How to Write Honest Resume Experiences

December 5th, 2016

Hi, my name is Robert Baker. I’m a digital marketing intern at Coalmarch Productions and a senior advertising student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a writing for the screen and stage minor. At Coalmarch, I have had the fortune of learning from and working with the inbound marketing team to create client website landing pages, write blog content, produce social media plans and generate successful link building opportunities for clients.

Writing a resume as a college student can be a lot of pressure, and writing about your experiences can be especially daunting. The idea that all of your qualifications must be squeezed onto one sheet of paper can tempt you to fudge the truth a little bit--or in some cases, flat--out lie to gain that competitive edge. It’s certainly easy to take credit for someone else’s accomplishments or exaggerate your own; after all, you’re the only one who knows. It’s not hurting anyone, right? Wrong.

The Importance of Being Honest

When you lie about your experiences, it hurts you. When you are dishonest on your resume, you are selling yourself short--admitting that your accomplishments are not enough. Why would you want to lie, anyway? The purpose of your resume is to help you get a position that’s perfect for you, not someone you made up.

Apart from morality’s sake, exaggerated or false info is not new to interviewers, and they can smell it coming from a mile away. It’s a waste of both parties’ time.

Getting It Started

The first step to craft a resume that best shows you off is selecting what to include. What do you want the reader to know about you? What experiences do you think best show the skills you’ve picked up over the years? It can be internship experience, job experience, volunteer experience, a campus activity, a class project--anything, really. The important thing is to pick experiences that help to define what you, and you alone, can bring to the table.

The key to picking which experiences to include is focusing on them one at a time. What is the most relevant thing you’ve done to the position you are applying for? Start with something you would have no problem speaking about in person. It should be something you invested time into, something you know plenty about--something you really did. An action someone else is responsible for is not something that should be on your resume.

The Who, the When and the Where

When introducing your experience, it’s best to be short and sweet. Everything the reader needs to know about the position can fit on one line. Think:

  • Organization Name

  • Location

  • Your Title

  • Dates you were involved

The What, the Why and the How

Once you’ve decided what experience to include on your resume, it can be difficult to put into words what you want the reader to know. This where the bullet points come in handy. Bullet points allow you to fit far more information about yourself into one line than otherwise possible--they also make it a lot easier to digest from a reader's’ perspective What all should you include in just one bullet? An easy solution to this is to ask yourself (and remember to be truthful):

  • What did you do?

  • How did you do it?

  • What was the purpose of what you did?

  • What was the result?

Instead of including a “personal skills” section of your resume, allow each bullet point to demonstrate the skills you possess. Rather than list “public speaking” as a skill, create a bullet point from an experience that required you to utilize your public speaking capabilities. Focus on beginning each bullet point with a strong, descriptive verb that is specific to the industry and position you are seeking. This is a small detail that allows you to more fully express your knowledge about the industry to the reader.

For example, when applying for a management or leadership position, words such as delegated, planned, strategized, or organized may best compliment your experience. For a financial position; projected, analyzed, balanced. Creative work; designed, directed, conceptualized, modified.

There’s no limit to how many bullet points you can make for each experience (although it can be hard to show enough about yourself in less than three). Keep in mind you can always go back and shorten the list if you need to, so be as specific as possible when starting out.

Making It Yours

The wonderful thing about your resume is there is no required format. You can craft it however you want--that’s what makes it yours. But if you’re ever struggling to find your voice, you can always fall back on the outline explained above:

Company; City, State; Position or Title; Date Started-Date Completed

  • Verb (I did) _____ by _____ for the purpose of _____ and _____ was the result

  • Verb (I did) _____ by _____ for the purpose of _____ and _____ was the result

  • Verb (I did) _____ by _____ for the purpose of _____ and _____ was the result

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to believe in your own experiences. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, why would someone else? You should be proud of everything you have accomplished. Before you try to stretch the truth on your resume, remember: if it’s a position you believe you deserve, you shouldn’t have to lie to get it.

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