The work experience resume section can make or break your job application. It’s where recruiter’s eyes spend the most time, meaning every detail about how you describe past experiences is critical– right down to the formatting. Here are 6 things you need to know about writing your resume experience.
Resume work experience order
Regardless of the resume format you’re using, your work experience should typically be ordered reverse-chronologically, with your most recent experience at the top. Listing your experience out of order can make it difficult for recruiters to skim and get a quick idea of your trajectory. (More on that later)
Headings and formatting matter
Your work experience subheadings must include the following information:
- Job location
- Your job title
- Start and end dates
There are different ways you can arrange this information. Some prefer to highlight their job titles and tenure first, for example:
Content Manager, June 2017-Present
Jobscan, Seattle, WA
However, some applicant tracking systems (ATS) automatically parse your resume information into a digital applicant profile. When an ATS can’t accurately read your resume, your application can slip through the cracks.
Jobscan‘s first-hand research of top ATS has found that keeping your main heading simple and to the point — “Work Experience,” “Professional Experience,” etc. — can help keep ATS on track. Furthermore, the subheading sequence that works best for most systems is 1) Company name, 2) job location, 3) your job title, 4) start and end dates formatted MM/YYYY.
Jobscan, Seattle, WA
Content Manager, 06/2017-Present
You may choose to bold the top line, right-align your start and end dates, or make other formatting choices. No matter what you do, be sure to keep it consistent all the way down. For example, if you use MM/YYYY (e.g. 06/2017) in your first entry, don’t switch to Month YYYY (e.g. July 2008) or just YYYY (e.g. 2010) later on in your work experience. It might seem innocent to you, but it’s a red flag for recruiters.
“The quality of presentation tells me something about you,” a healthcare recruiter told Jobscan.
“Say their last position they were there from ’10/2010 until 11/2017′ but in the previous company the person said ‘November 2, 2008 until January 3, 2009,'” explained a non-profit recruiter. “That’s misformatted. I know that’s a very nitpicky thing, but I’ve had candidates not move forward in the process because of something like that.”
Carefully tailor your work experience section to the job
Don’t confuse your resume with a CV. There is no need to list every little thing you’ve ever done. Instead, focus on the work experience that is most applicable to the job for which you’re applying.
Most job seekers list out everything and leave it up to the hiring manager to connect the dots. Instead of “These are the types of things I’ve done in the past,” think more along the lines of “I am the best person for this job because of these specific skills and accomplishments.” It’s a subtle difference and takes practice.
One recruiter told Jobscan that job seekers should strive to “answer the question of the job description.” Promote the skills and experience hiring professionals will find most valuable when it comes to solving the company’s problems.
Analyze the job description for the most important resume keywords. These are the skills that recruiters and hiring managers are looking for whether they’re skimming your resume or plugging search terms into an ATS.
With Jobscan, you can get an instant breakdown of which keywords and skills from the job description are missing from your resume (among other checks). Try it out right here on the blog:
Jobscan‘s new Predicted Skills feature even leverages machine learning technology to show hard skills that the recruiter will likely find valuable but failed to list in the job description.
“Duties tell, accomplishments sell” your resume experience
It’s OK to include day-to-day job duties in your work experience resume section. To create a stronger resume, include as many accomplishments as you can. Effective accomplishments typically frame your work in terms of money and/or time. They are quantifiable and measurable. Dollar amounts, timespans, and percentages are all great ways to quantify your accomplishments on a resume.
Here are a few resume accomplishment examples:
- 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 12-month period.
- Created a company culture initiative which 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
Pack a punch with strong action verbs and short sentences
Maximize the impact of your resume experience by starting your sentences with action words. This will help you look like a results-oriented individual that gets stuff done.
One top resume tip is to try removing as many instances of the word “was” from your resume. For example, “Was responsible for warehouse safety…” can become “Researched and implemented new warehouse safety standards…” This makes you look like a more confident and capable candidate.
Keep your sentences short and to-the-point. Recruiters tend to skim through resumes and might miss important information if it’s buried in a long sentence or paragraph. Using bullet points is a great way to increase skimmability.
Show your career trajectory on your resume
Recruiters are curious about your career path. “I’m looking for the logic of why you went from this job to the next job,” a healthcare recruiter told Jobscan.
When a corporate recruiter finds a worthy candidate, they often craft a narrative that sells them to the hiring manager. “It’s getting the story of their professional career,” a non-profit 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.”
Ideally, your work experience trajectory will show things like increasing responsibilities or a narrowed career focus. For example, moving up from assistant to individual contributor to manager in the same field, or starting your career as a full stack developer but using new jobs to move towards front-end specialization.
When you’re reviewing your resume work experience, ask yourself, “Could someone guess why I changed jobs?”
That doesn’t mean writing, “My manager made my life hell so I just needed any new job.” It means highlighting the growth opportunities and benefits of each new job.
Resume work experience dos and don’ts
- List your work experience in reverse-chronological order (most recent first)
- Use consistent heading formatting
- Focus on what will get you this job rather than everything you’ve ever done
- Include strategic resume keywords to catch a recruiter’s eye and come up in search results
- Mix accomplishments in with your duties to show that you’re successful and results-driven
- Try to illustrate why you’ve gone from one job to the next
- Get hung up on every last job duty; put more emphasis on your most transferrable work experience and skills
- Outright lie in your resume work experience; tailor your actual experience without making things up
- Use long sentences or big block paragraphs if you can help it; think short sentences, strong verbs, and bullet points
- Go include over 10-20 years of work experience (in most cases– exceptions for federal, law, and other industries exist)