IT Employment

List most recent responsibilities on your resume first

If you've held a job for five years and earned several promotions during that time, you could choose to order that information in more than one way. See how to highlight your accomplishments so that potential employers can appreciate your skills.

Kevin Donlin owns and runs Guaranteed Resumes, a resume and cover letter writing service that also provides job search assistance. He fields questions from TechRepublic members and offers advice based on his experience and expertise.

Question
I’m revising my resume. When I did a first draft, I found myself in a quandary about whether to list older roles or newer roles first. I’ve had several positions and job roles in the last five years with the same company. I have included only this company because it does cover five years and that seems like plenty of time to highlight.

Each role (policy creation, Y2K preparation) has its significance and each has brought advancement and growth in my career. How do I present them, newest in each department first or oldest to newest?

—Bill

Answer
Yours is a variation on a question I hear almost every day: “In what order should I put the information on my resume?”

The order in which you describe the jobs you’ve held since 1997 is part of this larger question. First, let’s take a look at how your resume should be ordered in general.

Overall, the information in your resume should go from most important to least. The very first things an employer reads about you should be the most relevant to the job you seek. So, begin your resume with a brief summary or objective, to tell the reader exactly what you can do for him or her, like this:

OBJECTIVE
Position in disaster recovery in which five years of experience will add value to operations.

Next, include a highlights or profile section where you can describe some of your best achievements on the job. Think “success stories” here.

With four or five bulleted paragraphs, you can really generate excitement and make the reader (your future employer) want to call you to find out more. Think of the bullet points in your profile section as a kind of executive summary for the entire resume. Here’s an example of what might work in your case:
  • Strong background in disaster recovery. Promoted five times since 1997 for outstanding efforts that averted data losses while streamlining operations.
  • Following data center flood, recovered 99 percent of data while replacing hardware and software under 48-hour deadline, enabling mission-critical $4.5 million expansion to proceed on schedule (2001).

After your summary/objective and profile sections should come either your education or experience, whichever is more relevant to the job you seek.

In your case, unless you want to get out of the disaster recovery field, you should describe your work experience before your degree. Follow a reverse chronological format: Start with your most recent job at your current employer and go back in time.

In almost all cases, your latest job will be at a higher level of skill and responsibility than prior positions. So describe this job first, since it paints a picture of your operating at peak ability.

Achievements
Spend only about 20 percent of your resume talking about duties and responsibilities for each job. The rest of your resume should highlight specific achievements.

Here’s a “before” and “after” example to show how this can look on your resume:

Before (all duties and responsibilities, no achievements):
“Evaluated backup procedures and disaster recovery procedures. Implemented corrections to procedures to ensure recovery.”

After (with specific achievements):
“Provided effective backup and disaster recovery. Produced 147 recoveries for 112 clients (internal and external), consistently retrieving more than 90 percent of lost data, with 100 percent record of recovery within two hours.”

Never sell yourself short when it comes to accomplishments. This not the time for modesty. (But be sure to back up your claims with facts.)

If you’ve been on the payroll for five years and promoted five times during that time, you’ve doing something right. What good things happened when you did your job correctly?

If you get stuck trying to come up with achievements to include in your resume, try adding “as a result” to the end of your duties and see where that leads you.
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