Shelby L. Graves, MPH, CHES
Key Elements of Public Health Resumes
It’s time to stop taking outdated resume advice.
Include your high school experience? Scratch that. Use your FULL home address? Skip it. Plug in a general objective statement? Nope.
Resumes in 2020 and beyond should not stick to the rules we were told in homeroom over a decade ago. Public health resumes should be tailored to showcase your practice and expertise. A reviewer should be able to look at your resume and identify your strengths right off the bat.
This article discusses the key elements of a polished public health resume. Ready to stand out in the stack? Read ahead.
Image © Nakigitsune-sama
I say this upfront, because you would be amazed at how many times I’ve reviewed resumes with contact information hidden among the weeds on the page. Make sure your contact information is prominent, clearly legible, and complete. You want them to know how to reach you for an interview, right?
Required contact information:
Name & Credentials: Shelby L. Graves, MPH, CHES
Email Address: ShelbyGraves.Freelance@gmail.com
Phone Number: (###) ###- ####
Location: City, State, Zip Code (for U.S. resumes, specifically)
Want to include your social media and LinkedIn information? You can do that too.
If you are applying for a creative role – such as a “Health Communication Coordinator” – you may want to include your social media handles. I advise this if you have a polished social media page that you would like to use as a portfolio for your ability to manage social media accounts and/or advocate for public health.
I also encourage you to use your unique LinkedIn URL – but make sure you’ve been keeping up with your profile. Brush up your job descriptions and include a bio or intro to your experience before adding it to your resume.
Resume Summary or Professional Summary
Your resume summary is a short paragraph that highlights your professional skills and experience. Using a brief summary allows you to state your strongest qualities or most impressive achievements upfront. I typically advise using 1-3 sentences.
Your format for your resume summary is up to your own personal preference. Some people prefer to use a bulleted list, while others prefer to use a more traditional sentence structure. I personally use the sentence structure, then list my competencies and skills in a bulleted list elsewhere on my resume.
Want an example? See one of my old resume summaries below. This one was written in a pinch for a behavioral health staff writer position. It wasn’t “perfect” in my eyes, but it did “get the job done.”(Meaning I got the job).
Dynamic public health professional with 5+ years of research and professional experience in community and public health, specializing in behavioral health science. Writing proficiency encompasses abstracts, articles, briefs, Internet content, and grant proposals.
Tip: Tailor your resume summary to every position you apply for. You can do this by integrating language from the job description and/or changing the experience you choose to highlight within the summary.
Skills & Competencies List
Having a specific section to highlight your strongest skills and competencies makes your resume scannable – AKA easy to read quickly. You want your top skills and competencies to stand out loud and proud on your resume.
Skills: These are the specific abilities you’ve been trained in and that are needed to perform the job well (e.g., budgeting, classroom facilitation, data analysis).
Competencies: These are your knowledge or behaviors that will help you to be successful within a specific role (e.g., strategic planning, problem-solving, conflict resolution).
You should highlight, not only your strongest skills, but the skills most relevant to the application at hand. This is a great way to beat Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Go directly to your skills list when you begin to tailor your resume for a higher ATS score.
Don’t forget to include your technical skills! This includes statistical programming software, Microsoft Office Suite, or other technical training you’ve received. For example, I list things like SPSS, NVIVO, and Qualtrics under my technical skills.
Include your relevant professional experience, highlighting your most notable accomplishments. You can and should tailor your experience to the job application by updating the language in your descriptions prior to submitting. Your experience is what gets you the interview (within MOST public health agencies) – so be strategic in how you list it on your resume.
Not sure what to list? What relates most closely to the application at hand? Get as close as you can to the job description. If you taught K-12 health education and they ask for “classroom facilitation,” then these are the words you should use to describe your experience.
Have something you can quantify? Do your best to use numbers. Don’t just say you “taught health education to K-12 students.” Instead, tell them the number of students you educated and/or the number of modules you completed.
Have customer service experience, but limited “public health experience?” Well, guess what – that counts too! Public health agencies need people who know how to meet people where they are and who have worked as frontline staff on diverse teams. Sell that experience!
I don’t know about you, but I paid way too much for my degrees for me not to list them BIG AND BOLD on my resume. True, a curriculum vitae (CV) is more “education focused,” but it is still just as important to list your academic history on your resume. Even if you didn’t major in public health, your degree is essential for you to list.
If you studied any specific concentrations, be sure to list them within your education section. For example, I have a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Behavioral and Community Health. I always list this concentration on my resume.
If you’re still working toward your degree, list your anticipated graduation date and label it as such.
All the Rest
Yes, you can list more than just these key elements on your perfectly polished public health resume! I encourage you to do so. For example, if you have a certification (e.g., CHES, CPH), then you need to list it. This blog post encompasses the essentials only.
A few other examples of what you can include on your resume or your CV are:
Awards & Honors
Community Engagement & Volunteer Work
Invited Professional Presentations
Special Training & Certifications
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Shelby’s Resume Advice Disclaimer: Every job application, organization, or geographic region is subject to change or to hold different standards. The advice given here is based on the average public health resume or application process in the United States. The key elements of a successful resume are often the same across various geographic regions. Always check job description requirements before submitting your materials.