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How to Write Your Resume Work Experience Section Right

If the professional summary is the appetizer, your work
experience is the main course of your resume.

Recruiters and HR managers read the work history on your resume to check
if you have the experience required for the vacant position. They also use this
record to compare you with other candidates, and see who is best fitted for
their company.

Your work history shows potential employers what kind of
employee you’ll be. It shows them whether you’ll be an asset to their team, a
job hopper, or simply a wrong fit.

Are you ready to write a great resume work history section
Are you ready to write a great resume work history section? (graphic source)

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to write your work experience in a resume without exaggerating, and repeating your job description. You’ll learn how to best format your resume and the strategic advice you need to stand out as a great candidate at each stage of your career.

What to Include in Your Resume Work Experience Section

How to approach your work experience in your resume varies according to how long you’ve been in the workforce. We’ll address advice for fresh graduates first, then young professionals, and touch on executives work experience sections as well. 

1. Fresh Graduates – Resume Work Experience

Figuring out how to write the experience section of their resume is the second-biggest hurdle new graduates face, next only to finding a new job. Entry-level candidates don’t want to appear inexperienced, that’s why it’s so tempting to stretch the truth about summer jobs. 

Focus on Transferable Skills

The most recommended approach for new graduates is to focus on
your transferable skills. Another is to leverage your internship experience. Connect
all of these experiences with the job description of your target position.

For example, if you met weekly deadlines as the Sports
Editor for your community newspaper, your time management skills are invaluable
for many entry-level jobs. You should also emphasize your attention to detail,
research, and communication skills.

Use Better Job Titles

Another thing you can do is play up your job titles—within reason.
Frame previous babysitting jobs where you took care of kids from different
families in your neighborhood as a child care management business. You can
write Child Care Manager as your job title, and then write about your
achievements in providing educational and recreational activities.

Include Relevant Experience

You might be tempted to write about your coursework and
class projects in your employment history. Don’t waste this space. Employers
look for well-rounded candidates who can do well outside of the classroom, not
just test-takers.

Internship experience, volunteer experience, and temporary
positions, however, wouldn’t be out of place in your work history, as long as
you can link the experience with your career goal.

2. Young Professionals – Experience Section of Resume

Delete information about your coursework, GPA and Internship,
now that you’ve had at least one paid full-time job related to your
undergraduate course. Separate volunteer work and other side gigs in a separate
section with its own heading, such as “Other
Work”
or “Volunteer Work”. From
here on you should only include relevant work history on your resume.

Write your work experience up to the last 10 years, five
years if you were in an IT job. If you were promoted in the same company, write
your last position as the job title, then list the previous position you’ve held
in the bullet points.

3. Managers and Executives – Resume Work History

Donna Svei, Executive Resume Writer and Recruiter, says: 

“Recruiters want to see more experience for executive
candidates, three to seven years—sometimes more—depending on the job level.”

At the management level, employers look for candidates who
can add value to the organization with little training. What matters to them
isn’t the time you spent on your previous jobs, but the contributions you made
while in office.

How Far Back in Your Work History Should You Go?

There’s no right and wrong answer here. You can base it on
how much job experience is required on the job ad. But what if there’s no work
tenure requirement listed?

I talked to some recruitment experts to hear what they have
to say.

Advice From Recruiting Experts

Matthew Burr, HR expert and Founder of Burr Consulting says: 

“Generally, your employment history should have your
last three positions. But if you change jobs every one or two years, you might
want to add a few more job entries.”

Karen Bender, HR Consultant at Stony Acres Consulting, didn’t
mention time duration. She says: 

“Employers want
to see enough history to understand the depth of a candidate’s experience. For
experienced candidates, this doesn’t mean you need to detail the early parts of
your career, unless they are relevant and unique for some reason.”

Some recruiters think removing the oldest five to ten years
of your employment history might raise a red flag. To avoid this, you can include
earlier positions in a separate heading titled “Earlier Career,” and fill it out with the job titles, company
name, and employment duration. No need to elaborate about your achievements and
duties.

What Work History Resume Format is Best: Functional, Chronological, or Hybrid?

Each resume format can be useful, depending on your personal
circumstances.

1. Chronological Resume

A chronological resume lists your employment history with
the most recent position at the top. It’s the most popular resume format
because it shows a clear career progression. Use this format only if you’ve had
a few years professional experience and a solid work history.

2. Functional Resume

Your achievements and employment details are separated. All achievements
and skills are categorized according to the main requirements of your target
job, while your employment history only shows the company name and duration.

Because this format focuses on your skills instead of your
previous job titles, it works well for fresh graduates with limited experience
or anyone with significant employment gaps.

3. Hybrid or Combination Resume

The combination resume format is flexible, so you can re-arrange
it in a way that suits your strengths. In this layout, your professional
summary is followed by your list of skills and achievements, instead of your
work history. It’s often used for management and executive-level resumes.

What’s to Include in Your Work History Section

Here are the different components you should include in each job
history entry:

  • Job Title: Use
    the industry-accepted and un-abbreviated version of your job title to avoid
    confusion. Write “American Sign Language Interpreter” instead of “ASL
    interpreter”
    and “Assistant District Attorney” instead of “ADA
  • Location: Include
    the city and state where you worked, especially for jobs where licensure
    information and state laws affect your occupation.
  • Company Name: Like
    the job title, you should write your employer’s complete company name, and not
    an abbreviated version.
  • Employment Duration: Month
    and year.
  • Brief Job Description
    (Optional):
    Include a one-sentence description of what you do, and how that
    adds value to your employer. 

How to Write Resume Work Experience Bullet Points (With Examples)

Choose Accomplishments to Include

Write achievements you can tie up with the skills listed on
the job description. Jill Gugino Pante M.Ed, Director of Alfred Lerner College
Career Center at the University of Delaware also suggests:  

“Look at the company website and social media sites to
get a feel of their values, mission, and goals. For example, if a company
values impeccable customer service, some of your bullet points should include
examples of when you exceeded customer expectations.”

Show on the Job Initiative

Susan Ranford of New York Jobs thinks accomplishments that
show your enterprise and initiative work best. She adds:

“Include bullet accomplishments that show you
developed a new stream of income for your company, or found a way to streamline
a process. Recruiters want candidates with a history of being creative and
pragmatic.”

For example: 

“Chaired a committee
in the Human Resources department that centralized job functions and eliminated
unnecessary tasks, yielding over 7,000 saved man hours per year.”

Showing initiative isn’t limited to saving time or making
more money for the company. Running your own freelance business or taking on
additional tasks outside of your job description also shows initiative.

Use Objective and Clear Descriptions

Imagine a bullet point that reads:

“Several years of creative and resourceful Art teaching at Calaveras
Hills School.”

While the bullet point includes the employer’s name, it’s
sorely lacking in details. “Creative
and “resourceful” are subjective and
tells nothing about the applicant’s teaching methods or classroom achievements.

Here’s a Better Example

“Supplemented subject
matter textbooks with age appropriate art examples, and gained students’
attention using various teaching techniques, such as music, movies, and
hands-on learning.”

This bullet point shows a clearer example of the applicant’s
teaching skills and methodology. It also includes an accomplishment, “gained students’ attention.”

Write About What You Did, Not Just Your Years of Experience

The years you worked for a particular company are already
listed at the top of each job entry, so there’s no need to reiterate it in a
bullet point. Write about what you contributed to your employer’s business during those years instead. That’s what employers want to know. For Example: 

“Four years of experience selling various
computer chips and hardware parts, with proven ability to increase sales in my
territory”

Writing about your ability to improve the sales in the town
you work is useless, because every sales person is expected to do that. You
should instead write about other specifics of your job, such as the products
you sold, or the quote you exceeded. For example:

“Spearheaded a guerrilla marketing strategy that increased SaaS subscription sales by $357,000
in one year”

The example above shows the candidate’s creativity,
initiative, sales specialty, and a verifiable achievement.

Always Include Skills Used, Action Taken, and the Results

Murtaza Bambot, Co-Founder of internship search site InternBlitz,
says, 

“I always tell candidates to emphasize what they did, why it was important,
and the skills they used. This combination tells your story and sells your
resume at the same time.”

Here’s a Standout Example From Bambot

“Generated $600,000+ in pipeline over two months
through 350+ cold calls a week and 15+ email campaigns to about 2500 prospects”

You can also use any of the two combinations: 

1. Results – Challenge –
Action

An example from Bambot:

Managed governance
document
to log status updates of 25+ projects spanning 5 departments
by collaborating with 13 project leaders

2. Action Verb – Skill –
Results

From Alissa Carpenter, Owner of Everything’s Not OK and That’s OK:

Designed and
implemented
key account strategies with retailers that resulted in an
average 6% incremental year-over-year sales increase, and reduced the marketing
budget by 13
%”

Tips on Writing a Better Resume Experience Section

Know the Difference Between Good Bullets and Bad Bullets

Would you be impressed if you read the following bullet
points?

“Juggled multiple deadlines for three different design projects”

“Encouraged collaboration between account executives and designers”

I know I wouldn’t be.

Multitasking and teamwork are soft skills expected in almost
every job, so there’s nothing inherently wrong with including bullet points that
emphasize those skills. Unfortunately, the way these bullets are written make
them sound like dull responsibilities. 

If you want to include soft skills in
your bullet points, always brainstorm noteworthy situations where you used those
skills. Here are a couple better examples: 

1. For Collaboration

“Motivated an eight
man team of executives and designers to create a winning proposal for a major
telecommunications company”

2. For Multitasking

“Oversaw the
successful launch of three email campaigns for one premiere online course worth
$3500”

Use a Descriptive Job Title

Never exaggerate a past job title, but you can always use an improved or clearer version that better illustrates your role. For example:

“Customer Service Specialist” is better written as “Credit Card Billing and Customer Service
Specialist”

Use the Right Power
Words

I wrote a detailed guide about power words to use in effective resumes. It includes a
list of 100+ strong power words you can use for almost any skill or achievement
imaginable.

Check out the guide here:

Quantify Your Accomplishments

“Revamped Sykes Customer Service quality assurance checklist
to improve customer satisfaction”

What’s missing in this bullet point? The bullet point mentions an improvement but it doesn’t specify by how much
customer satisfaction went up.

Here’s a better version:

“Revamped the quality
assurance checklist of Sykes Customer Service team to improve customer
satisfaction ratings by 15%”

Add Job Specific Information

Your job title may have specific industry keywords, such as
licensure information, software, or tasks. Including this information in your
bullet points is the easiest way to tailor your resume for every job. 

Here are specific examples: 

“Top 10% in the Dental Hygienists Licensure Exam in
Texas”

“Improved cost-per-click of Facebook Ads for online
gaming client”

More Helpful Resume Resources

Grab a professional resume template from GraphicRiver or browse through our curated list below: 

We also have plenty of tutorial resources to help you make a great resume

Remember: With the Right Words, There’s No Need to Lie on Your Resume

Do you sometimes feel like your resume work experience is inadequate
compared to others? Could that be the reason you’re not getting called back?

There’s a huge chance your resume is just lacking the right
details. Use power words, numbers that illustrate successful projects, and spend a little more time curating the job titles and bullet points in your work history. 

Do frame your work experience in a way that highlights your accomplishments and best qualities as a candidate. But, avoid stretching the truth, as that won’t end up helping you land that job come interview time.