Work Experience Section
Media File: Work Experience Section
This resource is enhanced by an Acrobat PDF file. Download the free Acrobat Reader
The Work Experience Section is the place for detailing your previous employment information. This section can be called Work Experience, Work History, Employment History, Employment Experience, Relevant Experience, or whatever else indicates the type of information that is included. For instance, if you have really great volunteer experience in the field to which you are applying, you may want to title this section Relevant Experience rather than Employment Experience, in order to accurately represent the information.
What to include
This section typically includes the following:
- names of the companies you worked for
- city and state for each company
- titles/positions you held
- your employment dates for each job
- duties you performed.
This section can also include any promotions you might have gotten while on a job.
Detailing the duties you performed, though, is perhaps the most important part of the Work Experience Section. You must be not only accurate and concise but also highlight those duties that are most relevant to the position you are seeking. While it is acceptable to write full sentences in paragraph form for each position you held, it is more common to create a bulleted list of the duties you performed.
If you choose to create a bulleted list, be aware that each bullet must be in parallel form (which means that each item must be grammatically formatted the same). It is also a good idea that you put each item in the active voice and use powerful action verbs (see our Action Word List). Each job should have a minimum of three bulleted items with the most relevant duties listed first. Take some time to really think over what you actually accomplished for the job, list the specific activities and duties that you were responsible for, and craft exciting and concise bulleted items representing those activities.
The following items illustrate examples you can model:
Purdue University Business Writing Consultant Department of English Writing Lab
- Tutored clients on content and formatting required for business documents
- Conducted résumé and cover letter workshops for classes and organizations
- Promoted the Business Writing services of the Lab by posting flyers and speaking in classrooms
How to format this section
Formatting is crucial for the Work Experience Section because you must convey a lot of information quickly and concisely. You may want to consider columns in order to conserve space. You might consider putting the company name in a left-hand column, the city and state in a center column, and your employment dates in a right-hand column. Remember, if you used columns in any other section of the résumé, you must make sure they visually complement the columns you use in the Work Experience section.
Tips on handling different types of work experience
Because each person's work history is unique, you may have unusual circumstances to represent on your résumé. If you have worked for one company for many years and held several positions, you can list each position separately. If you are applying for a position outside of the field most of your work experience is in, you can also list relevant volunteer experience and community service. If this is the case, you might also want to consider a Skills Résumé, in which you group bulleted items by skills and abilities rather than by company or job. See our Skills Résumé example for more details.
If you are a student, your résumé might contain summer jobs that are not relevant to the position for which you are applying. If this is the case, remember that you honed skills in every job. Be creative and thoughtful in creating these lists. For example, if you worked at McDonald's, you learned how to do the following:
- function efficiently in a team
- work responsibly in a time-sensitive environment
- maintain flexibility in duties from shift to shift.
As your work experience becomes more relevant to your field, you can drop off the oldest summer jobs until all of your listed work experience is relevant to your field.
It can be difficult to know how to represent periods of unemployment. Consider listing what you were doing during that time period. For example, if you took time off work to raise your children, you can put Homemaker (or what you prefer) on the résumé and detail some of what you accomplished. In addition, you can list volunteer work or community service if you were not actually employed during that time period. If you took any classes (even if you did not obtain a degree), you can list the educational activities you were involved in during that time.
For more information about how to develop a résumé, visit these OWL resources: