Job Experience in CVs and Resumes

We have talked about value and we have talked about presentation. Now let us focus a little on the actual essence of experience. What should be the content is as important as its presentation - maybe more, because this is what really matters. This is what actually would make you a valuable acquisition to the company.

The most important point is to be able to give the complete picture of your experience and expertise to your prospective employer in such a manner that he/she could absorb it in 10 seconds flat. The best way to do this is to have a brief two-four line summary right on the top, stating where you have made the most critical difference in your past employment. End up with your last designation, briefest overview sketch.

It would be good if next to it you could add a two-three line very concise profile of the last company you worked in, or a general picture of the companies you worked highlighting what type of companies they were, their areas of intervention, their turn over, and major achievements in market (if any). Though this does not apply to you directly, it will put a spotlight on what type of companies you were/are involved with, which may turn to your advantage.

Be very short, without compromising on the quality of the content, as you would not want to exceed the two pages that are actually warranted for your resume. The summary should be placed such that this will be the first thing that the prospective employer sees. In case your qualification is more impressive than your experience, by all means put that above the experience. Seeing your qualification (if it is impressive) the employer would by default, be attracted to the rest of your CV.

Once the summary and placement on the CV have been worked out, proceed in detailing your experience. In order to make the task easier to digest, use only bullet points.

The contents of each major phase of your employment should be summarized in one line or better still, half a line. Under the summary, describe your experience in bullet points highlighting achievements and activities that could be unique to you.

Everybody who work in the sales department would be involved in achieving targets -the higher the better. The employer is used to see such statements. You would stand out if you write something unique and unexpected such as, 'instrumental in doubling the customer base within six months', 'first-time liaisoned successfully with international customers', 'experimented with computerization and cut the customer service and order processing time into half' and so on. Be focused on your activities as much as your achievements - and while doing so, ensure you showcase where and how you made a difference.

It is important that the employer realizes what effect your presence had in the companies you worked in. The value of your work is basically the difference you make. There is a wonderful saying that enforces this statement - 'People are remembered for two main reasons - one is for the problems they create, and the other for the problems they solve.'

You should also be careful not to focus too much on quantification. Achievements are not always only about quantity. Quality is more important here. Ensure that your experience chart shows clearly the quality of your work. The quality of the material (candidate) is the most attractive aspect for an employer.

When you describe what you did in your past employment(s) ensure that you rope in all the work you were responsible for under an accurately descriptive title. Whatever be your past designation, you should be able to convince your future employer that you are a person of many talents, without diluting too much in your specialization. Keep in mind, that you should look versatile not one who experiments with too many things. Your versatility would be projected in jobs that are related to your basic skills.

You may, if you have good presentation skills, put across whatever experience you have had in packets that would suit your prospective audience. For example, you are the Marketing Manager of a large company and your primary duties are to market whatever products the company has. However, in order to do that well, you should also be a good negotiator - hence, negotiating skills emphasis; you should also be a good strategist, hence, strategy planning skills; you should also be extremely well tuned to the market trends, hence, you should be a good market analyst. Similarly, you could be good in networking, good in team building/ motivation/ coordination, a good manager, and so on.

Now from these sub-points choose one or two that would suit your prospective job the best. Then, build around it. It does not matter what designation you were working in, the role and responsibility that you highlight would actually set the background for you. Hence, if they are looking for a business analyst - you could show how your skills as a market analyst made your company a fortune. Or, how because of your analyst skills, you prevented great losses for the company.

How to come out of sticky situations

1.Sticky situation no 1 - you have a gap in your employment history - how do you present it so it does not harm you? In case you opted out of a job because you had to take care of a sick member in the family, or your baby, the gap is acceptable. Tell the truth. Sprinkle it with knowledge-sharpening occupations, such as learned computer applications during that period, or anything that shows that you have not stagnated. Even reading is good.

In case you were out of job, you could say you were doing some business. Try to avoid the title of 'self-employed'. This has somehow acquired a negative connotation. In its stead, you could say you were an entrepreneur, or simply proprietor/ general manager/ managing director of your business. People tend to equate 'self-employment' with unemployment; hence, it is better if you do not use the term at all.

2.Sticky situation no 2 - you have a gap in your employment history. The question is whether you should or you should not mention it at all. This, of course, totally depends on whether you feel confident of talking about it.

If you are confident, and you can defend the reason for which you were out of employment, go ahead and mention it. If you are not confident, you could any of the following - if the gap is in terms of months then you mention only years in your CV, and hopefully your gap will disappear. You can also mention your jobs from starting point, then mention only the year you have left your job. For example - let us consider that you did not work between 1998 and 1999. You could present your experience as follows:

  • 1990upto Apr 95- Starbrucks International
  • uptoMar 97 - Samsonite
  • uptoMay 02- Nestle
  • uptoMar 06- Sony

As you can see, what is written here is true, because you have omitted the beginning. You could cover up in this way for a one or two year gap, but not more. Though this could carry you through this sticky situation, it is still a bit tricky and if discovered it may be interpreted as a sinister way of hiding facts.

Hence, my advice would be to be truthful. The employer should not have much to say about any gap, if you prove that your skills are as per the requirement, and you have the right qualification. Somehow, an ugly truth is easier to carry, than a pretty lie, and I found that whenever a lie is said at an important place, it has a very peculiar habit of popping up at the worst possible times.