The work experience section of your resume answers the biggest question hiring managers have when they review your application:
What relevant job skills and experience do you have?
Unfortunately, most job seekers feel intimidated when writing their work experience. They know it can make or break their chances of getting an interview.
This is why we’ve put together this guide. Follow these seven steps and you’ll soon have a resume that will grab the attention of hiring managers – no matter what position you’re applying for.
Table of Contents
- Step #1 – Organize your work experience section
- Step #2 – Format the job information correctly
- Step #3 – Use bullet points
- Step #4 – Start each bullet point with an action verb
- Step #5 – List accomplishments as well as duties
- Step #6 – Use numbers and metrics
- Step #7 – Tailor your work experience to the job
- How to make a resume with no work experience
- Show your career trajectory on your resume
- Key Takeaways
Use Jobscan’s free ATS-friendly resume templates and start building your resume that gets noticed by recruiters!
Step #1 – Organize your work experience section
Did you know that when you submit your resume to most companies, it does NOT go to a human being? Instead, it goes directly into a computer database called an ATS, or applicant tracking system.
An ATS is a software program that manages the entire hiring process, from sourcing candidates to tracking applicants and scheduling interviews.
This means that your work history should be formatted so an ATS can easily read and understand it. (Don’t worry – we’ll tell you exactly how to do this).
We’ll start with how to organize your work history.
Both ATS and humans like your work experience to appear in reverse chronological order. This means your latest job should appear first, at the top of the section, followed by your second-to-last job, etc….
This order allows potential employers to quickly spot your most recent job while getting a sense of the progression of your career over time.
Here’s an example of a work experience section in reverse chronological order:
Step #2 – Format the job information correctly
Before you start describing your job responsibilities, you need to list the following information about each job first:
- Company name and location – Include the full name of the company you worked for followed by the city and state of its location. You don’t need to describe what the company did.
- Job title – Be as specific as possible to ensure that employers know exactly what your role was within the company.
- Start and end dates – To make sure the dates can be properly read by an ATS, use the MM/YYYY format.
Below is an example of how this information should look on a resume. We recommend this format because it can easily be read by an ATS:
The key thing is to present your information consistently throughout your entire work experience section. If you’re not consistent it can hurt your chances of getting an interview.
“The quality of presentation tells me something about you,” one healthcare recruiter told Jobscan.
Step #3 – Use bullet points
Now it’s time to get into the details of each job you’ve held. To do this, use bullet points. Recruiters tend to skim through resumes and bullet points are a great way to make it easier for them to do that.
Use four to eight bullet points. Each bullet point should include a job responsibility and/or an accomplishment. Here’s an example:
The goal is to be concise but provide enough information for a potential employer to get an idea of your experience, skills, and capabilities.
Step #4 – Start each bullet point with an action verb
Always try to start each bullet point with an action verb, such as “Developed”, “Managed”, or “Created”. These verbs paint a clearer picture of your qualifications and increase the overall impact of your resume.
Many people make the mistake of using the word “was” in their bullet points. For example, “Was responsible for warehouse safety.”
Try not to do this. Instead, use an action verb or two, such as “Researched and implemented new warehouse safety standards.” This makes you look like a more confident and capable candidate.
Here are examples of bullet points that begin with an action verb:
- Processed 100 tickets per day and effectively handled incoming correspondence.
- Managed multi-line phone system and provided administrative support.
- Organized large meetings for cross-functional events on- and off-site.
See our list of 500 Resume Action Words That Recruiters Love to See.
Step #5 – List accomplishments as well as duties
A lot of people use the work experience section to list their job duties or responsibilities. These are the tasks that you’re expected to perform as part of your job. They include things like:
- Answering phones
- Scheduling meetings
- Taking inventory
- Maintaining records
- Training employees
Listing your job duties gives potential employers an idea of what you did, but it doesn’t indicate how well you did it.
To show employers how well you did your job, use your bullet points to highlight specific accomplishments.
Instead of saying,
“Managed a team of 10 customer service representatives.”
“Managed a team of 10 customer service representatives, resulting in a 20% reduction in customer wait time and an improvement in first-call resolution rate by 15%.”
No matter what type of job you had, it is essential to focus on the specific results of your efforts in order to clearly convey the value you provide for employers.
See 67 Resume Accomplishments Examples to Demonstrate Your Value.
Step #6 – Use numbers and metrics
Whenever possible, try to use numbers and metrics to describe your accomplishments. These clearly demonstrate the impact your work had on the business.
Dollar amounts, timespans, and percentages are all great ways to quantify your accomplishments on a resume.
Here are some examples of how to use numbers on a resume:
- Maintained a 97% satisfaction rating over a 24-month period as a customer care representative.
- Fulfilled over 4,500 warehouse orders with a 98% accuracy rate and 100% safety record over a 12-month period.
- Created a company culture initiative that raised employee satisfaction rates by 25% YoY.
- Cut data processing time by 50% by building a new cloud data infrastructure, leading to more timely insights.
- Grew email subscriber list from 300 to 2,000 in 8 months without expanding the monthly budget.
For more examples, explore our library of resume examples for any profession.
Step #7 – Tailor your work experience to the job
Do you send out the exact same resume with every single job application? That’s what most people do, and it’s a big mistake.
Instead, you should try to tailor each resume to the specific job you are applying for.
Tailoring your resume has become even more important these days. This is because so many companies use ATS to help filter the hundreds of resumes they receive for each job opening.
When hiring managers want to find good job candidates, they search the ATS database by typing in words and phrases (known as keywords) taken from the job description. If your resume contains these keywords, then it’s more likely to appear before the hiring manager.
If your resume does not contain keywords from the job description, it will remain in the database. That’s why you need to constantly refer to the job description when writing your work experience section.
Here’s an example of a job description with some important keywords underlined.
If you were applying for this job, you would want your resume to include as many of these underlined keywords as possible (but don’t lie).
Most job seekers use the same resume again and again because it’s easy. But it’s also ineffective. Take the time to tailor each and every resume and you’ll see much better results with your job search.
To simplify this process, use Jobscan’s resume scanner. It analyzes your resume against job listings and tells you exactly how to optimize your resume to match each company’s ATS.
How to make a resume with no work experience
If you’re a recent graduate or are just starting out in your career, you probably don’t have a lot of work experience. That’s OK. Employers don’t expect much experience if you’re applying for an entry-level job.
The good news is there are still things you can add to your work experience to make it stand out. These include special skills or talents that are related to the job you’re applying for.
What are your hobbies? What are things you’re good at? Sit down and make a list of things you’ve done and what skills you used.
Examples include computer programming, foreign languages, music, sports, fixing cars, art, writing, etc… You should also include any relevant volunteer work or internships.
Also, make sure to list any awards, honors, or recognitions that you may have received during your academic career or while working in other roles. Employers are always impressed by individuals who have achieved something special.
Read the full guide: How to Write a Resume with No Experience
Show your career trajectory on your resume
Ideally, your work experience section should tell a story about your professional career. Hiring managers like to see how your experience has shaped you into the professional you are today.
“I’m looking for the logic of why you went from this job to the next job,” a corporate recruiter told Jobscan. “When we make that initial presentation email to the hiring manager, we also include a bio paragraph that goes over their career– where they started, how often they moved up, where they moved to, trying to really create a narrative.”
To create an effective narrative, focus on how your job responsibilities have increased over the years. You can also highlight any promotions you have received.
For example, if you started out as a customer service representative and eventually moved up to technical support manager, you should emphasize the growth in your job responsibilities.
If you can create a work experience section that tells a memorable story, hiring managers will be much more likely to call you in for an interview.
How many jobs should I put on my resume?
When it comes to your resume, quality matters more than quantity.
It’s better to have fewer jobs on your resume that are well-described and demonstrate your relevant skills and experiences than a long list of jobs without any detail or context.
Generally speaking, you should aim to have three to seven job listings in your work experience section.
How far back should your resume work experience go?
You only need to go into full detail about your most recent two or three jobs. Then go into less detail the further back you go. Your oldest job listings (those more than 15 years ago) should only include the company you worked for, your role, and your dates of employment.
Do employment gaps on a resume matter?
Employment gaps on a resume can matter to some employers. Gaps may raise questions and prompt further inquiry during the hiring process.
The longer the gap, the more attention it may attract. Short gaps of a few months are generally more acceptable and can often be explained easily. However, extended gaps of several years may raise concerns for employers.
Can you put volunteer work under work experience?
Yes, you can include volunteer work under work experience, especially if it is relevant to the position you are applying for. When listing volunteer work, follow a similar format as you would for paid employment.
Let’s quickly review what we’ve learned:
- The work experience section is the most important part of your resume. Spend quality time working on it.
- Your work experience should appear in reverse chronological order, from last to first.
- Every entry should include the company name and location, your job title, and your start and end dates.
- Use bullet points to describe your duties and accomplishments.
- Each bullet point should start with an action verb.
- Be sure to list accomplishments as well as job duties.
- Use numbers and metrics (when relevant) to make your accomplishments stand out.
- Tailor each resume to the job you’re applying for.
- Include 3 to 7 job listings in your work experience section.
- Try to use the work experience section to tell the story of your professional experience.
Use Jobscan’s free ATS-friendly resume templates and start building your resume that gets noticed by recruiters!
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