When you're writing a resume, the resume experience section provides detailed information about your employment history. This is the real heart of your resume, and the more years you have been employed, the more decisions you will have to make about what to include and what to leave off in this section.
What's Included in the Experience Section of a Resume
This section of your resume is where employers will look to see what jobs and job titles you've held in the past, providing them with an informative picture of your career arc.
Ideally, you want the experience section of your resume to demonstrate growth. Over the course of your career so far, you’ve almost certainly added skills, experience, and responsibility. This section will highlight how you’ve developed as a candidate, as well as providing a sense that you’re an ambitious person who’s always learning.
If your career path has taken some twists and turns, this might give you pause, but don’t worry; even a zig-zag path can demonstrate growth.
Some of the strongest candidates are those who’ve added skills in other, seemingly unrelated fields. It’s all about how you present the information. It’s also fine to leave out jobs that don’t fit the story you’re trying to tell the hiring manager.
Writing the Experience Section
List the companies you worked for, dates of employment, the positions you held, and brief descriptions of your work responsibilities, enriched with keywords and enhanced with bulleted lists of quantifiable achievements.
This work history is typically presented in reverse chronological order, beginning with your current job and working back in time. Internships, summer jobs, and temporary jobs, in addition to permanent positions, can all be included in this part of your resume.
You do not have to include every job that you have held, especially if you have several years of experience or have worked in unrelated fields. Entry-level employees, who do not have a lot of on-the-job experience, should include every job possible while emphasizing the skills that match the job listing.
But once you have worked for more than 10 years, you may find that some of your earlier jobs are less relevant to your career. You can leave those positions off, or group together earlier experience in a very truncated format at the end of your resume. Here are two examples of how early jobs can be listed on your resume:
- Additional experience includes retail sales jobs at Barry's Books (20XX-20XX), Cindy's Clothing Store (20XX-20XX), and waitressing at Muffins and More (20XX-20XX).
- Additional experience includes early roles at ABC Company and XYZ company.
How Much Experience to List
Typically, a resume will have information about your most recent 10 to 15 years of experience. Beyond that timeframe, you do not need to include details unless the positions are relevant to your current career.
In some industries, including experience that dates back more than 10 or 15 years can actually hurt candidates. For example, in tech, including jobs that focused on older, outdated technologies might make a candidate look stuck in the past, even if they’ve kept their skills current.
Writing Resume Job Descriptions
For each company you have worked for, you will want to provide your title, the company's name and location, the years you were employed, and a short summary of your responsibilities and accomplishments.
Avoid making the mistake of simply listing tasks. You want to use this section to highlight your abilities and accomplishments. Use resume action words and focus on demonstrating that you helped the company solve its problems and achieve its goals; bonus points if you can do so with a dollar sign attached. These highlighted achievements will “pop” on the page if you separate them, using bullets, from the descriptions of your work responsibilities. It’s also a smart strategy to boldface dollar figures, growth percentages, or other key accomplishments.
Resume Experience Section Examples
Here are two examples of how to write resume experience sections.
Sample One: This is for an entry-level job candidate. Here, instead of using the heading “Professional Experience,” one can use the broader caption “Experience Highlights” – which allows the inclusion of a description of recent college training:
University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Student ~ Environmental Science (9/20XX to 6/20XX)
Successfully completed comprehensive course of study in environmental science, laying solid groundwork for career in environmental restoration. Key coursework included: Environmental Biology, Geology and Soils, Air Pollution Meteorology, Waste Treatment Technology, and Ecology. Internships:
- Acme Environmental Consulting (Spring 20XX): Honed expertise in soil sampling, documentation, and client relations during internship with established environmental consulting firm.
- Hamilton Mine Rehabilitation Project (Fall 20XX, Winter 20XX): Under the direction of faculty advisor Dr. Sarah Rose, participated in $1.4 million reclamation project to reclaim mercury-contaminated mining field.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park Service, California
Park Guide / Trail Laborer (Summers 20XX and 20XX)
Provided nature enrichment workshops and led park tours for park visitors; ensured timely maintenance of trails and park facilities.
- Rehired based on proven teamwork, work ethic, and customer service excellence.
- Played key role in restoring 18-mile wilderness trail destroyed during wildfires.
Sample Two: This is a sample work experience section written for a tech professional. Note that it is strengthened using a brief description of the candidate’s technical proficiencies. You’ll also see how the candidate’s current position is written using present tense, while her previous position employs past tense.
ABC Tech Innovation, Syracuse, NY
Software Programmer (9/20XX to Present)
Core Technologies: Clarion, C++, Visual Basic, Windows Server operating systems
Serve as team lead for software application development in Clarion. Install and configure test environments, troubleshoot design issues, and mentor clients in installing systems upgrades. Provide continuing evaluation of software functionality. Key Achievements:
- Coordinated and led development teams’ on-time completion of new software launch within challenging 3-month
- Designed and presented well-received client training workshops in new software use.
XYZ Tech Solutions, Syracuse, NY
C++ Programmer (7/20XX to 8/20XX)
Core technologies: Python, C++, Java, PHP
Brought on board to improve platform performance and responsiveness and scale systems for client use within agile programming environment. Key Achievements:
- Developed new testing process that reduced time to software rollout by 35%.
- Selected by development director to train new hires in company-specific work procedures.
These are only two examples of effective strategies for structuring the “Experience” section of your resume: there are many ways you can present the information about each job. A resume template can help guide you toward choosing a design that works for you.
Whatever style and format you select, make sure to be consistent. If you are using bullet points to describe your most recent position, you should use bullet points to describe each position you have held. If you have the years you worked left-aligned for one job, make sure that you follow that same alignment for each and every position listed in the section.