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Pick the style that best tells your career story
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:
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.
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.
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
Organizational Development & Leadership
Training & Development (T&D) Programming
Compensation & Benefits Management
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. She has written 20+ books on resumes, cover letters, keywords, and career management, including the recently released "MODERNIZE YOUR RESUME: Get Noticed … Get Hired" and "MODERNIZE YOUR JOB SEARCH LETTERS: Get Noticed … Get Hired" (both available at https://emerald-career-publishing.myshopify.com). Have a question for her about writing resumes, LinkedIn profiles, e-notes and other career communications? E-mail queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. Enelow also offers a paid executive resume writing service. For more information, visit www.wendyenelow.com.
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