Work Experience on a Resume - How to List It Right
Imagine you’re an HR manager for a second, and someone sends in their resume for you to go over.
What section do your eyes jump to first?
If you guessed work experience, then you’re right.
And if you spot a few relevant keywords in the past job experience section, then you’d continue on their background, contact information, and so on.
When applying for a job, the number one thing most recruiters want to know is if you can really do it right.
And one way to know that for sure is to look at your past work experience.
So, we know two things: most HR managers spend on average 6 seconds to go through a resume. And the work experience is one of the most important sections you can have.
Where does that leave us with?
Basically, if you want to get that call back for the interview, your work experience section really needs to be top notch.
Now, when it comes to writing a resume - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Meaning, other sections need to be up to par as well.
But for now, we’re going to focus on arguably the most important section of any resume - the work experience.
Here’s what you need to know:
- How to Put Work Experience on a Resume [W/ Template]
- How to Stand Out with Your Work Experience Section
- 5 Real-Life Work Experience Examples (For Different Fields)
- How to List Other Resume Sections
But before we dive right in, you’ll need the right tool to build your resume.
Want to save yourself the headache of trying to craft the perfect resume section-by-section from the ground up?
You can get a head start and use our resume builder instead.
Our templates were developed with recruiters and employers in mind, so that your resume format is easy to follow and scan.
How to Put Work Experience on a Resume [W/ Template]
The work experience section is where you get to really sell yourself, so you have to make sure you really iron out the details and the formatting makes sense.
This is where you get to show off your best qualities.
Because, if the recruiter is going to pick between 10 different candidates, you know for a fact they’re going to narrow down the list starting with the most relevant experience.
To get your work experience to really shine on your resume, first, we’re going to cover the basic formatting, and then get to the best practices on how to stand out with your work experience section.
What’s that? You don’t have any experience to begin with? No problem!
Check out our no experience resume guide if you’re trying to get your first professional job.
Now, here’s what you need to know about structuring your work experience section.
A good resume tells a story of who you are, what your background is, and why you’re the perfect candidate for the job at hand.
Now, that doesn’t mean you should tell your whole life story, because after all, the ideal resume length is still 1 page.
Instead, this is where you sell yourself, brag about your past achievements and responsibilities.
When listing your previous job roles, you should follow a reverse-chronological order (though, also consider other resume formats).
To make sure your resume is easy to follow, we recommend going with the standard work experience format, which looks a bit like this:
- Job Title and Position
- Company Name / Description / Location
- Dates Employed
- Responsibilities and Achievements
Or, here’s how it looks like in practice:
Now, let’s explain what goes in each part:
Job Title / Position
Your job title goes first.
When the HR manager scans through your resume, this will most likely be the first section they’ll check.
Be prepared and make it easy for them to find this.
There is not a lot to say here except that your job title should be accurate to what you did.
To make things simple, you can use the exact name you saw in the original job ad.
- Digital Marketing Expert
- Online Marketing Magician
Company Name, Description, and Location
If the position checks out, they’ll want to know more details.
If the company isn’t famous, you can also describe in 1-2 sentences. And you should always mention the location of the firm, too.
Try to keep the total section under 3-5 jobs and only remove other job experiences if you’re running out of space and absolutely can’t remove any other part of your resume.
Achievements and Responsibilities
With achievements, you should list any specific change you made happen (we’ll explore how to do this more in-depth below) that the HR manager can apply to their company.
When possible, you should always list accomplishments over responsibilities.
After all, the HR manager already knows what your responsibilities are - they’ve probably gone through similar resumes over 100 times now with the same bland responsibilities
- Hit and exceeded monthly sales KPIs for 5 months in a row.
- Carried out sales operations.
If that’s not possible because of the nature of the job (e.g. cashier, entry-level, etc.), however, you can simply list out your daily responsibilities and tasks.
While describing your job responsibilities, try to limit them within 6 bullet points at most.
Sounds obvious, right?
Simply list how long you worked at your previous role for. And relax, if you don’t remember the exact day you got hired, you can give an approximate timeframe.
The standard format for dates employed is mm/yyyy.
Digital Marketing Manager
06/2015 - PRESENT
Digital Marketing Manager
June 20 of 2015 - PRESENT
If you decide to use the mm/yyyy format, aim for consistency and make sure your other work experience listings look the same way.
Work Experience Q&A
Have some questions on your work experience section?
Maybe you have a giant gap in your work experience, or you’re a recent graduate with 0 work experience.
In this section, we’re going to cover the most common questions about the work experience section...
Do You List an Internship?
Not sure if an internship belongs on your resume?
Well, are you applying for an intermediate or senior role?
If it’s either of the two, then you might want to leave out the internship you did 4-5 years ago.
Meanwhile, are you a recent college grad with not a lot of practical work experience?
If so, an internship is a great way to show some substance and that you’re serious about your career path.
Everyone has to start somewhere, and if you’re struggling to fill up your resume, you should definitely include any internships, even if you weren’t hired full-time afterwards, or the internship was in a completely different field.
What If You Don’t Have a Lot of Experience?
If you’re applying for an entry-level job haven’t worked a day in your life, you can focus on other ways to present yourself.
For example, you can focus more on your soft skills, university achievements, and other personal qualities.
If you’re a recent college grad, the recruiter is most likely not expecting you to have a whole page worth of work experience - so don’t sweat it.
Instead, you might consider including the following contents:
- Summer Job - Ever worked a summer job? Include it! This can show the recruiter that you have SOME work experience, even if it’s not related to the job you’re applying for.
- University Projects - Pretty much all team-based project exercises work. Created a mock product for a business class? Add it!
- Personal Projects - Done anything interesting with your free time? Published videos on Youtube? Coded mini software applications? Add them to your resume!
How Do You List Gaps In Your Resume?
Gaps on a resume can be a red flag - only if you provide no explanation.
If the HR manager sees an empty gap in your work experience section, they’re going to assume the worst case scenario.
So, it’s better to ease their expectations and be honest.
In a line or two, explain what happened and move on, no need to dwell on it.
- July 2018 - February 2019, due to my medical situation, I had to take time off to fully recover and focus on my health.
The good news is that you don’t have to tell the whole story, especially if it’s personal, but be prepared to briefly go over it if it comes up during the interview.
And now, if you really want to stand out from other candidates with your superior work experience listing, here’s what you can do.
How to Stand Out with Your Work Experience Section
Do you want to hear some good news?
When it comes to listing their work experience, many people simply mention their daily responsibilities and call it a day.
Want your application to stand out from the bunch? Do this:
Write Achievements Instead of Responsibilities
One of the best ways you can summarize your job experience is by showing your achievements.
In most cases, the HR manager can already guess what your responsibilities were. Especially if it’s anything like the one you’re applying for - they probably know the position inside out.
Instead, to stand out, what you can do is show your impact, in that role.
- Increased landing page CTR by 4% in the first month through A/B testing and changing the copy.
- Worked with email marketing and launched social media campaigns.
If you increased the overall revenue growth from 5% to 15%, and implemented a new marketing plan for the year, this is something recruiter will want to know.
They’re looking for information and any kind of quantifiable change that you can also apply to their company.
However, if you were in a position where you could not leave behind any notable achievements (e.g. sever in a restaurant, cashier in a supermarket, etc.), feel free to simply list your responsibilities and tasks.
Tailoring your work experience to a specific job
When reading a resume, the HR manager is looking for information relevant to that specific position, with its own unique requirements.
Because, guess what, if you send the same resume to every job ad you can get your hands on, it’s going to be very obvious that you’re using a generic resume, not optimized for any of them in particular.
To avoid that, show the recruiter that you actually took the time to read the job ad (which you should), and that your resume is tailored to their requirements.
To do this, actually read the job ad in detail, not just give it a quick glance and call it a day.
For example, take this ad:
They’re looking for someone:
- With 5+ years of experience in creating digital experiences
- Proficient in standard UX software
- With specific knowledge of interface patterns for mobile, web, and responsive design (i.e. specific areas)
- With good understanding of HTML, CSS, JAVA, and more
The point is that they’re looking for specific knowledge within the general position.
So in this case, they want someone with a B.A. degree, 5+ years of experience and with a good understanding of basic front-end development.
You can mention how you excel at all this within your work experience entries…
- Developed mobile applications with Java, optimized for both Mobile and Web
Now, with all that knowledge combined, let’s take a look at some exceptional real-life resume examples that work.
5 Real-Life Work Experience Examples (For Different Fields)
Not sure how to list work experience for your field?
Looking for some inspiration?
Here’s a few practical work experience examples:
Marketing Work Experience Example
As a marketer, you probably know all about the importance of tailoring your message to your target market.
So, your resume needs to reflect that.
Don’t be afraid of using some marketing-specific language and tools within your resume.
Look at your resume as an ad, with the intention of selling yourself.
The above professional experience section does a number of things really well.
They made sure to:
- List their achievements in a clear way with a quantifiable number to it
- Include only the previous positions that are relevant to marketing
- Follow a clear, easy-to-read structure that the HR interview can skim through.
In terms of design, you might want to choose your approach based on the company.
If they’re a tech startup that values creativity - you can use a template similar to the above one.
If not - go with a more conservative one.
Teacher Work Experience Example
Teacher resumes can be more complicated because of the formality behind it and the necessary certificates required.
Let’s take a look at the above example of a teacher resume applying and see what they did well:
In this example, everything under the teaching work experience is listed as responsibilities - which is fine, in this case.
Because, chances are, you won’t have a lot of achievements as a teacher.
- Taught SO well that one of my students went on to become the president of the United States
Since the teacher’s only worked 1 job in this case, they also added a volunteering experience to the resume.
This is a great way to boost their chances and back up their qualifications.
Though volunteering is not the same thing as teaching, it can still help you stand out from the rest of the applicants?
Cashier Work Experience Example
There are no essential credentials business owners expect to come up on a cashier’s resume.
Though, basic arithmetic and computer skills always help, so it’s a good idea to mention your educational background.
Customer service is another important area, which you can focus on in your work experience:
And this is one of those times where it’s perfectly acceptable to simply list out your daily responsibilities instead of any noteworthy achievements in your work experience.
The HR manager isn’t expecting a cashier to have changed the way the store works completely, increasing revenue by 20%. Instead, what they want to know is if you can do the tasks as expected.
Be direct and honest with your work experience here to show you’re qualified and you’ll be fine.
Software Developer Work Experience Example
Working within IT, there are also a lot of different ways you can list your work experience section - depending on the job, which might have been full-time or freelance work.
As an IT, you will most likely have to include achievements as well as responsibilities.
Though if you’re a developer, you might not be able to show your achievements through your code.
Instead, you can show the impact of your code (or software) through the frame of the bigger picture.
For example, let’s say you worked on an internal software project:
- Developed a new internal HR approval software and significantly increased the speed for processing applicants in the company
Look into how you assisted the overall project development through your code.
When it comes to most tech jobs, your work experience is the single most important section on your resume.
Make sure you include all the relevant details, and try to keep your list of responsibilities up to six bullet points at most.
Feel free to also include any technical details and examples you can come up with (quantifiable data always helps), as the HR manager will have some knowledge of what you’re talking about.
But on the other hand, don’t fill up your work experience with jargon and buzzwords either.
Student Work Experience Example
Finally, what if you’re a student with not a lot of experience under your belt?
Then your work experience section might look a bit different, something like the above example.
Yes, that’s only one listing under the work experience. And yes, that’s fine.
Because no one’s expecting you to actually have 5+ years worth of experience as a recent graduate.
Your lack of work experience shouldn’t hold you back. Simply list any experience you do have, and move on.
Though, this is where your other type of experience can help.
Consider your volunteer experience or an internship you’ve gone through.
The HR managers typically are looking for people who are devoted and ambitious in student and graduate resumes.
So, don’t get too hung up on your actual work experience.
Your resume has other sections as well.
Here’s what you need to know about that:
How to List Other Resume Sections
While your work experience might be the single most important section of your resume, at the end of the day, it works in sync with all the other resume sections.
Even if they might not be relevant at first glance, your soft skills, personal qualities, and hobbies and interests can be the deciding factor between you getting the job or not.
There are going to be cases when the recruiter has to make a decision with candidates with near-identical work experience.
Here’s where the other resume sections come into play and how you can boost your chances of getting picked:
Conferences, Courses and Certificates
This can either go in your education section or in a category of its own, depending on the context.
Generally, your approach here should vary depending on the relevance and the importance of your certification or course.
For example, if you’re applying for a job in education, your certificates are probably going to be more important. Especially if you know you’re going to be working closely within those fields in your applied job.
For example, if you’re going to be teaching social studies to high-school students, you might want to include your relevant certificates within the field.
Of course, any other general education certificated can also help.
The language section is particularly interesting, because while it might not provide any specific examples of how you do your job better, it’s still a good thing to have.
Simply because most companies are international nowadays, with clients all over the world. Being bilingual is a great way to stand out and offer a competitive advantage.
When listing your languages, consider how you can rate yourself. You can say that you are:
They’re not going to take up a lot of space in your resume, so you might want to include this section if you’re confident about your language skills.
Everyone loves a side-gig.
It’s one of the best ways you can show your passion and dedication.
Any personal passion project you’ve been working on that is relevant to your current job position can help you stand out and show that you’re not making stuff up.
If you’re a student with not a lot of work experience, for example, you can use your personal projects section to back up your soft skills and your dedication.
How you spend your free time says a lot about you.
And if it’s spent focusing on what you’re truly passionate about, then the HR manager should know about it immediately.
Anything that’s not as relevant, however, like your 3rd grade lemonade stop project, should probably be left off to make space.
To recap, your work experience section of the resume is arguably one of the most important parts of your resume.
So, you need to make sure you’re formatting it right and it’s easy for the HR manager to skim through it.
Here’s how you can do that:
- First, stick to the following work experience order: job title, position, company name, description, location, achievements, responsibilities, dates employed
- This ensures maximum readability and makes it easy for the HR manager to jump to the relevant keywords they’re looking for.
- When listing your work experience though, make sure you’re custom tailoring it to the job ad and listing any noteworthy achievements whenever possible to stand out.
- Within your job experience section, also consider if you’re going to include your internship, and how your other sections can help your overall resume format.
- The whole is greater than the sum of its parts when it comes to your resume. Meaning, you can’t rely on your work experience along to get you the job and your overall resume needs to be in-sync as well.
Now, if you’re looking for inspiration on how to craft a beautiful resume, for your specific dream job, be sure to check out our creative resume templates.
And if there’s anything else you want to learn about the job hunt process, you can always check out our career blog for the latest news.