Bring Your Resume Job Descriptions to Life: Be Interesting, Compelling and Memorable
Bringing job descriptions to life on your resume can be challenging. This article will take the mystery out of the process and give you some strategies and writing plans to guide you as you write those all-important job descriptions. You’ll learn about achievement statements that will set you apart from other job seekers and resume formats that best suit your career.
First, let’s look at the most important tips to remember when writing job descriptions, no matter the format you use to present your resume:
- Write job descriptions that are interesting, compelling and memorable. Consider that many HR professionals have similar responsibilities in recruitment, staffing, training and development, compensation and benefits, employee relations, and more. Standard information is important, but it will not help you stand out. Ask yourself what’s most interesting about each of your jobs (e.g., a company starting up or a turnaround, issues within the HR organization, a new leadership team). Try to find something to instantly engage readers so they will remember you.
- Focus on what you accomplished—your achievement statement—as often as you can instead of job duties. If you write interesting and powerful achievement statements, you’ll see that the responsibilities are automatically interwoven. There’s no need to write that you’re responsible for the (human resources information system (HRIS) when you can write an achievement statement about managing the implementation of a next-generation HRIS to keep pace with the company’s expanding global workforce.
- Put achievements in context. Don’t just share a brief achievement statement such as the fact that you decreased staffing costs by 12 percent. Rather, write achievements that explain how it happened. For example: resolved years-long HR cost overrides by streamlining recruitment and onboarding costs, saving the company 12 percent in just one year.
- Tell stories. The most interesting resumes are often those that tell what was going on with the company or within the HR organization, what you did, and how well you did it (your achievement statements, as mentioned above). The stories should be brief, but comprehensive. My mantra is to “tell the whole story in half the words,” a strategy you’ll want to try yourself. Write the text, then edit ruthlessly to make it clean and concise.
- Make your job descriptions visually appealing and easily readable. This is true for every section of your resume. No big and bulky paragraphs; if there are more than six lines, break them into two small paragraphs. Don’t create a laundry list of 12 bullet points; divide them into sections with headings, as you’ll see in the Core Competencies format below. It doesn’t matter how great the information in your resume is if no one reads it. Make it inviting to read and easy to scan, with the most important information visually prominent.
3 Formats for Job Descriptions
It is important to note that you will need to decide which format fits your career the best. Not all styles will work for every career. Your career—not necessarily your personal preference—dictates style.
Once you’ve selected a style, it is essential that you use it throughout your resume. Do not jump from one style to another. Consistency matters! Of course, if you’ve had a long career and are including some older jobs, you can quickly summarize them in a sentence or two or a short paragraph. No need for lots of details about jobs from 10 or more years ago, unless there’s something very important to showcase.
This is the most widely used format for job descriptions on resumes and, when done well, can still be the best style for many job seekers to use. Each job description begins with the job title, dates, company name and a brief description of the company, which helps to put everything in context. The description might not be necessary if you work for a company whose name is very well-known, but unless that’s the case, do include some brief information.
This style is straightforward: a short introductory paragraph (no longer than four lines) showcasing what’s unique and memorable about you and the job, along with key areas of responsibility and leadership. That’s followed by a list of bulleted achievement statements. In this case, I’ve used only five bullets so it’s fine to include them in one block, without having to separate them (as you’ll read about in the section on job descriptions for the Core Competencies format).
Global Human Resources Manager 2012 to 2017
SNS Shipping Company, Los Angeles
One of the largest ocean transportation and logistics companies in the world | 2,800 employees | 20 countries
Recruited by CEO to transition HR from administrative function into an integrated professional services organization. Directed all HR generalist affairs for U.S. and expatriate workforce, executive development programs, and corporate culture change. Partnered with business leaders worldwide to establish and staff new offices.
- Built agile and sustainable HR organization with solid infrastructure to manage during periods of accelerated growth, expansion and acquisition.
- Created fully documented and dynamic succession-planning process as the road map for operational management and long-term business leadership.
- Revitalized and formalized performance evaluation processes to respond to changing business plans.
- Administered annual cultural survey as part of continued effort to integrate and balance diverse business cultures. Created road map to optimize human capital assets and expand global reach.
- Centralized HR reporting into one global function and leveraged best practices worldwide.
CAR stands for Challenge, Action and Results. When using this format, you begin with the challenge you accepted when you took the position. Perhaps the company was in a turnaround situation or was a fast-track growth venture. Maybe the company hadn’t had someone in the position before it hired you or the position was poorly managed. Ask yourself: Was there a specific challenge when you were hired?
Follow the challenge description with a brief paragraph summarizing the action you took to resolve the challenge/problem. Then include a few bullet points with the relevant results. This format is a great way to demonstrate action, strong performance and significant outcomes.
Supervisor—Union Employee Relations 2014 to Present
American Manufacturing Center (AMC), Des Moines
$21M plastics manufacturer with 500 union employees and 200 staff members
Challenge: Resolve long-standing conflicts between union personnel and AMC’s management team, eliminate roadblocks to productivity, and create a cohesive workplace culture.
Action: Restructured ER and union affairs departments; retrained ER workforce; and ensured stringent compliance with all regulatory, corporate, and union policies and regulations.
- Pinpointed causes of negative attitudes and common grievances, altered training programs, and rewarded performance after cutting complaints 50 percent%.
- Reduced data analysis time 100% by implementing real-time data tracking, collection and analysis.
- Improved workplace productivity an average of 12% annually through expanded employee training programs and newly designed quality controls.
Core Competencies Format
How do you write your job descriptions if you have a long list of achievements? What do you do if you’ve worked at a company for a significant period of time? What if you’ve had multiple job titles during that time? The Core Competencies format can highlight your key areas of expertise.
Just like the Traditional format, you begin with a short introductory paragraph that highlights what’s unique and memorable about you and the job, along with key areas of responsibility and leadership. Then, cluster all of your achievement statements into sections with headings that put similar items together.
GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY 1998 to 2017
Vice President–Human Resources–GE Global Consulting Division (2013 to 2017)
Senior Manager–Human Resources–Corporate Headquarters (2007 to 2013)
Manager–Human Resources–GE Consumer Products (2000 to 2007)
Manager–Recruitment & Staffing–GE Consumer Products (1998 to 2000)
Recruited to GE from a major competitor to take charge of the entire recruitment, staffing and onboarding function for one of its largest business divisions. Promoted through several increasingly responsible positions to final assignment as one of the top five HR executives in the global corporation.
Delivered strong HR and organizational leadership to numerous GE divisions challenged by expanding workforces and the need for consistency in HR policies and practices. Spearheaded HR innovations that met operating needs, cut costs, expanded technological capabilities and rewarded employees for performance excellence. Demonstrated the true value of human capital throughout GE.
Strategic HR Leadership
- Collaborated with 13 GE presidents to define a new vision and create programs to lead GE’s 450K+-person workforce through long-term changes in business strategies and operations.
- Achieved 90% of business objectives within first year, building the strongest and most sustainable HR organization in GE Corporate’s history (as documented by executive leadership team).
- Accompanied 50 executives to several Asian countries to evaluate joint ventures, acquisitions and other business development opportunities synergistic with GE’s mission.
Organizational Development & Leadership
- Orchestrated complex business reorganization, removed two layers of leadership and downsized management team by 50%. Net results included significant gains in competitiveness, customer service quality and profitability.
- Introduced concepts of risk management, organizational effectiveness, diversity and other performance-driven practices, now part of GE’s mandatory leadership training.
- Designed and implemented employee leasing programs as part of global initiative to strengthen organizational competencies. Resulted in 12% reduction in workforce and $750K+ savings in annual payroll costs.
Training & Development (T&D) Programming
- Led online and classroom training for 5,000+ GE personnel throughout career. Developed new programs and educational materials, designed course curricula, taught leadership programs, and managed train-the-trainer programs for T&D staff worldwide.
- Managed course design, content, faculty, facilities, registration, materials and technology for GE’s Corporate Leadership Conference (2,000+ participants annually). Replaced obsolete materials with new, best-in-class offerings developed by subject matter experts.
- Created prototype for GE’s Student Leadership Conference for college recruitment, a model still in use 10 years after development.
Compensation & Benefits Management
- Improved workforce satisfaction 35% through comprehensive redesign of all compensation and benefits programs.
- Won GE Management Award for design and implementation of new compensation and bonus structure linking individual and team performance to business results.
Look at the stacked job titles in this description and you’ll see that I’ve demonstrated another style you can incorporate when relevant to your career. If you’ve had a number of jobs with the same company, and they have been cumulative in terms of your responsibilities, consider stacking them and using the Core Competencies format to showcase achievements, project highlights and more from your entire career with that company. There’s no need to write multiple, repetitive job descriptions if responsibilities have been similar.
The four headings above that separate the bulleted sections—Strategic HR Leadership, Organizational Development & Leadership, Training & Development Programming, and Compensation Benefits Management—tie directly to this job seeker’s objectives. Be certain that you showcase your achievements that most closely align with your current objectives so that readers see that you already have the right stuff.
Wendy Enelow is a master resume writer and a job and career transition coach. Have a question for her about writing resumes, LinkedIn profiles, e-notes and other career communications? E-mail queries to [email protected]. Enelow also offers a paid executive resume writing service. For more information, visit www.wendyenelow.com.
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