Résumés – Part II

In the last issue, I discussed some of the main elements of the résumé including the identifier, objective and profile. In this issue, I’ll cover the Skills and Experience sections.

The Skills section is an optional segment that you can include after your profile or objective. This section lists your various skills, specifically your computer and software skills. Potential employees will appreciate a clear and concise listing of these skills as they try to match potential candidates to the job. You should therefore emphasize the skills that you have to the job for which you are applying.

For example, if the position specifically requires knowledge of FrameMaker and WebWorks Publisher, and you have used those products, list them at the beginning of your Skills section. You may wish to divide up your software skills into different sections such as documentation tools, graphical tools, operating systems, programming languages, and other programs such as spreadsheet and database applications.

There are, of course, other kinds of skills that you can list other than software, such as management and organizational skills, but generally speaking, it is often the software skills that employees are keenly seeking for most technical writing positions.

Next is the most important section of the résumé: the Experience section. Here you list your previous positions, starting with the most recent. Include your job title, the name of the company, the years that you worked (you do not have to state the months), an overview of your duties and responsibilities, and your accomplishments.

In addition to the name of the company, you can include a brief one-sentence description of that company, and the company’s website, for example:

XYZ Limited – http://www.xyz.com A major developer of transportation management, supply chain and e-business solutions.

Decide whether to list the job title or the company name first. Because I have had the same title at my last few positions, I list the company first to easily distinguish each position. Whichever you choose, be consistent for all your listed positions.

When summarizing each position, have one or two sentences that describe your overall responsibilities, then list your specific duties and overall accomplishments. Include the tools that you used, even if they already are in your Skills section. Here is an example:

XYZ Ltd.- Technical Writer – 1994-1996 Wrote and managed user manuals and online help for a time management application using FrameMaker, WebWorks Publisher, and Microsoft Word. Interviewed Developers, Quality Assurance Engineers and Product Managers to develop documentation that was accurate and relevant to end users. Reorganized documentation to lower maintenance and translation costs.

After your summary, you must list what is probably the most critical part of the résumé: your accomplishments. You need to think very hard about how you improved things by lowering costs, increasing quality and improving efficiencies. You then must carefully word your accomplishments so that they clearly showcase your actions by using strong, positive action-oriented verbs. When possible, quantify your accomplishments with specific numbers.

Here are some good examples of accomplishments:

  • Merged online help and user manual into a single source document, cutting translation costs in half.
  • Combined three related user manuals into one, using conditional text to distinguish each version, reducing maintenance costs by 50%.
  • Added missing documentation to the user manual, increasing the content by 35%.
  • Corrected over 50 technical errors in the documentation that the developers had missed.

Remember – companies are looking at what you have done in the past to see what you can do for them in the future. If you can clearly show in your résumé that you have gone the extra mile to improve your projects, you will greatly enhance your professional image.

The next issue will cover the remaining sections of the résumé.

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