Ashley Wilson
Community Specialist
Posted August 13, 2021

How to write an effective job description for your resume

Learn why your resume needs job descriptions and how you can write them.
Ashley Wilson
Community Specialist
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How to write an effective job description for your resume
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Your resume showcases your previous work experience, but job listings can attract dozens or even hundreds of applicants, some of whom are likely as experienced as you are (or more).

How can you stand out from the crowd?

The secret is writing great resume job descriptions. This essential piece of your resume isn't just a list of the duties you've performed in the past — it shows the hiring manager why you're the best match for the job.

Let's learn more about how to write the perfect resume job description and take a look at examples for different levels of experience.

What is a resume job description?

Resume job descriptions are the part of your resume that describes what you did at your past jobs. They can include job responsibilities you had, skills you used, or things you accomplished while you were there.

The most common way to add job descriptions to a resume is in bullet points under each position name.

Why do you need to list job responsibilities on your resume?

Recruiters and hiring managers can guess your basic job duties based on your job title. For example, if you were an administrative assistant, they know you probably have basic computer skills and experience answering the phone. However, they don’t know that you answered 50 calls per day, that the new filing system you came up with saved the company money, or that you trained three new employees.

Your resume job description is an opportunity to tell your prospective employer about specific skills and achievements that make you a great candidate for the job.

The work experience section of your resume is a critical part of your job application — 70% of recruiters say that past job experience is the most important factor when evaluating a candidate.

So don’t just fill that section with a boring list of past positions — impress hiring managers with resume job descriptions that prove you have the right skills.

How to describe work experience on your resume

The best formatting for most resumes is a simple list of your positions in reverse chronological order. For each position, list your job title, the name of the company, and the dates you worked there.

Under each title, add a job description. You can do this by writing three to eight bullet points about what you did at the job.

Some people write paragraphs rather than bullet points. But unless your description is only one or two sentences (and it’ll likely be longer than that), bullet points are easier to read.

Recruiters often skim resumes quickly, and they’re more likely to notice your accomplishments if you’ve made a bulleted list.

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You can also give a brief description of your past job responsibilities in the resume summary.

Don’t go into too much detail — just mention a few major accomplishments or skills you want to emphasize.

For more information on the sections of a resume, check out this article.

Top 6 resume job description tips

Now you know how to format job descriptions in your resume. But what exactly do you write?

Here are our top six tips for writing the best resume job description the hiring manager has ever seen.

1. Tailor your resume to the job description

Every resume you send out should be customized to the job posting.

That doesn’t mean you have to start over on your application materials every time you apply for a new position during your job search. A few small changes will make a big difference.

The first step is to read over the job ad and look for resume keywords. These will be words related to key skills or experiences that the employer wants you to have.

(Image Source)

If you have any of those skills or past experiences, work them into your tailored resume.

You should try to use the same wording as the job ad does. If the ad says you need “experience in financial management,” say you have “experience in financial management.” Here’s why:

Resume keywords aren’t just for impressing hiring managers. They help get your resume into the hands of the hiring manager in the first place.

Unfortunately, many resumes aren’t seen by humans at all — 75% get filtered out by applicant tracking systems (ATS), software programs that screen resumes and choose which ones to send to a real person in human resources.

An ATS relies on keywords to judge whether your resume matches the job description. And it’s not that smart, so you want to use the exact keyword.

Using each keyword once is enough — putting it into your resume more than four times can actually be a red flag for the ATS.

2. Be selective

You don’t have to include everything you ever did at your past jobs.

The goal is to show the hiring manager that you’re a good match for the new job. Choose the most relevant experiences and leave out the rest.

Most resumes should only be one or two pages, and the resume format shouldn’t be overly crowded. If you’re having trouble fitting all of your job experience onto the resume, look through your bullet points for each specific job.

Ask yourself: if you could only tell the hiring manager three things about the position, which ones would you choose?

Don’t try to jam too much information into each bullet point, either. One line is usually enough to describe a certain responsibility or achievement, and you shouldn’t use more than two lines. Making a bullet point too long will make it more difficult for the hiring manager to read.

3. Focus on skills and accomplishments over duties

Employers don’t just want to know what your responsibilities were at your last job. They want to know what skills you brought to the table. And they want to know if you were an okay employee or an excellent one.

Use your limited space to talk about what sets you apart from the other job candidates, like the things you’re highly skilled at. These can be hard skills or soft skills.

For example, you might mention:

  • Specialized tools or software you used

  • Experience that went above and beyond what your job title implies

  • How your work benefited the company

  • Awards you received

4. Quantify your achievements

Which job description bullet point sounds more impressive?

Installed electrical equipment

Or

Installed electrical equipment in over 100 homes

When possible, use numbers to quantify your accomplishments. Ideas for this type of resume bullet point include:

  • How many people you trained or supervised

  • How much revenue you earned the company

  • How many times per day, month, or year you did a certain task

  • How much time you saved the company

  • The size of a project you led

  • Your customer support success rate

If you’re currently working, start making notes about these numbers now to use on a future resume.

5. List volunteer or school experience if you’re new to the workforce

If you don’t have any job history to add to your resume, you can include volunteer work or school experiences.

The trick to writing good descriptions of school or volunteer work is the same as writing a job description — you have to match your skills and responsibilities to the job you’re applying for.

For example, mention any classes you took that are relevant to the new job.

If the employer is looking for someone with leadership skills, you could talk about how you led a volunteer group. If the job requires you to be highly organized, you could mention your duties as secretary of a school club.

What if you have work experience, but it’s not in the right field?

The strategy is similar: come up with bullet points that are relevant to the new position.

For example, you may not have any sales experience yet. But sales jobs require superior communication skills — skills that you used in your job as a server. So when you list the serving job on your resume, your bullet points should emphasize those transferable skills.

6. Use action words

Each bullet point on your resume should start with a type of powerful word called an action verb. An action verb is what it sounds like: a verb that describes an action.

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The trick is to pick impressive-sounding actions. Here are a few examples of action verbs you could use.

Action verbs about your duties:

  • Developed

  • Collaborated

  • Implemented

  • Performed

  • Operated

  • Instituted

Action verbs about leadership:

  • Managed

  • Oversaw

  • Trained

  • Coordinated

  • Planned

  • Organized

Action verbs about achievements:

  • Improved

  • Furthered

  • Boosted

  • Maximized

  • Solved

You don’t need to use any pronouns in your bullet points. Say “Mentored new employees,” not “I mentored new employees.”

Resume job description examples

Let’s take a look at three resume job description examples for different position levels:

Entry-level job responsibilities example

Treasurer, Plymouth College German Club, 2019–2020

  • Managed club’s yearly budget of $1,000

  • Tracked expenses using Excel

  • Collected membership dues

Volunteer, Springbrook Nursing Home, 2017–2020

  • Hosted card games and business nights

  • Provided companionship to patients

Why it works

Even though this person doesn’t have a lot of professional experience, they listed responsibilities that could be relevant to an entry-level job.

A hiring manager reading this resume would know the candidate has experience with budgeting, is organized enough to track expenses, and probably has good interpersonal skills.

(Image Source)

Mid-level job responsibilities example

Customer Service Representative, Rob’s Tech Shop, 2016–2021

  • Answered inbound calls, emails, and chats in a timely matter

  • Provided technical support to customers with a 91% success rate

  • Researched and provided solutions to customer issues

  • Escalated customer issues as needed for additional troubleshooting

  • Translated difficult technical concepts into language customers understood

  • Recognized as top-performing service rep in 2019 and 2020

Why it works

You can tell from the resume that this job seeker isn’t your average customer service rep. They helped a lot of people, have strong interpersonal skills, and were recognized for their great work.

They quantified achievements and fit numerous accomplishments into a small space on the resume.

Manager job responsibilities example

District Retail Manager, Dee’s Dress Shack, 2014–2021

  • Managed staff at six store locations

  • Built face-to-face relationships with store managers by visiting weekly

  • Crafted customized sales strategies for each location that increased revenue by 15%

  • Ensured a positive customer experience by monitoring each store’s standard of organization and cleanliness

  • Used financial analysis skills to interpret operating statements, manage budgets, and control inventory

Why it works

As someone with years of experience in the field, this person probably has a lot more past job duties than they could have listed. They chose to emphasize the ones that show off their strong management skills.

Each bullet point starts with an action verb appropriate for a manager.

Impress hiring managers with your resume

The names and dates of your past jobs are important, but it’s the job descriptions that really make your resume stand out. Take the opportunity to show potential employers why your work history makes you the best candidate for the job.

For more tips on resumes, cover letters, and job interviews, check out the Jobcase Getting Hired Resource Center.

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