Your resume work experience is by far the most important section of your resume. Whether you want to call it “Work History,” “Work Experience,” “Employment History,” or “Employment Experience,” it really makes no difference. There are 4 steps to keep in mind when writing about your resume work experience that will guarantee results!
Side note: Some people will tell you not to include unpaid work such as internships or school projects in your resume work experience section, but we have proven them wrong time and time again. The fact is, if you have never had a paid job to add to your work experience section, then it’s a lot better to add these things than to leave it blank.
On the other hand, if you do have paid work experience, you should probably create a separate section on your resume for internships and projects labeled, “Relevant Projects/Internships.”
1. List only relevant experience
Whether you have 0 or 25 years of experience it's extremely important to only list relevant work experience on your resume. One of the most common mistakes that cause people to not get the job is trying to be "well-rounded". It’s important to understand that whatever job you are applying for has a specific picture in mind of the perfect candidate. Do you really think they are going to want a customer service manager with sales, design, nursing, and engineering experience? Probably not. You come off as a confused individual who has no idea what you want to do with your life.
With that being said, your resume work experience section should only list relevant information. If the job you are applying for is a customer service manager, then it would behoove you to only list customer service management skills. You might have 25 years of work experience overall, but don’t expect a senior position if you are going into an industry that you really only have 2 years of relevant experience in.
Now, if you are a recent graduate, you were probably taught some pretty bad resume tips from a tenured employee who hasn't personally looked for a job in years. Please ctrl+alt+delete everything you have learned up to this point! Moving forward, take a look at the job description for the position(s) you want to apply for. If these are in line with your degree, you should have some relevant coursework or internships that will show off what you can bring to the table. This includes school projects, clubs or organizations, volunteer work, internships, etc. Find something, anything and focus only on the tasks/achievements you have related to the job. For more info, check out the 16 best things to include in a resume.
2. Be strategic
So you have sent the same Resume and Cover Letter to 100 companies and have not received a single call back. To put it nicely, it is time to change your approach. You will see much better results if you craft a slightly different resume for each position you apply to. Like stated above, each position has different requirements and are looking for a specific candidate.
Your resume work experience should change depending on the job you are applying to. If you focus on the slightly different requirements of each job, you will join an elite group of applicants. These changes can be minor but will make all the difference. Think about it; are a couple minutes of research worth landing the career you have been dreaming of? Everyone would say, “OF COURSE!” but few put in the extra work.
3. Keywords rule
I don’t want to get too technical with you, at least not in this article. But there is a reason that everyone tells you to adjust your resume work experience for each job. Just to give you a super quick idea why this actually matters, it’s because of something called ATS or Applicant Tracking Systems. In an attempt to simplify what an ATS is; it’s essentially a robot that scans through every single person's resume that applies to the job and finds the very best ones. They decide whom the best ones are by scanning the content of the resume and seeing which ones have the most keywords in common with the job description.
I am not saying to copy and paste the job description into your resume, but you should be looking at these job descriptions and customizing your work experience to use some of the main keywords. Learn more about becoming an expert on resume keywords.
4. Quantify achievements
The above sets a great foundation for a quality resume, but if you are able to quantify your work achievements, you have just skyrocketed to the very top. Let me explain… Hiring managers love numbers, figures, success stories, anything that can make them feel totally confident that you are an overachiever. Compare these two bullet points for a sales managers work experience.
- Managed a team of sales reps in the retail industry
- Managed an elite team of over 30 sales professionals in the retail industry resulting in a 300% growth in quarterly revenue year after year.
Which one do you think is going to impress the reader more? Now, not everybody is going to have such success in every role where they can quantify their results in the resume work experience section. However, if there is ever anything that you achieved, or were recognized for, then make sure to show it off! Recruiters and hiring managers love this kind of stuff.
It is perfectly OK if you are not able to quantify your achievements. The worst thing you can do is blatantly lie because even if that lie gets you into an interview, hiring managers are trained to dig into your resume, especially when it comes to numbers you have presented. Overall, be honest and whenever possible, quantify your achievements (relevant to the position) on your resume work experience. Good luck!