Artwork by: Martoz
Looking to highlight your work experience the right way on your resume? Read our step-by-step guide to creating a winning work experience section!
The jewel in the crown on your resume is arguably the work experience section. If we compare your work experience to a three course meal in your favorite restaurant, it’s the main course! While a tasty starter (professional profile) may draw you in, and the latter sections of your resume can provide a sweet ending, your main course/work experience is the star of the show.
Hiring managers spend a mere six or seven seconds on the initial review of your resume and they tend to zero in on your work experience section first. If you don’t hit the mark here, you’re probably not going to progress further in the recruitment process. In this article we explore:
What is a resume work experience section?
How to create a compelling resume work experience section
Resume work experience formats
Examples of great resume work experience sections
In a recent Forbes article, bullet points are described as one of the key elements to include in your resume work experience section. In particular, quantifying your most relevant and impressive achievements in a bullet-pointed list is one way to catch the hiring manager’s eye.
Your resume experience section outlines your work history, with specifics about your job titles, employers, dates of employment, core responsibilities, skills acquired, and achievements. This is your opportunity to tell the hiring manager why your experience is perfect for the advertised role and showcase your achievements in the workplace.
If you’re a recent graduate or newly qualified in your field you can include relevant freelance work, volunteer roles, and internships to reinforce your suitability for the role. You can also include details of other practical work experience you have acquired, but focus on highlighting the transferable skills and experience in relation to your target role.
For example, if you worked in a part-time server role to support your studies in project management, you could highlight your strong organization, customer service, and troubleshooting skills. These are all key qualities that will make a great project manager.
Bearing in mind that hiring managers are likely to review your work experience section in the very first scan of your resume, you need to quickly grab their attention. Balancing detailed information with relevancy is critical. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the specific information required in your work experience section:
Detail the full, official company name for each company you have worked for, starting with your most recent work experience first, then working backwards in reverse chronological order. In terms of location, you don’t need to include the full company address, just the city and state.
Focus on more recent and relevant employment experience to ensure you keep the resume direct and succinct. If you start to list your entire work history, you risk the hiring manager zoning out from information overload. Aim to cover a period of no more than 10 years as this will be of most interest to a recruiter.
Provide the start date and end date of your employment with each company in a month-year format (e.g. May 2018 - Jan 2022). If you have short gaps between some jobs, then to cover these gaps you can simply list years of employment. Make sure you only select one of these options for consistency, rather than having a mixture of month-year format on some roles and years of employment on others.
Include your full official job title for each company. For example, if you’re a Content Marketing Manager, make sure you specify this rather than just listing your job title as Marketing Manager.
It can be tempting to slightly change your job title so that it fits the job posting more closely. Try to avoid this approach as it can be viewed as dishonest or misleading if a hiring manager contacts your employer for a reference at a future date.
Here is your opportunity to tell the hiring manager about your skills and experience, but also what value you can provide to their organization. Check the job posting for specific experience required and shine the spotlight on how you meet the brief as much as possible.
You don’t want the hiring manager to zone out when reading this section either, so use action verbs at the start of each sentence, such as “Delivered,” “Boosted” or “Optimized” and use keywords from your target job posting(s) where possible for maximum impact.
Significant job contributions and achievements should be bullet-pointed under each relevant role so they really stand out. Think about your work experience section as your main sales pitch, so don’t be afraid to toot your own horn and really highlight your accomplishments.
This could include being promoted, receiving an award, securing recognition from management for outstanding performance in a particular area, or improving an internal system or process.
If you’re wondering how best to structure your job experience section now that you have all your information prepared, you have three main options:
Chronological resumes are the most popular format, where work history is listed starting with your most recent job first, then working back in time to cover earlier roles. If you have several years experience in your chosen industry, then this is an ideal format to showcase your career progression.
A functional resume (or “skills-based” resume) puts the spotlight on your skills and achievements. In a functional format you can categorize and provide more information on core skill areas, then simply list previous employers and employment periods. If you’re a recent graduate or have a considerable gap in employment then a functional format is an option. Be advised that this format does not work well with ATS scans and could limit your opportunities.
The combination format (or “hybrid” format) blends the main features of the chronological resume and functional resume format. This format includes a skills section that groups together skills into categories, followed by a chronological work experience section. Combination formats are ideal if you’re looking for a career change, have high-level technical skills, or are a senior-level candidate with a diverse range of skills and experience.
Here are five examples of compelling work experience sections across different roles and industries, including chronological and functional formats:
Select a chronological format if you have several years experience in your chosen field and are looking to progress. Here is a direct and impactful work experience summary example for a role in office administration:
Big Talent Agency, Sometown, AZ
Office Administrator, Oct 2016 − May 2019
Trusted to coordinate complex domestic and international travel arrangements for executives, including Vice Presidents. Organized calendars and schedules to align with executive needs and company goals. Trained administrative staff on policies and procedures. Created compelling presentations for company meetings.
Regularly acknowledged by leadership for timeliness and attention to detail.
Spearheaded transition from paper invoices and DOS-driven Peachtree to QuickBooks and Point-of- Sale system, training all employees in the new systems.
Demonstrated flexibility and superb work ethic in enthusiastically taking on special projects in addition to primary office administration responsibilities.
Technical gurus need to showcase their high-level skills and expertise, so make sure you highlight these if they are specific to each role in the work experience section. Another option is to use the combination format, where you can highlight your technical skills, followed by a chronological resume summary.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT, Miami, FL
Software Engineer, 07/2018 – Present
Core Technologies: Jetbrains IntelliJ, Struts2, Spring framework, JPA 2.1 with Hibernate, CSS3, JQuery and JqGrid, Oracle, Linux server side, Windows 7, Weblogic
Analyzed and validated selected delimiters and column counts to reduce errors from a previous high of 247 down to only three.
Developed and implemented a use case to localize a remote file with FTP, validate the file, and subsequently submit the file to a database import script.
Teacher resumes can be tricky in terms of detailing specific achievements and quantifying your positive impact as a learning provider. One great option for the work experience section in this situation is to blend responsibilities and any achievements in a bullet pointed list:
PULASKI SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, Little Rock, AR
Teacher, 2016 – Present
Hold concurrent classroom and administrative responsibilities, delivering excellence in educational program management to support student success.
Plan and implement an engaging science curriculum for high school students, including lesson planning and ongoing assessments.
Maintain confidential student records and communicate with parents regarding academic progress and behavioral concerns.
Harness technology to successfully increase student engagement and generate a population of critical readers, thinkers, and writers.
Showcasing your wins in a resume work experience section is vital, particularly if you work in sales or a related field. You can also include a brief synopsis about your employer if they may be a smaller operation and not well known, but equally if they are a prestigious company:
MARKET DELI & CONVENIENCE ∙ Tulsa, OK ∙ 2014 – Present
A franchise distributor for Deitz & Watson, Philadelphia selling high quality deli meats
Direct and monitor progress towards meeting and exceeding sales plans and forecasts for the Central Oklahoma region, with 40+ clients, ranging from SMEs to major supermarket chains, annual sales of $1.4M, and projected to hit $2.2M in 2023. Develop sales strategies, forecasts, and market analyses to identify new business opportunities. Conduct sales calls, deliver product education, and provide leadership, training, and support to sales teams.
Developed five new accounts with the potential for $1.1M of new business.
Optimized planning and forecasting activities by collaborating with distributors to understand the pull and push strategies for marketing.
Built and maintained a large network of customers and key industry players to assist with lead generation for major new contracts.
If you’re a recent graduate, have long gaps in employment history, or looking for a career switch, then a functional format is a choice (keep in mind it may not work well with ATS scans). Here you can focus on freelance gigs, volunteer roles, as well as transferable skills and experience, to target your dream job:
Conceptualized, created and delivered engaging copy on a freelance basis, including regular publications in Forbes and the Entrepreneur.
Boosted online presence and audience engagement by 50% utilizing social media marketing tools, such as Instagram analytics and auto-posting.
Collaborated with writers, editors, and managers to create unique stories.
CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPERIENCE
Utilized communication skills to drive profit and enhance company reputation as a Customer Service Representative in the retail sector.
Build productive relationships with clients, resolve complex issues, and won customer loyalty by taking ownership of customer needs and resolving problems.
FREELANCE, Chicago, IL, Writer 2020-2022
VARIOUS RETAIL STORES, Chicago, IL, Customer Service Roles 2015-2017
ABC COMPANY, Chicago, IL, Finance Assistant 2012-2015
Need help finding the right kind of resume for you? Check out our resume examples page!
Work experience is arguably the most important section on a resume, so make sure this section is well formatted, relevant, and compelling to grab the hiring manager’s attention.
Ensure you tick all the boxes in terms of required information: Company information, job title, employment dates, core responsibilities, and achievements.
Tailor your resume work experience section to the job description. If you have little or no experience, consider including freelance gigs, volunteer work and/or internships.
Chronological formats are the most popular, but combination formats offer a great option as well. Check out the Resume Builder on Career.io to get started!
Helen is an experienced freelance writer with a strong background in job search and career advice, in particular resume best practices, interviewing, and personal and professional development. Before Career.io, Helen worked for high-profile recruitment firms and in the field of HR management, so she has a strong sense of what recruiters are looking for in a potential employee as well as experience in supporting career growth and development.