Your resume work experience is 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.
Here are 4 steps to keep in mind when writing about your resume work experience that will guarantee results!
1. List only relevant experience
Whether you have zero or 25 years of experience, it's extremely important to only list relevant work experience on your resume.
A common mistake that hinders people from getting the job is trying to be "well-rounded."
What's the problem with adding irrelevant work information on your resume?
The hiring managers have a specific picture in mind of the "perfect" candidate.
- If they're looking for a customer service manager, they don't want to see sales, design, nursing, and engineering experience.
- Trying to boost your resume with unrelated experience will likely translate negatively.
- You might come across as someone who can't stick to a job.
- Or the employer might think that you have no specific goals in life.
In the following picture, the resume's work experience section focuses on relevant healthcare staffing and management strategies:
Now, your specific approach as you fill out your resume work experience section depends on how much experience you actually have.
If you have plenty of work experience:
Let's continue the example of applying for a position as a customer service manager.
You won't want to add work experience from those years you dabbled in landscaping, even if you were a terrific landscaper!
In short, only list customer service and management skills.
You might have 25 years of work experience overall, but only add the work experience directly related to customer service and management.
(By the way, don’t be disappointed if you are going into an industry where you have minimal relevant experience and you don't obtain a senior position.)
If you are a recent graduate:
You might have learned some unhelpful resume tips from a tenured employee who hasn't looked for a job in years.
If needed, ctrl+alt+delete everything you have learned up to this point!
Moving forward, here's the approach you should take:
- 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 that you can list.
- This includes school projects, clubs or organizations, volunteer work, etc.
- Also, add internships that demonstrate what you can bring to the table.
- 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
Have you sent the same resume and cover letter to 100 companies and not received a single callback?
It is time to change your approach.
To get better results, craft a slightly different resume for each position.
Because each position has different requirements, your resume work experience should change depending on the job you are applying to.
Note how the resume sample below focuses on effective strategy and growth:
These changes can be minor but will make all the difference.
Focus on the slightly different requirements of each job, and you'll join an elite group of applicants who don't spend months upon months looking for a job.
A small investment of keyword research might help you land the career you have been dreaming of.
3. Keywords rule
I don’t want to get too technical (at least not in this article) but there is a reason everyone tells you to adjust your resume work experience for each job.
Why does this matter?
It’s because of something called ATS, or Applicant Tracking Systems.
- Think of ATS as a robot that scans through every single application resume.
- It locates the very best ones by scanning the content of the resume.
- ATS determines which resumes have the most keywords in common with the job description.
Of course, you can't simply copy and paste the job description into your resume.
Look at each job description and customize your work experience to use some of the main keywords.
For instance, the resume sample below uses the keyword "valuations."
If the job description involves valuation, guess who will likely get a callback?
Yep, this applicant:
(Learn more about becoming an expert on wording your resume, read How to Use Resume Keywords When Applying for Jobs.)
4. Quantify achievements
The above information sets a great foundation for a quality resume, but here's how you can skyrocket to the top.
Quantify your work achievements.
Let me explain…
Hiring managers love numbers, figures, and success stories.
They basically look for anything that can increase their confidence in the hope that you are an overachiever.
Compare these two bullet points for sales manager 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 quantifiable success in every role that they can outline in their resume's work experience section.
However, if you have recognitions or achievements, then show it off!
Recruiters and hiring managers love this kind of stuff, as shown in the resume sample below:
Note that if you cannot quantify your achievements, just be honest.
The worst thing you can do is blatantly lie.
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.
What about unpaid work experience?
Some people will tell you not to include unpaid work such as internships or school projects in your resume work experience section.
But what if you have no paid job to add to your work experience section?
In such a case, it’s better to add unpaid work experience to your resume than to leave it blank.
If you have paid work experience, however, simply create a separate section on your resume for internships and projects.
Label that section “Relevant Projects/Internships," as in the sample resume section below:
May we help you?
Good luck with improving your resume work section to land that dream job!
By the way, if you need help writing or updating your resume, we offer a terrific resume writing service.
Contact us today and let us know how we can help.