take one to three hours, but taking the time now can make the difference between a mediocre resume and an outstanding one. If you save each job sketch, you will never have to go through this process again, except as you add new positions.

The key to a good job sketch is to simply write whatever pops into your mind. Don't worry about grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, or even spelling. Just get your thoughts on paper. Go for volume.

Write quickly. Don't filter out or neglect to put something down because you think it is insignificant. Remember, only a small portion of your job sketch will end up in the resume, but you need plenty of data to work with.

As you read the sample job sketches, and the job descriptions that resulted from the sketches, notice the impact that results have. After reading the polished version of the job descriptions, you have the definite sense that these two people are very good at what they do.

The job sketch below is included to show you that there is no set way to write a job sketch:

Senior Technician
  • Test printed circuit boards, end items, and systems according to test procedures set by engineering. Troubleshoot down to component level.

  • Interface with clinical personnel if problems occur with functionality of units, kits, etc. Identify problems and suggest solutions.

  • Interface with design and R&D engineering regarding fit, form or functional flaws or problems. Suggest solutions. On the Y235 scanner, suggested solutions which reduced time to produce prototype by four months. On the U454 scanner, identified a problem which would have cost over $200,000 to fix in the production phase.

  • Interface with production, test, and assembly personnel to ensure a proper production flow.

  • Work with Quality Control on functional as well as cosmetic problems. Fix if necessary or show why QC documents are wrong or why specifications should be changed. Changes in specifications typically speeded up production by 10-15%.

  • Work with Material Control to ensure parts are available when needed. Expedite shipments when necessary.

  • Assist engineering in setting up pre-clinical trials for prototype products.

  • Check out functional test procedures for Test Engineering to ensure they are correct, practical, and understandable.

  • Review printed circuit board schematics and assembly drawings and make corrections where necessary.

  • Keep and maintain a file of all new product test procedures, drawings, specifications, and parts lists. This has improved access and use of all data and saves approximately 200 man-hours per year.
Notice how points in the final job description were taken right out of the job sketch, in some cases with only minor revisions.

SENIOR TECHNICIAN - 3/87 to Present. As Senior Technician for this manufacturer of CAT scanners, test printed circuit boards, end items, and systems, and troubleshoot down to component level. Rework failed equipment. Work closely with clinical personnel and design engineers to identify problems and suggest solutions. Identified and resolved a problem with one product which would have cost over $200,000 to fix in the production stage. Interface with Quality Control and frequently recommend changes in QC specifications. Recommendations typically speed up production by 10-15%.

Assist Engineering in setting up preclinical trials for prototype products.

Review test procedures established by Test Engineering to ensure tests are understandable and workable. Review PC schematics, assembly drawings, and parts lists and make corrections where necessary. Developed and currently maintain a file of all test procedures, drawings, parts lists, and specifications, which has significantly improved access and use of the data, saving approximately 200 man-hours per year.

While the data and information you produce for your job sketch are important and useful, the very process of writing the job sketch also serves several valuable functions. It makes you recall all the du ties and functions of the job and allows you to choose the most important ones for your resume. It also causes you to relive some of the experiences and makes them more vivid. What's more, it helps you re call accomplishments and results. In addition, the very act of remembering, sorting through, and writing down all of your duties, accomplishments, and experiences, prepares you for interviews. As you write your job sketches, it is important that you make the most out of each one of your accomplishments.
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