One of the most important parts of your application is writing your resume's work experience section. This is where you lay out your experience and accomplishments to capture the attention of a potential employer.
While each of the three resume formats presents work experience slightly differently, there's no such thing as a resume without this critical section. So, whether you are a recent graduate, a mid-career professional seeking career growth, or an executive, here we will show you how to create a work experience section that highlights your most critical qualifications and proficiencies.
What is a work experience section and why is it important?
The work experience section of your resume shows employers the job titles you have held in the past, the type of work you performed in each role, and shows off the arc of your career progress. The best work experience sections also give hiring managers a clear idea of your strengths by showing off the positive impact your work has had.
For applicants using a combination or chronological resume format, this section is often examined closely by recruiters. For that reason, it's important to make it count.
Write a resume work experience section in 4 simple steps
- Get organized.
Preparation is key to writing an effective work experience section. Start by collecting the basic information you'll need to list for each of your jobs, including position title, company name, company location, and dates of employment. Do some online research to make sure all of your information is correct.
- List your work experience in reverse-chronological order.
Your current or most recent role should be at the top of your list, with your oldest role at the bottom. This allows employers to see at a glance how long you've been employed, your career progression and whether there are any major holes in your employment history.Write out your job duties. For each role, start by making a simple bullet list of job responsibilities. Think about your daily, weekly, monthly and even annual duties.
- Make job duties dynamic.
Think about what you are most proud of from each role on your list and mention that at the top of your bullet points. For example, if as an office manager you were charged with stocking and organizing office supplies and you improved the system, mention it in your work experience section.How you write about a task is critical. Changing a simple entry, like, "Responsible for organizing the supply closet" to "Spearheaded a major reorganization of office supply closets to simplify the monthly inventory process" makes a big difference. The second version uses an action verb and helps hiring managers see not just the work task you completed, but the leadership role you took and the results your work generated.
- Add in metrics and numbers.
Numbers are eye-catching and show a recruiter the positive impact of your work. Go back to the list of job duties and accomplishments you have listed and think about them in terms of numbers. Almost every job presents this opportunity. Here are some ideas for using resume metrics:How many customer emails did you respond to daily?What percentage did sales increase during your tenure?How many followers did your company gain thanks to your social media skills?Where were you able to save the company money?How many cars did you repair each month?As the adage goes: show, don't tell. Adding these metrics is a much more effective way to get a hiring manager's attention than just a description of general duties because it quantifies your accomplishments in a way that is easy to understand.
5 tips for writing your work experience section
- Customize your work experience.
Many employers today use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to weed out unqualified applicants. An ATS scans resumes for keywords that are typically pulled straight from the job ad. It is absolutely critical that you tailor your work experience section to each job by identifying these keywords from the job ad. You significantly increase your chances of securing an interview when you take this step. Take care to use the same wording as the job ad, too. For example, if the job ad calls for "strong written communication," write that on your resume instead of "excellent writing skills." An ATS won't recognize those as the same skill.
- Place the most important information at the top.
Don't make hiring managers work to find the information they need. Curate each entry in your work experience section to feature the most critical information in the top bullet points.
- Use powerful language.
Remember, recruiters sometimes read dozens of resumes in a day. Often, they are reading the same dull language over and over again. Use strong, clear action verbs to start each bullet point. This will help elevate ordinary duties, responsibilities and accomplishments in all of your job entries and make your resume stand out.
- Be consistent with tense.
Write in the present tense for your current job but use the past tense for all previous roles. Doing so orients the reader in time, plus it shows that you have an eye for detail.
- Only include the essential information.
Resumes should be one page for applicants with less than 10 years of experience and up to two pages for job seekers with a decade or more of work experience. For experienced applicants, that requires brevity. Give enough details about each role to help a hiring manager understand your qualifications but don't list mundane information about each role. Your resume real estate is valuable. Make every word count.
Work experience section examples by experience level
There are many ways to demonstrate that you've helped the company solve its problems and achieve its goals, even if you have no direct experience in the role you seek. Below, we offer work experience content examples that can be used by applicants at every professional level.
- "Restocked display cases with attractive arrangements to promote specialty food items like bagels and muffins, reducing food waste 30%."
- "Performed administrative tasks to streamline organizational effectiveness amongst a four-person team."
- "Managed administrative logistics of events planning, including contract signing, fee collection, event booking and event promotions for 13 venues."
- "Assisted eight internal staff members with clerical and administrative needs to maximize efficiency and team productivity."
- "Prepared branding packages for 5 new product lines, including point of purchase displays, marketing materials and product packages."
- "Assessed, troubleshot and applied fixes for individual hardware and software issues across a 50-person company."
- "Built effective channel partnerships to enhance company-wide sales 38% and drive group performance."
- "Oversaw a $400,000 budget and all purchasing needs for an automotive company."
- "Experienced in the planning and instruction of various lessons for classes of 15+ students."
- "Reduced expenses by renegotiating vendor contracts to eliminate waste and boost cost savings 47%."
Work experience sections by resume format
The length and detail of your work experience will vary based on which resume format you choose. There are three basic resume formats, each of which works for a different type of job seeker. Below, we explore the role the work experience section plays in each resume format.
In combination and chronological resumes, the work experience section is very important as it becomes the place where you can include details, such as metrics, to quantify your achievements. In the skills-based functional resume, the work experience section is far less prominent.
A chronological resume is perfect for applicants whose goal it is to showcase a long work history, an impressive career trajectory or significant professional achievements.
Who should use this resume format: Mid-career and executive-level applicants.
How work experience should appear on this resume format:
Retail Specialist, 05/2018 to 11/2020
Larsen MacColl Partners – Hartford, CT
- Drove team revenue totals by bringing in over $10,000 in sales.
- Regularly met or exceeded special targets, such as special donations and specific product promotions.
- Increased credit card applications by 23% in 2019.
A combination resume format allows applicants to showcase both the most impressive details of their work histories and a stellar skill set, making it a good choice for a variety of job seekers.
Who should use this resume format: Entry-level applicants with some relevant work experience, such as an internship; mid-career professionals who want to show off both skills and detailed work experience; and applicants who seek a career change.
How work experience should appear on this resume format:
Marketing Director, 04/2016 to Current
Standex International Co. – Garden City, NJ
- Devise and deploy online marketing plans with effective SEO.
- Increased audience engagement 18% through social media and viral video campaign strategies in 2019.
- Capitalized on industry and marketplace trends to strategize marketing solutions and enhance business operations by 15%.
The functional resume is entirely skills-based, making it perfect for those who are just entering the workforce, have long gaps in their work history, or who want to highlight skills and downplay their work experience for other reasons.
Who should use this format: Entry-level applicants, those with gaps in their employment histories, freelance and gig economy workers, and other job seekers who don't have relevant work experience.
How work experience should appear on this resume format:
Painter, 07/2019 to Current
Disney Meetings & Events – Anaheim, CA
Driver, 05/2017 to 07/2019
Uber – Anaheim, CA
5 ways a resume builder can help you write your work experience section
Here's how our Resume Builder can help you craft a compelling work experience section:
- Content suggestions
- Job-specific duties
- Keyword recommendations
- Suggested metrics
- Automatic document formatting
Below are three frequently asked questions about the work experience section of a resume.
What qualifies as work experience?
Your aim is to inspire the potential employer to contact you, and everything in your resume should be aimed at landing the interview. That means you should stay current and concise. List work, volunteer or community service experiences that are relevant to the job you are applying for and best highlight the breadth of your experiences. You should start with the most recent or current position and move backward from there, focusing on only the first 10 years or less of your career history.
Can I put volunteer work under work experience?
Yes. Volunteer work, extracurricular activities and school projects are great things to include in a resume if you are applying for your first job or don't have a lot of experience. Employers want to know how you gained knowledge related to the job you're applying to, so including volunteer experience, your transferable skills, and emphasizing your education will help them see what you bring to the table.
How do you write a resume with little or no work experience?
Even if you have no actual work experience, you may have experience from volunteering, school activities or relevant hobbies that can show employers achievements and transferable skills that meet their requirements. A long as it relates to the job and you derived relevant experience, you can cite it on your resume. Remember, you don't have to delve as much into your work experience in a skills-based resume. Instead, your education and transferable skills will be the highlight.