How to Make Your Resume Work History Look Better

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When you’re writing the work history section of your resume, there are a few goals to consider. It’s important to get your resume noticed by the hiring manager and to show a strong career record, presented in reverse chronological order. However, your resume isn’t just a list of what you did when. Rather, it’s your most valuable tool in landing an interview – a “sales pitch” for your candidacy. Thus, the experience section needs to highlight your best qualifications for the job for which you’re applying.

How can you write job descriptions that will make your work history sound better, get past the applicant tracking system, and impress the hiring manager? Even if you had a boring job, you can focus on your best skills and highlight them on your resume. Don’t make stuff up, because hiring managers do check. Instead, filter your responsibilities and focus your resume on the attributes the employer is seeking.

Review these tips for improving your resume job descriptions, as well as a “before and after” version of a revised position description.

6 Tips for Making Your Resume Job Descriptions Sound Better

  1. Edit your resume for every job. It can be time-consuming, but the more time you invest in your resume, the more you’ll get out of it. Take the time to review and decode the job posting, so you know what the company wants in applicants. Make a list of what the organization is looking for, and highlight those qualifications on your resume.
  2. Prioritize. Take the time to tweak your resume for every job you apply to. List your most relevant duties first, being sure to connect your accomplishments to the job description. Move your other responsibilities down the list. You’ll be able to “mix and match” based on the job opening, so your top qualities are always listed first.
  1. Use bullets in addition to narrative paragraphs. To highlight your work achievements, format them in a bulleted list immediately following a short narrative description of your specific work responsibilities. This will allow the accomplishments to “pop” on the page, setting you apart from your competition.
  2. Quantify your accomplishments. Numbers work well on resumes. They are informative and noticeable. For example, “Increased fiscal year revenue 25%” sounds much better than “Improved revenue.” Use percentages, dollars, and numbers instead of words to show what you achieved at the positions you have held, and selectively boldface these figures so that they immediately catch the hiring manager’s eye.
  1. Show what you have accomplished on the job. Include actionable achievements, not just descriptions of your daily tasks. Hiring managers want to know why you were a stellar employee, not what you did at work. Use action words to describe your duties. Here’s a list of resume action verbs and power words to get you started.
  2. Keep it concise. You don’t need to include everything you did at every job you’ve ever had on your resume. Three or four sentences for each description, followed by a few bulleted achievements, is plenty. Include your most valuable contributions to the organization. You’ll have an opportunity to discuss your other duties in-depth when you interview.

    An Example of a Revised Job Description

    Here’s a “before and after” version of a job description, written to highlight the candidate’s best attributes for the job.

    Before: I was responsible for website design and development for a variety of clients. I oversaw data optimization, product uploads, and product management, and diagnosed and repaired product issues. My responsibilities included implementing and managing projects from design through launch. I managed search engine marketing, SEO, and online advertising for several clients including strategizing solutions for optimizing visibility.

    After: Created, developed, launched, and managed websites for a variety of clients with an emphasis on state-of-the-art, responsive, and user-focused designs. Implemented data, product, and design enhancements managed search engine optimization and marketing and monitored site statistics to optimize visibility.

    • Increased search engine traffic by 25%, pages per session by 18%, and doubled site revenue over the past year.
    • Trained and mentored 5 new team members in effective client relations strategies.
    • Implemented enhancements to employer’s website that increased client list by 45% between FY 20XX and FY20XX.

    Do you see the difference? By using active verbs and tangible bulleted achievements, the “after” example delivers a more persuasive argument for the candidate’s suitability for the job.