How to describe work experience on your resume (with examples)

Last updated: April 23, 2024
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Eleana Bowman
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How to describe work experience on your resume (with examples)
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Work experience is the most important thing you need to include on your resume, but it can be hard to determine what work experience means if you’re new or just returning to the workforce.

Even if you have some experience, it’s challenging to organize your skills and accomplishments in a way that catches the attention of a prospective employer.

In this article, we’re breaking down what work experience means, why it’s so important to include, and how to build a resume that reflects all your hard-earned experience.

Then, we’ll look at a few work experience resume examples to give you some inspiration.

What actually counts as work experience?

If you’re creating a resume for the first time, you might be unsure of what work experience actually means.

It’s important to include the most appropriate information. Listing irrelevant experience or omitting something critical can put you at a disadvantage when applying for jobs.

Work experience typically means any paid work you have done for an employer. This includes any full-time, part-time, or temporary jobs. You can also include internships.

If you don’t have a lot of paid work experience, you can list any volunteer work you may have done. Jobs at your place of worship, your child’s school, or other community organizations could be a good fit if it’s relevant to the position you’re applying for. If you’re new to the workforce, it may also be appropriate to include “unofficial” jobs such as babysitting or lawn care, like in the example below:

(Image Source)

Short-term jobs — those lasting less than a month — usually don’t need to be included unless they are highly relevant to the position you’re applying for.

In most cases, work around the house, personal projects, and hobbies won’t count as work experience. Though you may be able to demonstrate some skills you’ve gained from these experiences, even if they aren’t listed as one of your past jobs.

Is listing work experience on your resume really that important?

The work experience section is a crucial part of your resume and a whopping 72% of employers say resumes are very important in assessing applicants.

Your work experience demonstrates your skills and abilities through actions and accomplishments, rather than just submitting a list of vague skills. You can show what you’ve achieved and what you are good at with clear examples.

For example, listing “organizational skills” on your resume or mentioning that you’re very organized in your cover letter doesn’t tell a prospective employer any specifics. It’s much more powerful to talk about how you developed a new filing system for your office or revamped your store’s inventory tracking.

Work experience also shows your growth as an employee. You can show an increase in responsibilities, how you’ve specialized in a certain type of work, and demonstrate your good work habits.

How far back should your work experience go?

The amount of work experience you should include on your resume depends on your level of experience and time in the workforce.

When you’re applying for your first job or an entry-level position, you should list all paid work experience. If you’re applying to a senior-level position or have many years of professional experience, it’s recommended that you keep your work history to the last 10 - 15 years.

As a general rule, your resume shouldn’t be longer than 1–2 pages. If you have a lot of work experience in a shorter time frame, which may be the case if you’ve worked multiple jobs simultaneously, it’s okay to include only the most relevant experience.

What should your work experience section include?

The goal of the work experience section of your resume is to give prospective employers a holistic view of your work history, skills, and accomplishments. Employers need to understand whether you’re capable of meeting the requirements set out in the job description.

To accomplish this, your work experience needs to be organized and complete. This makes it easy for hiring managers to read through and understand. You also need to use a consistent format for each job you include.

When listing work experience, you’ll typically create one entry for each job you’ve held. Each entry should include:

  • The company name

  • The city and state where the company is located

  • Your job title

  • The dates you held that job, typically listed with a month and year

  • Between two and five bullet points describing your accomplishments and responsibilities

If you held multiple positions at one company, list them under one company heading like in this example:

(Image Source)

5 tips for showing work experience on your resume

Now that you have a basic understanding of what the work experience section of your resume should include, let's look at a few tips to help you make your work history shine.

These recommendations will help you craft a resume that best showcases your abilities. You’ll stand out to hiring managers and increase your chances of landing the job.

1. List your work experience in reverse chronological order

Your job experience section on your resume should always be in reverse chronological order. That means you’ll start with your most recent jobs and work backward to your earliest work experience. Using reverse chronological order is important because hiring managers are typically the most interested in your most recent professional experience.

They’ll want to know your responsibilities, how well you performed in the job, and what is motivating you to launch a job search. If you have jobs overlapping each other, you can use the start date for each job to organize them on your resume.

For instance, if you started one job in March 2020 and a second in June 2020, you would list the June job first on your resume.

2. Use bullet points, not paragraphs

While it might be tempting to summarize your work history in a paragraph or two to tell the story of your job experience, this isn’t a great way to format your resume.

Instead, you should use bullet points to list your accomplishments and responsibilities for each job. Bullet points are easier to read and understand when skimming a resume.

Keep in mind that hiring managers may review dozens or even hundreds of resumes for a single job. You want to make reading your resume as easy as possible for them.

Writing in bullet points also helps you be more concise. You’ll need to think about the most important aspects of each job you’ve held and only include the most relevant and impressive ones.

3. Focus on your accomplishments

A common mistake applicants make in their job search is writing a resume that sounds like a list of job descriptions. Instead of talking about how well they performed in a job, they simply list their duties and responsibilities.

When crafting the work experience section of your resume, you want to show what you can do. You don’t want to sound like you copy and pasted a templated job description. One way to think about your accomplishments in any given job is by asking yourself what you did differently than someone else would have done in the same position.

For instance, were you known for being exceptionally friendly or helpful if you worked in #foodservice? Did regular customers seek you out? Or, if you worked in a retail setting, were you more efficient than your coworkers at restocking shelves or checking out customers?

When it comes to writing your resume, it’s okay to boast a little bit. You want to show prospective employers exactly what you’re good at and why you would excel in working for them.

4. Write in the past tense for past jobs

While your work experience section should be consistently formatted, there is one key difference between writing about past jobs and current jobs.

For past jobs, you’ll use the past tense. For current jobs, you’ll use the present tense. An easy trick to know the difference is that the past tense of a verb almost always ends in -ed.

Unless you’re currently working multiple jobs, only the first job listed on your resume should be in the present tense. If you’re not currently working, you’ll write your entire work experience section in the past tense.

To create an engaging resume, it’s important to use lots of strong action verbs to capture your accomplishments.

Here are some examples of action verbs you can use to showcase your accomplishments. You’ll see both the present tense and the past tense in the table.

|PRESENT TENSE| PAST TENSE | |--|--| |Create|Created| |Execute | Executed| |Develop| Developed| |Coordinate| Coordinated| |Uphold | Upheld|

It’s always important to review your resume and cover letters for spelling, grammar, and consistency before submitting your application. Most word processors, like Microsoft Word and Google Docs, have built-in tools for checking spelling and grammar. You can also use a free online tool like Grammarly.

To check for consistency, it’s a good idea to have a friend, family member, or trusted coworker look over your resume. They can make sure your formatting is consistent and that you’ve used the right tense for all of your verbs.

5. Highlight your skills through your work experience

Some resume templates will suggest including a skills section.

While this resume format can help list technical or computer skills, it’s not the right place for talking about your skills in management, organization, or communication. Instead, showcase these skills in the work experience section of your resume. Below are some examples of how you can demonstrate skills through your work accomplishments.

Organizational skills examples:

  • Developed a new filing system for office paperwork

  • Implemented a scheduling system to accommodate 10+ employees

  • Worked through a six-month backlog of internal requests

Communication skills examples:

  • Collaborated with other departments to create an office safety protocol

  • Orchestrated an employee recognition event

  • Persuaded management to upgrade the store security system

Management skills examples:

  • Oversaw training for five new employees

  • Mentored high school graduates in workforce readiness program

  • Navigated staff of 20 through corporate policy changes

Framing your skills alongside your work accomplishments paints a much more powerful picture of your abilities for recruiters and potential employers. Think of it as providing proof of your skills.

3 work experience resume examples

Here are a few examples of work experience sections on resumes for different industries so you can better understand how to incorporate these tips in your job search.

Pay attention to how each example uses the tips we discussed in the above section.

Office work experience resume example

This first work experience section example is best for someone applying for a job in an office setting.

Because this applicant is a recent graduate, their work experience includes an internship and some volunteer experience with a fraternity.

(Image Source)

Notice how both entries in this section have an identical format. The company name is listed first, followed by the location and dates the applicant worked there.

Then, each job entry uses bullet points with strong action verbs to highlight their accomplishments in each position.

Nursing work experience resume example

Because this next example is for a job search in the nursing field, the work experience section is labeled clinical experience.

Other than that, it serves the same purpose as a typical work experience section.

(Image Source)

The first entry is for clinical rotations, which are a requirement for all nursing education programs. Because these are more similar to work experience than education, it’s appropriate to list them under work experience rather than in the education section of the resume.

As with the first example, each entry is consistently formatted. Compare this example to the first one to see how you can organize the necessary information differently. This is fine as long as you remain consistent.

The above example also does a good job of using present tense for the applicant’s current job and past tense for previous experiences.

Lastly, by using action verbs like “build rapport” and “collaborated,” the applicant demonstrates their communication skills through accomplishments.

Education work experience resume example

Our final example is in the field of education. Like the previous examples, this resume uses a consistent format for each entry.

The applicant lists work accomplishments in bullet points, each of which starts with an action verb to make the accomplishments stand out even more.

(Image Source)

This resume also includes a good example of listing multiple jobs for a single employer. In the last entry, you can see two positions with distinct accomplishments listed for each one.

Even though the last entry deviates slightly from the other entries in terms of format, the overall look of this work experience section is still consistent and easy to understand.

Show off your work experience on your resume

Work experience should make up the bulk of your resume. It’s crucial in showing employers what you can do in a work setting. Use the tips above to craft the perfect resume to showcase your work experience and skills.

For more resume writing help, visit the Jobcase Getting Hired Resource Center.

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Hameed Safi
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