The most important and valuable section of your resume is most definitely the work experience section. This is where you give details of your past jobs and your responsibilities, and it’ll probably make or break your application.
You’re going up against potentially hundreds of other candidates; if you want to get noticed you need to show what you’ve achieved, not just what you’ve done.
Here, we’re going to tell you about what your work experience section is, why employers want to see it in your resume, and give you some hints and tips for making your experience section sparkle so hiring managers just won’t be able to ignore it.
What’s a Work History Section?
When you talk to an employer, they’re more than likely going to tell you that the work experience section is the most important part of your resume.
So they can understand where you’ve worked in the past, a recruiter is likely going to jump to the work experience section straight away.
Your work history section is probably the key to you getting a call back for an interview.
You need to show the potential employer that you have the right skills and experience to be competent in the role, this is what your work experience section is going to do.
That’s not the only thing…
This is where you’re able to show off your achievements in previous jobs, making you stand out from the crowd. If you can differentiate yourself from the rest of the applicants, you’re much more likely to get to the interview stage.
What Do I Put in My Resume Employment History Section?
There are a few different approaches you can take when compiling the section, but the end result will still be to have a list of your past experience that’s relevant to the role you want to land.
Your focus should be on professional experience, but…
It’s ok to add awards, accolades, voluntary work, community experience, as well as post-graduate study and research and skills, plus your college education.
This is how you get it right:
Start by gathering all of the data about each past employer and dump it all on a page. This should include the name and location of the company, when you worked there and your role, plus list some bullet points for what you did and what you were responsible for at each job. You can refine this information when you look at the job listing.
Here are the absolute essentials of what needs to go into your work history section:
- The name of the company that you were employed by;
- Where you worked; usually the city and state the company was in;
- Your position or job title, if you were promoted in the job, use the final position within the company;
- The dates that you were in the job for in the format of Month/Year – Month/Year;
- A description of your responsibilities in the form of a bulleted list.
You’ll probably expand on the details in the bullets later but get this information noted down as a starting point.
When it comes to formatting, there aren’t any hard and fast rules, but you will want to use a resume template that’s eye-catching for the reader.
Pro-TipWhen you’re blessed with a resume with a long work history, don’t go into details about every single job you’ve had. There’ll be too much information for your employer to take in; only list roles that are relevant for the job you’re going for.
Writing a Professional Experience Section
Keeping everything clear, concise, and easy to follow is key to writing your work experience section. Here’s a process you can follow to make sure your work history section is up to scratch:
- Pay attention to the job description, highlight the parts of the job that match your skills and abilities. Whether this is soft and hard skills, tasks you’ve done before, the educational requirements, and anything else that’s relevant to you.
- Think about the two or three most important achievements. Refer back to the keywords in the job description and come up with things you did that really made a splash in your previous jobs. Recruiters care less about your responsibilities and more about the value you’ve added to a company.
- Detail what you achieved with numbers and specifics. If at all possible, give facts, figures, and numbers to quantify the value you added in your past work.
When looking and giving specific measures for your achievements, there are three main ways you can present them:
- People: have you led a group or team? Did you make a task easier so less people were needed to complete it?
- Time: where there processes that you made happen faster? Did you smash a deadline? How much time did you save the company?
- Money: how much money were you able to save the company? How much revenue did you generate in a sales period?
Ready to check out some resume work history examples? Here’s how it should look in practice:
Journalist and Anchor
Daily Planet, Metropolis, OH
- Pulitzer prize-winning journalist in a regional newspaper
- Broke story of corruption of senators, city-level money laundering, and gang activities at Metropolis docks
- Lead anchor for WGBS evening news, achieving average ratings of more than 1 million
- Innovated newsgathering procedures, ensuring first coverage of crime and justice stories across Metropolis
- Key achievement: Awarded internationally recognized journalism award, the Pulitzer Prize, leading to an increase in website traffic of 36%
It’s not just about writing what you did every day or week…
Your work experience section is going to shine when you tell the reader about your accomplishments and what made you stand out in previous jobs. Make sure you include any awards and recognition you earned too.
Always keep in mind…
Every single bullet point in your resume needs to be relevant to the job you want.
Where Does Employment History Fit in My Resume?
There are different types of resumes, and what your employment history section does and how important it is depends on the style you go for.
Different stages in life call for different styles of resume, the main ones being reverse-chronological, functional, combinational, or targeted resumes. Here’s a quick rundown of where to place your employment history in each:
|Resume format||How to format your employment history||Who needs to use is|
|Reverse-chronological||Write your most recent role first in your list of jobs. This format is by far the most common and shows clear career progression||It’s the perfect resume format for long work history details and is best for a consistent period of employment over a few years.|
|Functional||List your skills and achievements with reference to the job description that you’re applying for. A simple list of employer names and working dates is all you need for the work history section.||Recent graduates or those with big employment gaps can use this to focus on skills and achievements rather than job roles held.|
|Combination||A flexible format that lets you give your work history in a style that really highlights your strengths. Write it with a summary of your professional experience and then a list of your skills and accomplishments.||Applications for management and executive-level positions really benefit from using this resume format.|
|Targeted||This resume style is specifically aimed at showing why your experience and skills fit the exact job you’re applying for. Using this, give a summary of your work experience and add it after the education and skills sections.||When you want to highlight your relevant skills, but have gaps in employment history that you want to smooth over, use a targeted resume.|
To help you choose which resume format to pick, we’ve got another handy article for you.
Pro-TipYour work history section is just one of the key elements of writing your resume. For instance, there is also a resume objective that plays a huge role in whether your cv is successful or not. To get the full lowdown on everything you need to know about how to write a great resume objective, check out our other helpful article.
What If I Have Poor or No Work History?
When you have a resume with poor work history, it can feel like a huge challenge to get your resume completed.
Here’s what you need to do.
- For entry-level candidates, start by making a list of all the relevant work that you’ve been paid for. You can include freelance gigs, temporary roles, internships, and other independent projects for which you received payment.
- If you’ve got no work experience, put in your list any work you’ve done, whether paid or unpaid. You can list volunteering roles, working for student organizations, and unpaid internships you’ve completed.
Pro-TipIt doesn’t matter if your work history isn’t great, you can still write a stand-out resume. Go through the job listing carefully; pick out the skills they want and the “must-have” requirements and target your accomplishments at these. Having a strong resume objective statement is going to help a lot too, here’s how to write a great resume.
Mistakes to Avoid on Your Resume Work History
So far, we’ve given you all the information you need to put together a really strong employment history section for your resume. But there’s plenty of room for error when writing the section too. Read on to understand what not to do in your work history section for your resume.
- Don’t start your employment history more than half-way down page one. Get your work history on to your resume early. Recruiters are looking for this information, don’t make them work for it. Keep it clear, obvious, and really easy to spot. Top half, page one; nowhere else.
- Don’t rush writing your work history so you can focus efforts elsewhere in your resume. Your work history is the most important section; don’t neglect it! 40-50% of your time should go into this section, it needs to be exceptional to get to the interview stage so don’t rush through it.
- Don’t leave out facts, numbers, stats, and accomplishments. “Responsible for…” isn’t the phrase a potential employer is looking for on your resume. Your reader wants to know exactly how you’ve added value in the past, so go for lines like “Designed and implemented a program to decrease order processing timelines, removing 12 hours from a 36 hour turnaround time”
- Don’t focus on you; your resume is for your future employer. Target your resume to what the employer wants to know about, rather than what you’re proud of. A restaurant owner wants to know the cuisines you’re experienced in, not how many calls you handled every day in your old customer service job.
Everything that goes on your resume is important, but you really should pay special attention to your work experience section. Make sure that you tailor it as close as possible to the job you’re applying for and get it in the right place and right format on your resume.
A well-written work experience section is the difference between getting an interview for the job you want or continuing the search for the next opportunity.
In brief, here’s a final rundown of the steps to writing your resume job history:
- Open with your most recent job role, work backward from there
- List your last job title, the company name and location, and your working dates
- Give a summary of your experience in no more than five bullet points
- Make your work experience section specific to the job posting, tell them what they want to know, not what you want to tell them
- Use strong action words and give numbers, facts, and figures whenever you can
You need to show the person looking to employ you that you can give them results, you do this by showing the results you’ve produced in past work. If you can demonstrate your value they’re going to want to meet you for an interview to learn more.
It’s vital that you really show off your accomplishments and give solid examples of the value you offer to the company.
A fantastic work history is an amazing place to start, but by itself, it’s not going to be enough. To really lift your chances of landing your dream job, you need to be using one of our ready-to-use resume templates!
If you want to start creating your perfect resume instantly, just sign up for your free SweetCV account where you can create and manage multiple resumes with ease!