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Important Fields in a Resume

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In the experience section, you will recap any experiences you have had that are relevant to the position for which you are applying. This is a place for you to illustrate how the skills that you have can be transferred and applied to the position for which you are applying. You may be able to more or less cut and paste sections from the autobiography directly into the experience section of the resume, and then just edit it from there.

Think broadly in terms of your experience. Do not feel restricted to include just full time paid work experience. If you have had an internship or volunteer experience that is related to the type of job for which you are applying, it is worth including. If you decide to include those types of unpaid experiences, you may wish to change the heading to "Related Experience."

Generally, people list their experiences in reverse chronological order the most recent experience comes first. Include all of the experiences that you believe will be relevant to the position for which you are applying. If you are applying for a job in retail management, those four years you spent as a cashier or bagging groceries in a supermarket become very relevant. If you are applying for a job as an elementary school teacher, those three summers you spent as a nanny for the same family during college will be very relevant as well.

Sometimes, however, you will have experiences that are significant, but not as obviously relevant to the position for which you are applying. Using the above examples, the four years bagging groceries will not be as relevant to the school superintendent who is hiring an elementary school teacher, nor will the three years as a nanny seem all that relevant to the general manager of a retail store. The fact that you spent four years at any job, or that a family (or employer) would want you back for three consecutive summers, is relevant. Having another section titled "Other Experience" will give you an opportunity to point out that fact, without spending a lot of space describing it.

The experience section(s) should be direct and to the point. It should outline two important areas those things that you accomplished, and those things that you did as part of your normal responsibilities. These things do not have to be described in complete sentences; however, they should be grammatically correct in every other way (verb agreement, etc.). This section should make use of high powered action words. Although sometimes adjectives are helpful in more completely communicating an idea, the most important words in this section of your resume will be the nouns and the verbs.

These action words can help add a little punch to your experience section by bringing your accomplishments to life. As I mentioned before, prospective employers do not read resumes word for word; rather, they scan them. In order to catch the reader's eye, you want to use appropriate buzzwords that will stand out.


Peppering your resume with the appropriate buzzwords can also help your resume stand out, particularly if it is scanned into an electronic file for searching at some later date.

Military Experience

If you have spent any time in the military, either on active duty or in the reserves, you should include that information on your resume. Depending on the job for which you are applying, the tasks you performed in service to your country may or may not be relevant to the potential employer. If your experience might be relevant, you should describe it in the same amount of detail that you used in the experience section. And even if the responsibilities are not directly relevant to the employer, pointing out your service record has value on its own.

In this section you should include your service dates, rank, assignments, and discharge date (and type). Also include the skills you developed. Most veterans acquire certain skills as part of their military experience, regardless of what their responsibilities were. These include leadership, teamwork, and, of course, discipline. These are skills that are in very high demand in the workforce, and they are difficult to acquire. If you have learned these skills, you should communicate that fact as often as you can, on your resume and in your interviews.


It is sometimes worthwhile to include a special section of your resume dedicated to enumerating any special skills that you may have. These are things that may be found between the lines in other areas of your resume; however, in some circumstances you should consider spelling them out. When an employer has a certain skill set in mind, it helps if that skill can be found right on your resume. This is particularly true if the skills are not usually held by all applicants.

Things that you could include in the skills section of your resume include any languages you speak; any special tools/machinery that you can operate; any computer programming languages or programs with which you are proficient; as well as any other skills or abilities that are directly related to the position for which you are applying.


In the same manner as military experience, athletics can help you develop important skills and attributes. If you played intercollegiate sports, you can put this on your resume under a heading such as "Athletics." You could also put this information in any of a number of other sections. For example, if your athletic experience is related to a community organization, you may want to include it under a heading such as "Community Activities".

If you gained your athletic experience as part of a disability related organization, you will need to make an important choice. By including something like "Special Olympics Gold Medal for 5K run," you will do two things. First of all, you show that you have been involved in athletics, and that the reader can make assumptions about the attributes you possess (discipline, teamwork, etc.). The second thing you do, however, is alert the reader to the fact that you have a disability. This may raise questions in the mind of the reader about your ability to do the job.

In cases like this, the decision is, of course, up to you. Unless you know the person reading the resume, or unless you have a strong secondary connection to the individual, or unless you know that the company that is hiring has a strong history of nondiscrimination toward people with disabilities, I would suggest that you omit this information from your resume. You can mention this accomplishment later, in an interview.

The risk of including the information is that it gives the employer the chance to screen you out of consideration based on prejudice or misinformation. If the person suspects that you have a disability, you are no longer in control of what they think of you. They will begin to fill in the spaces between the lines, based on their own perhaps limited encounters with people with disabilities. They may make assumptions about what you can or cannot do, without giving you the opportunity to elaborate on your skills and how you could use them to accomplish the responsibilities of the position.

The fact is that your disability may have little or nothing to do with your ability to perform the job in all of its dimensions. In fact, if you have done your homework and have followed my suggestions regarding self assessment, you will know exactly what the job requires and how, with or without accommodations, you can meet those requirements. But when the person sees that information on your resume, they could assume anything. They might assume that you are deaf or blind, or that you are a quadriplegic. You will have no control over what they think.

You can clear up some of the misconceptions by including in your cover letter information about the exact nature of your disability and how it affects you. Chapter 5, "Writing a Great Cover Letter," discusses this strategy further.

Omitting indirect references to your disability from your resume does not mean that you need to somehow hide from those accomplishments. It is my belief, however, based on a decade of working with people with disabilities, that employers are much more likely to discriminate against someone who has a disability than they are to discriminate in favor of someone because they have a disability. At the risk of sounding repetitious, a resume is intended only to pique the interest of the employer enough that you are granted a job interview. If the employer is more likely to use disability related information against you, why not wait until you are face to face with him or her to approach the topic? This will give you the opportunity to directly address any questions that the employer may have.

In its new context, the information may serve to humanize your candidacy even more. Having been a "Silver Wheels" football player will appear even more impressive when you can explain the commitment, dedication, and stamina that it requires, as well as the fund raising experience that comes with it. Using the interview as the vehicle for describing this activity also provides you with the opportunity to give evidence of how you have been successful despite your disability. This may help the interviewer understand how you will be able to be successful in the workplace as well.
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