Your resume is the first chance you have to impress a hiring manager. That's why it's important for this document to highlight all your relevant skills and experience. Having a detailed work experience section will let you express both. It's often the first section hiring managers look at so they can ensure candidates have the necessary qualifications for the role. In this article, we look at what a resume work experience section is, why it's important, how to write one, and provide an example to help you get your dream job.
What is a resume work experience section?
Every resume should have a work experience section as it contains all the relevant information about your professional history. It's typically what employers focus on to decide whether you're prepared for the role they're trying to fill. This includes your previous job titles, employers, dates of tenure, responsibilities, skills you learned, and any accomplishments. Depending on the role and your experience, you can include full-time positions, part-time jobs, or temporary roles. If you don't have work experience, you can also include internships or volunteer work in this section of your resume.
Why is work experience on a resume important?
The work experience section of your resume is often the most important part. It shows prospective employers that you have proven success in relevant roles. This ensures you have the knowledge and skills to work for them. It's often the longest section of your resume as well, so you have the opportunity to highlight other aspects, such as your achievements.
Often, the work experience section is the first place hiring managers look before deciding if they want to continue looking and offer you an interview. It's important that your work experience section is detailed and relevant to the role.
How to write work experience on a resume
To write the ideal work experience section in your resume, follow these steps:
1. Include detailed and relevant information
The work experience section of your resume is usually the longest part. This is so you can include the following information:
Companies you worked for
The first thing you should include is each company's full name, starting with your most recent employer. As resumes shouldn't be more than a page or two, aim to only include your last three employers. You can exclude companies you worked for over 10 years ago.
Location of the companies
Many roles have different provincial and territorial requirements, such as specific certifications or experience. This makes it important for you to include the city and province or territory of your previous employers' company. You don't need to include their full physical address.
To show prospective employers how long you were with each company, include your start and end date. You don't need to include the full date, simply the month and year is fine. For example: Jan 2018 - Mar 2020. When you have gaps of a few months in your work history, you may want to only include the years of employment rather than the months. However, when you have longer gaps of a year or more, prospective employers may question it, so it's important to prepare an honest answer.
Be specific when including your job title and avoid acronyms as every person that looks at your resume may not be familiar with them. For example, write "pastry chef" instead of just chef or "chief operating officer" instead of COO. This will show prospective employers that you have the unique skills and experience you need to succeed in their company.
Think of your main responsibilities for your previous roles and include up to five of them in bullet points. Try to pair these responsibilities with statistics or numbers. For example, instead of writing, "Responsible for o**nboarding new clients every month," sales associates can write, "Onboarded 15 new clients every month." This shows prospective employers that you have proven success handling similar responsibilities.
If you had any promotions during your time with a company, mention them in a bullet point. This makes you a more appealing candidate as it shows prospective employers that you perform well and past employers valued you.
Awards and recognitions
If you received any awards and recognitions, you can include them in a bullet point under your work experience section as well. This is another way to show prospective employers you excel at work. However, if you have a lot of relevant awards and recognition, you can create a separate section with them near the bottom of your resume.
2. Choose a format for the work experience section
The format of your work experience section is another important aspect to consider. Here are three different ways you can structure this section and your resume as a whole:
The most popular way to format a resume work section is chronologically. With this structure, you list your most recent job at the top and the job you had before that afterwards. This highlights your updated experience and skills. It also shows prospective employers your career progression.
If you don't have a lot of work experience, a functional resume format may be the better option. Instead of highlighting your work experience, this structure highlights your skills and achievements by putting them at the top of your resume. If you do have relevant work experience, you include it underneath your skills and achievements, but only mention the company names and the duration of your employment. Functional resumes are a good options for recent graduates, those switching careers, or people with significant gaps in their employment history.
A combination resume is a mix of both types as you are highlighting your work experience but doing it in a way that emphasizes your skills. You do this by providing a summary of your professional experience first. Then, include a list of your achievements and skills. This type of resume is a good option for those applying to managerial roles.
Tips for writing your resume work experience
To help your resume stand out among the hundreds many hiring managers receive, follow these tips:
Keep it brief
You should aim to fit your experience on one page, or two at most if you're applying for a more advanced role. Hiring managers only have time to skim through them and look for key points. This means they may ignore resumes and work experience sections that are too long. Only include information that is relevant to the employer and try to use bullet points as much as possible to make things concise and easy to read.
Check for grammatical and spelling errors
Writing an error-free resume is essential to making a good first impression and presenting yourself professionally. Double-check your resume for these mistakes before submitting it, especially for roles that require you to be attentive and have strong communication skills. You can use online editing tools and have a friend or family member review it for you to catch any errors you may have missed.
Use a template
There are many great, free resume templates available online. Using one ensures your resume is organized and easy-to-read. You can even create your own template to use and update for each job. Just make sure headings are bold to stand out and your stylistic choices are consistent throughout. Templates can be attention-grabbing, but should remain professional with plain, 10-12 point black font.
Address prospective employer's needs
Try to update and adjust your resume for every job you apply to. After looking at a job posting, mention specific skills and experience you have that the employer is looking for. This shows them you're the ideal candidate.
Make yourself stand out
Think about skills and experience you have that make you unique. Maybe you received specialized training or certain awards. As hiring managers see a lot of resumes, including something unique on yours will help you stand out.
Resume work experience example
To know exactly what your work experience section should look like, here is a well-written example:
XYZ Marketing | Brampton, Ontario
Lead Writer and Editor
Jan 2016 - Apr 2020
- Hired and trained two new writers every month to handle the company's growing workload
- Edited new writers' work and offered constructive feedback for improvement
- Took on outstanding writing tasks to ensure all work was complete on time
GHI Writing | Mississauga, Ontario
Jan 2015 - Jan 2016
- Wrote 5,000 words of content every week on various topics, such as finance, beauty, and travel
- Considered client feedback and applied it to future work
- Thoroughly researched every topic and edited complete work before submitting it
Writers Inc. | Mississauga, Ontario
March 2013 - Jan 2015
- Helped five writers with their administrative tasks, such as answering emails or scheduling meetings
- Compiled minor research to assist writers with their projects
- Attended meetings and took detailed notes to update employees that were missing