If you’re looking for previous work experience examples for a resume or job application, and the exact steps to write your own experience section, you’re in the right place.
I’m going to walk you through:
Here’s what I’ve discovered after years of working as a recruiter…
If you have work experience (e.g. if you’re not entry-level or a recent graduate), your recent work experience is the first place a hiring manager or recruiter looks on your resume to see if you’re a good fit for their job.
So you want to put it front-and-center, and make sure your bullet points and other employment history details are GREAT.
For 95% of job seekers, there should only be a few things that come before your work history on your resume: You should put your name/contact info, a brief resume summary section, and that’s it.
After this, you should be diving right into the employment history on your resume, because it’s what employers want to see right away on your resume.
Your experience on a resume should include employer names, locations, dates of employment, job title held, and the professional experience you gained in the role.
You should provide detailed experience on a resume in terms of not only duties assigned and skills used, but also what you achieved and accomplished in this job.
You can do this by beginning sentences and bullet points under your work experience with verbs and power words like “Led,” “Increased,” etc.
Along with company names, locations, job titles, dates, and accomplishments, also consider including any promotions and awards you received at any previous company.
Awards and accolades are important achievements that show you’ve performed well in your career and handled the responsibilities given to you, which will excite employers.
Write your work experience in reverse chronological order, meaning that your most recent companies and job titles appear at the top and then you work downward, ending on the first role you ever held.
The best resume format for job seekers is the reverse chronological format, which means you should begin your experience with your most recent role on top and then work backward through your professional career.
For each position, include the job title, dates, and company name, and then describe your professional experience and achievements in that role. You can either use a brief paragraph to describe the role and then bullets, or use only bullets. However, you should not use only paragraph format when writing your work experience section.
This is a mistake that many job seekers make, and it leads to their resumes being skimmed over by recruiters and hiring managers.
Bullets do a better job of catching attention and getting an employer to closely read your experience section.
If you held multiple jobs in a company over time, list each job with its own dates and relevant experience.
It’s a huge mistake to not show each specific job title under a company, because this shows that you were promoted and advanced.
As a final step, as you write your previous work descriptions and bullet points, glance at the job description to ensure you’re covering the important skills that employers seem to want for the job you’re pursuing.
This is known as tailoring a resume.
Now that you know the basics of how to write the work history section of your resume, let’s look at some good employment history samples from real resumes.
I invited a couple of experts to share their resume work history examples for this section.
I’ll share two resume work experience examples from them, and then I’ll include a very simple/plain example that I’ve used in the past with a lot of success.
You can use bold text like the example above to highlight key accomplishments on your resume. You can also use bullets, checkmarks, and other simple graphics to make sure your best work is noticed.
This resume work history also has a separate section for “Select Accomplishments”. This is a unique way to put all of your best accomplishments from each role in one place that’s likely to get noticed and read by hiring managers.
Contributed by: Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES, Career Coach at CaffeinatedKyle.com
This is another employment history sample showing a great balance between attractive styling, but not going overboard and making it too “busy” or distracting.
Only one color is being used: blue (research has shown the color blue is calming and is associated with credibility and dependability, so it’s a good color to use). And the styling is simple enough to keep the reader’s attention on your accomplishments.
Contributed by: Virginia Franco, Founder of Virginia Franco Resumes and Forbes contributor
This is a very plain format, but if you’re in a field like accounting, finance, sales, data entry, customer service, etc., it could be a good choice.
They’re going to interview you and hire you for your skills and what you’ve done for past employers, not for a fancy resume design, right? So a simple format highlights exactly what they want!
If this is a little too plain for you, I’d recommend adding some blue like the two previous examples we looked at. That’s the first change I’d make to this if I were re-doing it today (this is a resume format I’ve used very successfully in the past).
By: Biron Clark, former recruiter and Founder of CareerSidekick.com
Next, I’m going to share two critical tips for how to phrase and set up your work experience section to sound professional.
First, avoid talking in the first person, with phrases like, “I am a Customer Success Manager”.
Simply say “Customer Success Manager” to lead off a description of your past or current job.
Example: “Customer Success Manager leading seven support associates and…”
And next tip: When writing bullet points and paragraphs to describe your recent roles, I recommend using the past tense when it comes to your verbs.
You can see this in the resume samples above. For example, the second bullet in resume example #3 above:
“Built key ‘C’ level relationships…”
Built is a past tense verb.
This is how I recommend approaching your resume writing overall.
This sounds better when you describe job experience, versus writing, “Building” or “Build”.
So keep these small tips in mind when writing your job history and try to match the resume examples above.
Using this tone to describe past positions will impress your next prospective employer and sound professional and clear.
The first rule to follow when you write your employment history is to keep it simple in terms of style and formatting.
If you’re not a professional designer, your resume format should not have fancy graphics and colors.
That’s true of every section of your resume.
Pick one accent color at most (for example, some headers in dark blue if the rest of the text is black), one or two fonts total, and one or two header sizes.
You’ll notice all three resume employment history samples above keep colors to a minimum and focus on the content itself. That’s what you should do as well.
You want the employer’s focus to be on your past work experience, not on the styling and colors of your resume, so don’t distract them too much.
Further reading: The best colors for your resume.
Now, you could just copy and use one of the formats above, from the three previous work experience examples that I just gave you.
However, I also recommend adjusting it to fit your situation. I’ll explain…
Depending on how often you’ve changed jobs and how long you’ve been working, you may want to list months and years, or only years for your dates of employment.
Be strategic and decide what’s best for you. If you held a job for only a few months, it might be better just to list everything in terms of years, and not include months.
And… you can also leave a job off of your resume entirely. This is not a “work history” section of a job application where you’re required to list all previous jobs. It’s entirely up to you what goes on your resume).
Whatever you do, stay consistent with the same formatting for every job. That’s very important. Remember, you want this to be EASY to read for the hiring manager.
So use the work experience examples above to create your own, but also make sure you’re doing what fits your career and experience!
My advice here is the same advice I give for how back to go with your story when they ask, “tell me about yourself” in an interview.
If you’ve been working for less than 8-10 years, I’d go back to the beginning of your professional work history, and try to tailor everything to be relevant to the jobs you’re pursuing now.
You might be thinking there’s nothing in common between your prior professional experience and the jobs you want now, but there’s usually an angle you can find!
Here’s an example of how you may have relevant experience in your background even if you’re an entry-level job seeker or applying to a totally new type of position:
When I was in college, I worked in customer service at Whole Foods Market. Not too glamorous, right?
But I became a supervisor, and you’d be amazed how many interviewers asked me about this job, even after 4-5 years had passed (and for office jobs that seemed unrelated to working in a supermarket).
So don’t assume something isn’t relevant. If you showed advancement/growth, leadership, or other impressive traits, employers will love it. It’s your job to make the bullet points impressive and show them how it’s relevant.
Now, on the other hand, if you’ve worked more than 10 years, and/or if you are a Manager/Director, etc., consider starting your resume work history at the point you became a manager.
If you’re 45 years old and have been a Manager for 15 years, most employers aren’t going to want to look back and see how you got started as an individual contributor 20+ years ago. They’ll want to see where you started as a Manager, and how you progressed since then. So start there – how you got into your current line of work.
Short answer: If you have any work experience at all, this section is the #1 most important thing on your resume – and the first place hiring managers and recruiters look. It should be on the top half of the first page.
Don’t put your Skills section before it. No hiring manager or recruiter wants to see a general list of your skills (with no idea how recently you’ve used each skill, or how) before they see your work experience. You can read more about how to write your resume Skills section and where to list it here.
Don’t put your Education section before it, either, unless you are a Doctor or have a Ph.D. and are in a profession where this educational background is a hard requirement to obtaining any job in the field.
For everyone else, which is 95%+ of people, just put your name and contact details centered at the top of your resume, then put a one-paragraph career summary, and then go right into your work experience.
You can label the section whatever you want: Work History, Employment History, Work Experience, etc.
The point is that your resume work history should be extremely easy to find, without the hiring manager needing to scroll down or search much.
With the examples above, it’s important to list accomplishments on your resume work history, not just duties/responsibilities.
There’s a big difference between saying, “I was responsible for handling 50 customer requests per day”, and saying, “I successfully responded to 50 customer requests per day, while keeping a 98% customer satisfaction rating”.
In the second one, you’re phrasing it as an accomplishment instead of simply talking about what you were responsible for or “supposed to do.” And you’re adding a great data point – 98% customer satisfaction.
Try to do this whenever possible when listing accomplishments on your resume. Keep that in mind when you copy the examples above.
If you want more help with this, detailed examples and instructions are here.
After using these resume work history examples to write and format your resume, don’t forget to tailor your accomplishments and bullet points to match the job description for the role you want. This is one of the quickest ways to get noticed and get invited to an interview.
(And if you skip this or don’t bother doing it, you’re probably going to lose out on the job to someone who did this – seriously! If you aren’t doing this, it’s a big reason why you haven’t found a job yet).
Here’s how to tailor your resume for a job before applying. (<< Fastest, easiest method)
The general idea is if the top 2-3 bullet points on the job description talk about a certain skill or piece of experience, you should do everything you can to reorganize your achievements on your resume to highlight those same areas.
So do your research (the best place to start is the job description), and then re-order your bullet points to show off the exact experience they want, whenever you possibly can. Don’t make them go digging and searching for it or you run the risk they’ll move on to someone else’s resume instead.
We’ve now looked at tips for writing your employment history, samples from real resumes, and more. I want to leave you with the mistakes to make sure you avoid when you put together your own resume work history section.
You’ll notice in the work history samples earlier, this section starts early on the resume. Making a hiring manager or recruiter go digging in your resume to find this section is a big mistake.
Put it front and center (on the top half of page 1). You want your recent experience and achievements to be dead easy to find for any company you send your resume to.
That’s one of the best tips I can share in general: Don’t make employers go digging for your recent responsibilities and achievements on your resume. It should jump out of the page at them because it should contain a lot of content compared to other sections, and it should appear high up.
There’s no section on your resume more important than your employment history. You should be spending 40-50% of your time on just this section. So don’t rush through this. You only need to do it once, but it needs to be GREAT if you want to get interviews.
If your resume employment history is full of phrases like, “Responsible for…” then you’re missing a big opportunity to impress employers.
They want to see specific accomplishments in a past position, for example:
Led a team of 4 people to reorganize client onboarding program, resulting in a 23% increase in client retention year-over-year.
The average job seeker thinks their resume work history is all about them. They decide what THEY want to write, what THEY care about, etc.
That’s a backward approach, believe it or not. (Assuming you want to get more interviews).
The best way to approach writing your resume employment history is to think of the employer. Look at their job description. What are their needs? What skills do they care about?
That’s why I mentioned “tailoring” your resume in the previous section. It’s incredibly important. Don’t write your previous work experience without a few job descriptions in front of you… for the jobs you want to get!
That’s how to make sure what you’re writing will get you interviews.
Most of the mistakes above should be a review if you’ve read the entire article above. If not, go back and make sure you’ve read everything.
You only get one shot to impress employers with your resume, and they’re looking at your previous work experience within 10 seconds of opening your resume.
If you follow the advice above and use the employment history templates and samples to write your own resume work history section, you’re going to get noticed by more employers and get more interviews.
It’s worth taking the extra time to do a great job on your resume experience section and ensure that you’re listing detailed achievements within your experience. Focus especially on your two or three most recent positions since that’s the experience an employer will focus on first when reviewing your career.
This one piece of your resume is sometimes all a recruiter will look at before deciding “yes” or “no” on whether they want to interview you, so it’s key to a successful job search.
Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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