The work experience section on your resume is where you list your past jobs and responsibilities. Employers use your work experience to gauge your suitability for the job. Getting the work experience on your resume right is important as it demonstrates to employers you have what it takes to produce results in their role. In this article, we discuss how to write work experience on your resume and what to include to make a lasting impression.
What is work experience in a resume?
The work experience part of your resume has relevant information about your employment history. It covers details like your previous jobs, positions held, employers, period of work, skills, and achievements. How much work experience you list in this section is up to your discretion. However, one thing remains true: be honest about your work experience.
The type of experience to include in your resume depends on different factors. The role you're applying for is often a guide as to how much experience to provide. For example, many top-level/C-suite roles require applicants to provide up to 15 years of experience. If you're a fresh graduate applying for an entry-level role, no one expects you to have a lot of experience. Include internships, volunteering, freelancing, or any other working experience; but make sure they are relevant to the job.
Why is work experience important in a resume?
Having sufficient and relevant work experience is a step towards getting hired. Listing your previous roles shows your competency and skill, which is a crucial consideration in the hiring process for employers. In addition, the achievements listed in the employment history section can set you apart from other applicants. There is value in showing past results and work accomplishments because it demonstrates your capability and even your work ethics.
What to include in the work experience section of a resume?
When listing previous jobs on your resume, make sure the experience applies to the job you want to get. Your work experience must correlate with the unique needs of that job and the employer. To understand what the employer wants, review the job listing and note down details like responsibilities and skills required. Then use this information to write your work experience such that it reflects the details in the job posting.
If you have no related experience, emphasise transferable skills gained from previous employment that will be useful in the new job. Let's say Fight Club Inc. (a boxing training company) needs an administrative officer that you're keen to apply for. However, you only have experience as a head chef in an urban kitchen. While managing kitchen staff and running a boxing training programme are different, they both require similar skill sets. For example, if you assigned shifts and monitored performance in your previous role, then you have planning and organisational skills that are useful in administration.
What should I write about my work experience?
When including information in the work experience section, list only relevant details of past employment. Here's a summary of what to include when writing your work history:
List all the jobs you've held up to this point. Adding every job is unnecessary, just focus on the most recent and most relevant. However, entry-level applicants may have to include most, if not all, of their past engagements, including volunteer positions.
While crafting the work experience, it's good to include the names of previous companies you've worked for. This allows the hiring manager to verify your experience. It even helps if you've worked with a well-known company, since it boosts your value.
Date of employment
Provide the specific duration of employment for each job listed in the experience section. Again, it helps to be honest in describing your period of employment. Even if you have significant gaps in employment, it may not affect your chances of employment, so long as you can highlight your skill and explain the reason for the gaps.
List your day-to-day roles in your previous engagement. Be creative when including information in this area; you want to be specific and interesting.
Some applicants include only their duties at a job. However, you can stand out by listing your milestones and achievements in your past jobs. When describing your achievements, be specific and provide verifiable information.
Look at the following examples of how applicants described an achievement (introduction of payroll management system):
“Introduced payroll management system that saved company money”
“Created payroll management system that reduced operational costs by 20%”
The second example is preferable, as it is more specific and quantifiable. This is what you should aim for in your work experience section.
If you won any awards or recognitions at your previous or current job, create a subsection under the work history portion to highlight them. Like your achievements, these awards can impress a prospective employer and increase your employment prospects.
Tips for writing your work experience section
When you master writing your work experience on your resume, you stand a greater chance of landing a job. Here are some tips to make your work experience section stand out:
Inspect for grammatical errors
Grammatical errors are the bane of any resume; they portray carelessness and poor attention to detail. To avoid error-filled prose in your resume, run it through a grammar checking tool.
There's only so much information you can include in a one-page resume, so you need to keep your job descriptions brief and straight to the point. Include only the most relevant details that match the employer's needs and position you as the ideal candidate for the job.
Show your unique qualities
It is important to highlight your job-relevant personal traits, strengths, and skills when writing your employment history. You want to include achievements, promotions, certificates, and recognitions.
Tailor your work history
Before listing any experience, ask yourself if it is beneficial or relevant to your prospective employer and their industry. Your work experience should show clients and companies what you can deliver to help them.
Should education or work experience go first on a resume?
Whether you include education or work experience first on your resume depends on your unique circumstances. If you have little relevant work experience, then start with your education. When your experience is limited, the best way to impress employers is to show off your academic achievements. Besides, good academic performance requires tenacity, planning, time management, and organisation—skills that employers desire.
If you have significant work experience, then start off with that before your education. Employers are attracted to your achievements, and that's what they see first on your resume. Placing it at the top of your resume increases the chances of the recruiting manager seeing your achievements, and this can improve your chances of getting an interview and landing the job.
How should work experience be listed on a resume?
There are three main methods of listing your work experience on a resume, including:
1. Reverse-chronological method
It is advisable to start with the most recent jobs when listing work experience on a resume. This is termed the reverse-chronological format and has typically worked well for job applicants. The reverse-chronological format is popular because it offers you a chance to impress the recruiting manager. For starters, it highlights your advancement and development in your profession. It also shows recruiters your most recent, and likely the most significant job position. If you use the functional format described below, include the job experience after your skills.
2. Functional method
The functional style focuses on your achievements and skills and places less emphasis on other details like position held or employment duration. When using the functional resume style, include only the employer's name and your achievements. You can leave out dates or include just the year of employment.
The functional style works best for people with little experience in the industry they are applying to.
3. Combination method
The other style for listing your work experience is to combine the achievements with day-to-day roles. This is the hybrid or combination format and works well for applicants for high-level positions.
Sample work experience on a resume
Here are some sample work experiences for resumes. Use them to guide you when writing your employment history:
NetPen Writing Services (August 2013—January 2020)
- Processed income and expenditure reports and reduced accounting errors by 90%
- Allocated funds for office supplies and recorded purchases accurately
- Reviewed company expenditure at intervals and reduced budget overspend by 20%
Basic Plumbing Corp. (March 2011—July 2013)
- Reconciled company accounts, reducing reconciliation errors by 30%
- Assisted with auditing accounts
- Handled data entry and saved company $5,000 by spotting mistakes in accounting data
Wanderfly Travel Agency, 2018
Sales Manager: Organised sales campaigns that increased company earnings by 10% in Q1, coordinated sales teams and assigned quotas, interacted with customers and built relations with valuable patrons.
Akia Tourism Inc., 2017
Sales Representative: Acquired and reached out to cold leads via cold calling, consistently hit quarterly sales quotas, collaborated with fellow sales reps to improve company sales performance.
Jones & Jane Corp., Chief Marketing Officer
- Plan, implement, and coordinate marketing campaigns
- Collaborate with sales and public relations units to achieve marketing objectives
- Launched a nationwide marketing campaign that grew company profits by 110%
Martha Graham Cosmetics, Marketing Intern
June 2019—January 2020
- Created copy for social media posts, emails, press releases, and other marketing materials
- Created written and visual content for various marketing channels
- Assisted in brainstorming creative marketing strategies
- Awarded “Best Marketing Intern of 2019"