The following information provides tips for developing the job experience section in the technical resume.
Experience should be written in reverse-chronological format (most current job positions first). For the most part, order of items in the experience section reflect order of importance to the reader. The heading is necessary to identify critical job information. Then it is important to state your scope of work. Then highlight achievements. The order of statements within the paragraph of responsibilities should also be determined by importance. Therefore, build the opening statement and follow that statement with the next most important responsibility. Follow the same logic when listing statements of achievement.
Try to start statements with action verbs (design, develop, implement, deploy, create, lead, manage, coordinate). Avoid using the same action verbs within each job, but if that is not possible, at least avoid using the same action verb in consecutive statements. Develop this, develop that, develop this, develop that…. its poor writing, reflects laziness and shows a lack of creativity. Also try to avoid the two dreaded vanilla statements (Duties included….. and Responsible for…..).
Make statements detailed, but don’t go overboard. Brief and detailed is ideal. Even if you have 1 bullet point, don’t be afraid to break it down into multiple sentences.
Avoid using first person pronouns (I, me, my). Also avoid using too many articles (a, an, the). The resume is not a novel or publication. Statements are meant to be quick and descriptive. This strategy really helps maintain attention of readers who quickly scan the resume. Imagine the statement above filled with articles and first person pronouns.
“I developed an application for the accounting and the reporting system that automated the posting to the General Journal, saving $5 million in annual paper expense while I increased the overall productivity.”
Length is a matter of judgment. It really depends on how much experience you have, the level of detail involved in your job, and volume of achievements. But…. it would be highly recommended that you limit yourself to 5-10 statements of responsibility and 2-8 statements of achievement. As you start building descriptions of previous work history, you should start cutting back the level of detail. Each job should be progressively shorter as the you work your way from current to previous positions.
Consider dropping experience past 20 years and you should even consider just listing the headings (without descriptions) for “old” experience, especially if it has limited value.
For example, lets look at a list of experience throughout a software engineers career:
Senior Software Engineer 2000 – Present (Should contain heavy detail)
Software Engineer, 1998 – 2000 (Should contain medium detail)
Software Developer, 1996 – 1998 (Should contain medium detail)
Programmer/Analyst, 1993 – 1996 (Should contain medium detail, but less current jobs)
Computer Technician, 1992-1993 (Consider just listing this job with no description)
Computer Technician Intern, 1990 – 1992 (Consider just listing job with no description)
Retail Store Clerk, 1988 – 1990 (Insignificant job, should be eliminated)
Lets look at the Computer Technician job from 1992-1993. This job is in technology, so it should be listed. But, why waste the space to build up a description of this job? For one, the job duration was only 1 year. For two, the job is not even within the field of Software Engineering. It’s only significance is documenting career progression and overall length of IT experience. Most people do not have a career that is this straightforward, so the decision is much more difficult. Just ask yourself this — “how much of an impact will this job have on my ability to market myself for a new position?” It just makes no sense to build up lengthy descriptions of previous somewhat insignificant jobs while cutting information from very significant current positions.