Many people wonder whether it matters how the Work or Career History section of the Resume is laid out on the document? I say that it really does matter. Reason is that we are all human – yes, even your recruiter! Did you know that our eyes tend to veer towards what catches our attention first? Or what looks most attractive?
There are little tips and tricks to ensure that your recruiter is paying more attention to the facts you WANT them to pay attention to.
So, following are my top tips on how best to write your Career History (and Voluntary Experience):
A Word on Dates:
- Do place dates in such a way that they are legible at a glance. I personally like
to place them in an invisible ‘column’ of their own, on the left-hand side. There
is no right or wrong to this – some people prefer the dates on the right-hand
side. I say that, as long as they are easily legible in a few seconds, you’re on
the right path.
- Yes, you are welcome to write the dates as years only – particularly when you
have been in the role for 2 or more years. There is no right or wrong to writing
dates – the person reading the Resume will either like it or dislike it. There is
nothing you can do about what that person likes or dislikes. I like using years
only because it gives a clean, crisp look to your Resume and makes it easily
legible in a few seconds. Yes, this even applies for professional Resumes.
- Trick up the sleeve: Using whole years is especially helpful when you have taken
some time off from the workforce here or there. Eg: You went travelling for 6
months; you took some Maternity Leave; or you were between jobs for a few
months. Often using whole years can smooth out your history at a glance – the aim is to avoid “red flags” at the outset. Most likely, your travel experiences will come up in the interview anyway, as part of the natural conversation held.
- Ultimately, nobody desperately needs to know any of this about you straight
off the bat. Let’s be real for a second here – having time off from the workforce
like this does not suddenly incapacitate you to hold down a job or be able to
complete tasks on the job! So let’s not allow the recruiter to have that level of
decision over our lives at this point in the job application process.
Remember, in #life, there is a thing called privacy and ultimately, these are
private matters – they don’t need to be spilled on a document for who-knows-who to read. In all honesty, these are matters that can be discussed in person
– at the interview.
Role Title / Company:
There is no right or wrong regarding which order you list the title & company
details. You may wish to write: “Receptionist – ABC Medical Centre”. However,
there is method in the madness so here are a few suggestions:
(a) If ABC Medical Centre is well-known and has a stellar reputation, you may
wish to outline it first, such as: “ABC Medical Centre – Receptionist”. Keep in
mind that whichever order you choose, it must be the order you stick to
throughout the Resume so that it all matches beautifully and it is easily
legible in a few seconds.
(b) If you are changing careers, eg: You were in Retail as a manager and now
you wish to apply for Office Administration, it would be best to list your
Career History in role/company style. This is because the roles will give away
first-hand what level of skills you bring to the company – not so whether you
worked at Portmans or Witchery.
However, if you are applying for Office Administration at a fashion
headquarters, you may wish to show off the fact that you are already in the
fashion industry first. In which case, you would write it in company/role style.
It will be immediately pleasing to the recruiter that you have worked at
Portmans and Witchery, then they will look into the details of the roles you
(c) If you are changing industries, eg: You were in Retail but now you are
applying to work in Real Estate, it would be best to list your Career History in
role/company style because it is best to diminish the red flags. The red flags,
when changing industries, is that you don’t have experience in the new
industry you are applying for. We want to diminish these red flags from
waving at the recruiter and get her to focus, instead, on the roles you have
(d) Where you are ‘upgrading’ industries, eg: You have done the hard yards in
Hospitality for 10 years but now you want to work as a Teacher Aide so that
it fits in with your children’s school hours; or perhaps you have done the hard
yards in the Cleaning industry and now you want to work for the office that
you cleaned for, I would suggest tweaking the words you write so that it
matches the wording that belongs to the new industry.
Eg 1: As a cleaner, you might have vacuumed, dusted and scrubbed toilets.
But if you’re going to be working on Reception now, you will need to be
highly organised and focused. You were probably highly organised and
focused with your cleaning! (That is a ‘bringing it all together’ trick). So you be bold and write: Highly Organised and Focused Cleaner – XYZ Company.
Eg 2: If you worked in a bar for 10 years but you feel it’s time to settle down
and you want to work in Office Administration, guess what bar work and
administration have in common: Customer Service. (There’s that ‘bringing
it all together’ trick again). So instead of writing, “Beverage Attendant – The
Bar”, you edit it to: “Customer Service – The Bar”.
Don’t worry too much, this is not called LYING. Examples of lying include:
- writing down that you were “manager” when you were not;
- writing down that you were in charge of certain tasks daily, when you
were only in charge of those tasks on a casual basis;
- writing down that you built the website for the company when you had
actually only uploaded images.
So on and so forth, you get my drift.
Calling an apple a “piece of fruit” isn’t lying. Whilst your Resume is a very
important document that you will use throughout your lifetime, it is not a legally
binding document. It is merely a summary – a snapshot – of your career.
(In saying that, do bear in mind that when the recruiter is calling your
References, they check the dates and your title anyway. Is it a bad thing that
they discover the fruit is an apple? Is it bad that they discover ‘Customer
Service’ isn’t officially on your title? Probably not. So get out there and give it
your best shot!)
I hope these tips have been helpful to you and, if they have been, please feel free to share with others!
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