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Your professional work experience section is the meat and potatoes of your resume.
Employers ask for a resume pretty much for the sole purpose of reviewing your work history.
How many years did you work? Where? What did you do there?
That’s why your work experience on a resume has to be flawless.
But it’s just a bunch of bullet points detailing duties from previous jobs, right?
Far from it.
In fact, your professional experience section should be a shining review of all your best achievements. And on the best resumes, work experience tells a story.
But that’s hard to do if you have no story to tell. It’s also hard if you’re just not a storyteller.
That’s why this guide will show you:
What is work history?
Your work history is all the jobs you’ve held over the course of your life. And your resume is where you give a detailed account of your work history.
Now, does that mean that all your work experience needs to go on your resume?
Professionals pick and choose their most relevant work experience for their resumes.
Professionals include every job they’ve ever had - everything but the kitchen sink.
Relevant work experience is any job you’ve held that is similar to the job you’re applying for now. Let’s say you’re applying for a position as a race car driver.
Relevant work experience is any racing job you’ve held in the past.
Relevant work experience includes your days as a belly dancer.
For those of you with quite a bit of professional experience, you know it’s best to ignore irrelevant positions.
If you were a belly dancer for five years, you need to add it. The point is to match the jobs, skills, and achievements to the job on offer.
It’s best to create and keep a master resume to keep track of everything.
Your master resume is where you tell the saga of your work history. Write down every job, every duty, and every achievement on your master resume.
Later, use your master resume to cherry pick the most relevant jobs and positions for your actual resume.
Also, your sample work experience section should only include paid work.
Paid work can include:
Now, let’s switch gears.
What do you put on a resume if you have no work experience?
If that’s true for you, you may want to add everything and anything that you can define as “work.” And that includes non-paid work.
Let’s say you did have a lot of internships and summer work as a student.
In that case, add non-paid work to a section titled:
To list volunteer experience on a resume, add a separate section titled “Volunteer Work.”
Remember that volunteer work and summer work isn’t professional experience.
Professional experience is work that you do that is in line with your profession. So, if you’re a nurse, your professional experience includes all the nursing jobs you’ve had.
Before you gain professional experience, it’s okay to add other work experience to your job history section. Once you gain professional experience, your other work needs to go elsewhere on your resume.
The thing that hiring managers are looking for in your work experience section is proof that you can do the job. So, no matter what you put as a work experience example make sure it translates.
Pro Tip: Where does your work experience go on your resume? Put it under your resume summary if you’re a seasoned professional. If you’re a student, put your education section first and your job experience section second.
Still not sure what work experience to put on your resume? Not sure what all goes on a resume in the first place? Read our guide: “What to Put on a Resume to Make It Perfect [Tips & Examples]”
The first thing you’ll want to do is label your work experience section:
Make the title stand out by either using bold, caps, and/or italics. Keep the font and font size consistent with the rest of your resume subheadings.
Start with your current job or your most recent position. You will continue to add relevant jobs in reverse-chronological order to the work experience on your resume.
Underneath each job, you’ll add bullet points itemizing your responsibilities and achievements. How many bullet points per job?
You can have up to six bullet points under each job but add more or less as necessary. Remember, it’s ideal to keep your resume under two pages.
So, your current job should have the most bullet points and the most detail.
As you start to add older jobs, you can limit the number of duties and details. Hiring managers care most about what you’re doing now and not what you were doing five years ago.
So, go into detail in the beginning. Only add the most relevant duties and best achievements as you go back in time.
Whatever layout you decide, keep it consistent. If you left align dates - left align all dates.
Company / Dates
Consistency in the layout is key. Don’t make recruiters search and guess. Send them the message that you’re organized and that you pay attention to detail.
Also, avoid the first person and pay attention to your tenses. If it’s your current job, use the present tense. If it’s a past position, use the past tense.
Pro Tip: You may want to consider adding a company description for companies that are not well known. Did you work for Jujulolo? No one knows what that is. Add a brief description.
Have a lot of work experience? Need to write a resume with no work experience? Don’t know which resume format to use in either case? Read our guide: “3 Resume Formats: How to Choose the Best One [Examples]”
Now that you know where things go, you’ll need to know how to write each bullet point.
The first thing you’ll want to do is start with an action verb. Next, make a quantifiable point. Finally, follow up with a specific task.
Action Word: Negotiate
Quantifiable Point: Saved the company $5,000 annually on office supply costs.
Specific Task: Order office supplies for the company.
Negotiate with office supply vendors, saving the company $5,000 annually.
Responsible for buying office supplies.
Sometimes it’s not possible to quantify achievements. Sometimes you need to list regular duties. At the same time, ask yourself:
Anything you can show in numbers, do it. Numbers will attract the attention of the reader.
Now, let’s see a real life example of professional work experience on a resume. Let’s say you want to be a hair stylist.
First, read the job description to find out what work experience to include.
If you’re applying for this job, you have to have at least one year of work experience as a hair stylist. So, what would that entry look like on your resume?
Pardon My French Manicure and Hair Salon
Notice how the candidate leads with a title and working dates instead of the name of the company. The result? The hiring manager notices the candidate has the required work experience.
The candidate starts every bullet point with an action word, some of which show up in the job offer. For example, “engage,” and “provide.” It’s a good idea to use keyword phrases from the employment description.
The candidate also used “prepare hair stations before and after each service” and “engage in conversations” among other things.
Repeating the hiring manager’s language will make you sound familiar. Also, it helps Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software read your resume.
Next, notice that the candidate has not only listed duties:
But the candidate has also listed achievements:
Finally, notice that the candidate uses the present tense. The formatting is consistent, and the number of bullet points is six. What more could the candidate do?
Some of the bullet points are a bit long. If the candidate’s resume spills over one page, it will be best to cut a point or two. You can also rewrite points to make the entry more concise.
Pro Tip: You should base your choice of duties and achievements on what you find in the job offer. Start your list with your highest quantifiable achievement.
Now that you have your work experience on your resume, how do you add everything else? Check out our complete guide on how to write a resume for every profession: “How to Make a Resume: A Step-by-step Guide (+30 Examples)”
Were you ever guilty of writing this on your resume at some point:
Look familiar? If you’re starting every bullet point with “responsible for,” you need to stop.
Yes, it’s a hard habit to ditch.
But that’s where action words save the day.
Let’s say that your job offer calls for leadership skills.
Again, don’t forget to use the correct tense.
Pro Tip: Try to pick precise action words. Let’s say you were in charge of organizing an event. Instead of “organized event” maybe you “hosted” or “orchestrated.”
Want a complete list of action words for your resume? Still not sure how to use them? Read our guide: “+80 Examples of Resume Action Words for Every for Every Profession”
The first thing you’ll need to do is identify your achievements. And that may be a bit harder than it sounds.
Now, you’ll want to use the PAR (Problem Action Result) approach when you write down your achievements.
In situation P (Problem), I did A (Action) which led to R (Result).
So, let’s say you’re a bartender.
Problem: Dip in number of customers coming to the bar.
Action: Developed a set of 6 new concept cocktails.
Result: The new cocktails got media attention resulting in a 50% surge in brand awareness and 120% surge in the number of people coming to the bar.
Designed 6 concept cocktails generating media coverage, a 50% surge in brand awareness, and a 120% increase in patronage for The Bang Bang Bar.
Another thing you’ll want to do is have a look at your job offer. Do you notice any skills that repeat or any keywords like “outgoing,” or “innovative?”
You’ll want to add these to your bullet points in your work experience section as well.
Pro Tip: Not every bullet point needs to be an achievement. Mix it up with your duties that show off your best skills. Plus, make sure you add duties that prove you can handle the new job.
Want to see examples of achievements for every profession? Still not sure how to add them to your resume? Read our guide: “Achievements to Put on a Resume - Complete Guide (+30 Examples)”
Here is where things may get a bit tricky.
Let’s say you were promoted. Congratulations!
But how do you put that work experience on a resume? Especially if it happened a few times over many years.
Do you create a new entry for every new position?
Start by naming the company.
Next, decide if your duties were the same or different after your promotion. The same? Then you’ll want to stack your job titles and add one set of bullet points.
Store Manager (January 2013 - Present)
Assistant Manager (January 2012 - January 2013)
Were your duties vastly different? Then you’ll want to add each title as a separate subheading followed by a list of bullet points.
Store Manager (January 2013 - Present)
Assistant Manager (January 2012 - January 2013)
Cashier (March 2010 - January 2012)
The bullet point describing your promotion should show what led up to you receiving it. That way the person reading your resume knows that you weren’t promoted because there was no one else to do the job.
Here’s an example:
Earned promotion following superior performance during six months of management training.
Remember that showing your career progression impresses hiring managers. So, you need to make it neat and easy for them to read.
Pro Tip: Let’s say that you had a break between roles at the same company and worked someplace else in the meantime. In that case, you’ll want to add the name of the company twice.
Still not sure how to list promotions on a resume? Want to see how add multiple positions to your work experience section? Read our guide: "How to Show Promotions & Multiple Positions on Your Resume"
The work experience you put on your resume is the thing that can make or break your chance of landing your dream job.
You need to get it just right. If you do nothing else, add achievements and choose action words to kick off your bullet points. You need to prove to the hiring manager that hiring you is going to be valuable.
If you can do that, you’re already well on your way to landing your dream job.