If you’re looking for previous work experience examples for a resume, or if you just need some help writing your work history section, you’re in the right place.
I’m going to walk you through how to write your resume employment history with real samples from professional resume writers, and I’ll also share the mistakes you should avoid.
Let’s get started…
Here’s what I’ve discovered after working years 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 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, but 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.
Here are the key pieces a typical resume employment history section should include:
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 definitely 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, but 2-3 years ago).
By: Biron Clark, former recruiter and Founder of CareerSidekick.com
The first rule to follow when you write your own employment history section is keep it simple in terms of style and formatting.
If you’re not a professional designer, your resume work history should not have fancy graphics and colors.
In fact, that’s true of every section you put on your resume.
Pick one accent color at most, one or two fonts, and one or two heading 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.
The employer’s focus should be on your previous work, not on the styling and colors of your resume, so don’t distract them too much.
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 for the jobs you’re pursuing now.
You might be thinking there’s NOTHING in common between your past, and the jobs you want now, but there’s usually an angle you can find!
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 totally 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 “Skills” 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.
Don’t put “Education” before it either, unless you are a Ph.D. Researcher or Doctor or some profession where your educational background is extremely important.
For everyone else (95%+ of people), just put your name and contact details centered at the top, then put a 1-paragraph career summary, and then go right into your work experience!
You can label the section whatever you want: Work History, Employment History, or Work Experience, etc.
But the point is your work history should be extremely easy to find, without the hiring manager having to search or scroll down.
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 own 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 employer’s needs and priorities. This is one of the quickest ways to get noticed and get invited to 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 their top 2-3 bullet points on the job description talk about a certain skill or piece of experience they want, you should do everything you can to reorganize your own accomplishments 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. Top half of page 1. Dead-easy to find.
This should be review if you read everything above.
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 really want to see specific accomplishments like, “Led a team of 4 people to reorganize client on-boarding 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 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 really great job on your resume, and particularly your work history. It’s the FIRST place many hiring managers look, and sometimes all they look at before deciding “yes” or “no” for whether they want to interview you.
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