Work Experience on a Resume - How to List It Right

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Imagine you’re a hiring manager who goes through countless resumes on the daily.

What’s the first thing you look at?

If your guess was work experience, then you’re right.

And if you spot a few relevant keywords in their work experience section, then you’re more likely to continue reading about their background, contact information, and so on.

The most important thing hiring managers want to know is whether you can do the job you’re applying for, and that’s where the work experience section of your resume comes in.

So how do you make your work experience do the heavy lifting?

Don’t worry! Our article is here to help.

We’re going to cover:

  • What Information Your Work Experience Section Needs

How to Format Work Experience on Your Resume

  • 11 Real-Life Examples of Work Experience on a Resume

Let’s get started.

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What to Include in Your Work Experience Section

The work experience section is the most important part of your resume.

This is the section that gives hiring managers a look at your professional journey so far, including your skills and achievements, and it’s the section they base their hiring decisions on the most.

Your work history can show how likely you are to excel at the job, how committed you are to career growth , and what industry know-how you ought to have.

This section is going to look different depending on your career level, how recent your work experience is, and what the job you're applying for is.

Let’s look at what information employers expect from your work experience section:

  • Job Title/Position . Add this at the top of each work experience entry. You want the hiring manager to know at a glance that you have relevant work experience for the job, so use the actual job title instead of any buzzwords.
  • Company Name. Include the name of the employer. Sometimes, if the employer isn’t well-known, you might want to describe the company in a sentence or two to give the hiring manager context.
  • Location. The general location, such as the city and state/country where you worked, is more than enough information.
  • Employment Dates. Write down the approximate timeframe of your employment. There’s no need to give exact dates since the standard format for this is mm/yyyy.
  • Responsibilities and Achievements. The core of each work experience entry is what you achieved while you were there. List your responsibilities and achievements in bullet points instead of paragraphs to make them easier to read. Use 5-6 bullet points for newer job entries and 2-3 for older ones.

Here’s an example of a work experience section that includes all of the above:

example of a work experience section

Want to know more about other resume sections? Learn how to write a resume with our detailed guide!

You know what to include in your work experience section, so let’s talk about how to include it.

First things first - your work experience section should always follow a reverse chronological order . Add your latest work experience at the very top, and work your way backward.

Hiring managers aren’t interested in what you did ten years ago. Instead, they’d rather know what you’ve been up to right before applying for this specific job.

That being said, if you have a lot of experience, you shouldn’t include every single job you’ve ever had.

Your resume is supposed to be one page long , so feel free to omit any summer gigs or part-time jobs to free up space. It’s also extremely important that your work experience is easy to find and that the information is well-structured and readable.

Here’s an example of how to format your work experience section:

listing work experience on a resume

Making Your Work Experience Stand Out

Now that you know how to list your work experience, you need to describe it in a way that makes you stand out from other candidates.

We’ve divided this process into several steps, starting with:

#1. List Achievements Instead of Responsibilities

Too many resumes focus on the day-to-day tasks in the work experience section.

The thing is, hiring managers already know what those responsibilities are. They’re the ones who write the job ads, so you won’t impress them by telling them you did just what they would expect you to do.

For example, if you’re a QA engineer, your responsibilities could include:

  • Identifying software bugs.
  • Ensuring test coverage for all features.
  • Making detailed reports on product quality.

These same responsibilities show up in 99% of QA engineer resumes out there.

So, if you want to stand out from the crowd, you want to focus on your most impressive achievements instead. Show the hiring manager how you helped your previous employer and the difference you made while you were there.

Let’s compare how the same work experience entry looks like when we use achievements and when we use responsibilities:

  • Increased test coverage by 25% by implementing new automated test suites.
  • Reported and triaged over 100 high-priority defects ahead of major releases.
  • Executed manual test cases across web and mobile applications.
  • Logged defects into bug-tracking systems as they were encountered.

But there are some fields where there aren’t that many achievements you can mention in your resume. For example, if you’re a server , serving 120+ patrons a night, or earning a lot of tips aren’t achievements that look good on your resume.

Your daily tasks probably include:

  • Taking orders, serving food and beverages, and ensuring customer satisfaction.
  • Preparing tables for meals, including setting up items such as linens, silverware, and glassware.
  • Assisting in opening and closing the restaurant, including cleaning duties and setting up for the next service.

In this case, it’s okay to focus on responsibilities instead. You can still distinguish yourself by following the rest of our tips on how to make your work experience shine.

#2. Tailor Your Work Experience to the Job

If you want your resume to go from “okay” to "outstanding," what you need to do is tailor it to the specific job you’re applying for. 

The hiring manager doesn’t need to know details about every job you’ve had or about the skills you gained in a different field. 

So, your work experience should reflect what the job requirements are. This way, you’re more likely to really catch the hiring manager’s attention and land a job interview .

Here’s an example of a well-tailored job ad:

Tailor Your Work Experience to the Job

As you can see from the picture, it’s easy to figure out what the most important requirements for the role are. 

So, to tailor your resume to this ad, you need to show how you meet every one of these job requirements.

Let’s look at an example of how the same work experience would be tailored differently according to different job ads.

Say, you were an advertising intern.

Here’s what your work experience would look like when you’re applying for a position as a social media assistant:


Marketing Intern

Full Picture Company

New York, NY

09/2023 - 12/2023

  • Analyzed various social media platforms for trending content.
  • Managed company social media accounts.
  • Posted interesting content on the company's Facebook page, increasing engagement by 25%.

Pretty easy, right? Now, let’s look at what the same work experience entry would look like for a job as a content writer .

  • Assisted the Marketing Manager in writing press releases and new blog posts, which increased web traffic by 25%.
  • Created engaging content for email marketing campaigns and boosted newsletter subscriptions.
  • Revitalized old blog posts with updated information and SEO optimization, improving organic search rankings by 30%.

The internship is still the same but this way, the experience you’re focusing on is tailored to the job you’re applying for. The hiring manager can immediately see your most important skills for the job and the value you could bring to their team.

#3. Add the Right Amount of Work Experience

If you’ve had a lot of jobs so far, you might be wondering if they all belong on your resume.

The answer is usually no. Your full, detailed work history belongs on your CV instead of your resume .

The hiring manager only wants the most recent and relevant information, not your full life story.

So, the amount of work information your resume should include depends entirely on your level of experience.

Let’s break it down:

  • No Experience. If you’re currently looking for your very first job , you simply won’t have any jobs to fill in your work experience section. In that case, we recommend skipping this section and instead focusing on any experience gained in clubs, extracurricular activities , volunteering, and other projects.
  • Entry-Level. When you’re applying for an entry-level job, you can list most of your work experience so far. Likely, some of it won’t be relevant, but it still shows the hiring manager that you have some work experience, and that’s better than none.
  • Mid-Level. At this level, you should only mention relevant work experience. Don’t waste precious space listing old internships or jobs you had as a teenager .
  • Senior-Level. You only need to list up to 15 years of relevant work experience. You might even need a two-page resume to apply for an executive position at this stage, but only if you have too much relevant work experience to fit onto a single page.

#4. Optimize for the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Software

Before the hiring manager reads your resume, it has to make it to them.

The fact is that 70% of resumes get discarded before the hiring manager even reads them.

That’s because most companies use specialized Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to go through hundreds of resumes and automatically filter out ones that don’t have what the hiring manager is looking for.

Unfortunately, this means that if a resume is missing a specific skill or isn’t formatted in a way that the ATS can process , it gets rejected immediately.


So, how can your work experience make the cut?

Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t go over one page. The ATS can have a limit on how long a resume is allowed to be, so we recommend always sticking to a single-page resume.
  • Format everything carefully. Don’t give your resume sections quirky names. Your work experience section should be titled “Work Experience,” not “The Journey So Far.” If you try being too creative, the ATS might not recognize what that section is and reject you.
  • Tailor carefully to the job ad. If you want to beat the ATS, you need your resume to be as tailored to the job ad as possible. Include as many relevant keywords as you can in your work experience section. Just make sure they’re all used in a logical context since the hiring manager is supposed to read them, too.
  • Keep everything in an active voice. Describe your previous jobs with clear and specific language. (E.g.: Instead of “A team of ten people was managed by me,” say “Managed a team of ten people” ).
  • Use power words and action verbs. Hiring managers don’t want to hear how you “were responsible” for this or “helped with” that. Make your work experience pop by using impactful language like “spearheaded,” “designed,” “conceptualized,” and more.

Choose one of our ATS-friendly resume templates to make sure your resume passes the test.

Where to Place Work Experience on Your Resume

The work experience section should always be one of the first sections on your resume, along with the skills section.

Typically, it comes just after your resume header , so that the hiring manager can read it immediately after your resume headline .

If you are using the reverse-chronological resume format, work experience should go at the top of your resume. This way, hiring managers can quickly evaluate your qualifications based on your most recent roles.

However, if you’re using a different resume format, such as functional or combination resume formats, you can make an exception. These resume formats emphasize skills over work history, so you could move your work experience further down, towards the middle of your resume.

Recent graduates are another exception to this rule

Suppose you’re a student with minimal professional experience. In that case, you can put your education section on top instead of your work experience section to emphasize your academic achievements and show that you’re ready to put your knowledge to good use.

Want to learn about the other popular resume formats ? Check out this article to see which one is right for you.

Complimentary Resume Sections

While your work experience might be the single most important section of your resume, at the end of the day, it works in sync with the rest of it.

Other resume sections , like your resume summary or certifications, can show the hiring manager how experienced you are and how much industry know-how you bring to the table.

So, here are a few other resume sections that come into play if you want to back up your work experience and increase your chances of getting an interview:

#1. Resume Summary

A resume summary is a short section at the top of your resume that highlights your most relevant skills and achievements related to the job.

In 2-3 simple sentences, a good resume summary tells the hiring manager:

  • Your years of experience in that type of role.
  • Your top qualifications or impressive accomplishments.
  • What kind of responsibilities you’re familiar with.
  • What your motivation for the position is.

By summarizing the core of your work experience upfront, your resume summary lets the hiring manager know what they can expect from the rest of your resume. So, when done well, an eye-catching resume summary can make you stand out from the crowd.

Here’s an example of a resume summary:

example of a resume summary

Another important section is devoted to your most important skills.

The skills section lets you list abilities that supplement your work experience, and it should be divided into two categories:

  • Hard Skills. These include technical skills, tools, and specific knowledge that’s directly applicable to the role.
  • Soft Skills. These can be personality traits or interpersonal skills that demonstrate how you work with others and how well you’d fit into the company’s team.

Along with your work history, the skills section helps employers quickly evaluate your credentials and relevant expertise for the position. While your work experience highlights skills in context, the skills section provides an easy-to-reference summary.

Make sure the skills you list on your resume align with what the employer is looking for. Use the job description as a reference to pinpoint the keywords you should add to your resume .

Here’s an example of a skills section on a resume:

example of a skills section on a resume

#3. Certificates

Professional certificates and coursework can show your commitment to continuous learning and honing your skills.

Listing certificates on your resume allows you to showcase specialized knowledge and skills that might not be evident from your work experience.

For example, say you’re applying for a position as an SEO content marketer.

If you’re experienced in digital marketing but don’t have formal work experience with SEO, that could be a problem. However, listing a certificate from an SEO course can tell the hiring manager that you have the necessary knowledge to take on the role.

Relevant certificates can provide evidence of your advanced skills, industry expertise, or any other necessary qualifications for the role. They can back up your skills and distinguish you from other candidates with similar work experience.

Depending on the context, any certificates you have can either be listed in the education section or a dedicated resume section.

If the certificates are more recent and different from your formal education, we recommend listing them separately. Here’s an example:

certificates on a resume

#4. Personal Projects

One of the best ways to show your passion and dedication is through your projects.

Hiring managers love candidates who do cool stuff in their spare time.

If any personal passion project you’ve been working on is relevant to the role you’re applying for, make sure to add it to your resume. It can back up the skills and experience on your resume, and help you stand out from other applicants.

For example, if you’re applying for a job as an animator , any published flash animation videos on YouTube are a great addition to your resume.

However, personal projects should only be listed if they’re relevant. If you’re looking for a job as an architect , your incredible cosplay sewing abilities just won’t cut it.

Here’s an example of a personal projects section:

personal projects on a resume

11 Real-Life Examples

Not sure how to list work experience for your field?

Check out the practical work experience in these resume examples for different professions:

#1. Marketing Executive Resume Example

Marketing Executive Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a marketing executive resume here.

#2. Teacher Resume Example

Teacher Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a teacher resume here.

#3. Cashier Resume Example

Cashier Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a cashier resume here.

#4. Software Engineer Resume Example

Software Engineer Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a software engineer resume here.

#5. Career Change Resume Example

Career Change Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a career change resume here.

#6. Illustrator Resume Example

Illustrator Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing an illustrator resume here.

#7. Esthetician Resume Example

Esthetician Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing an esthetician resume here.

#8. Stay-at-Home Parent Resume Example

Stay-at-Home Parent Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a stay-at-home parent resume here.

#9. University Graduate Resume Example

University Graduate Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a university graduate resume here.

#10. University Student Resume Example

University Student Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a university student resume here.

#11. High School Graduate Resume Example

High School Graduate Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a high school graduate resume here.

Work Experience Section FAQs

Are you still wondering about something related to your resume’s work experience? Check out the answers to these popular questions about listing work experience on a resume:

#1. What If I Don’t Have Any Work Experience?

If you don’t have any work experience, there are two things you should consider: first, hiring managers don’t expect candidates for entry-level roles to have a ton of experience, so you don’t have to worry too much.

And second - there are plenty of ways to make an impressive resume even without any professional experience .

For example, if you're a recent graduate, you can focus on highlighting your education, relevant coursework or extracurricular activities.

Include any internships, volunteer roles, or student organizations that show you have the skills necessary for the job.

You can also highlight universal skills like communication , teamwork, problem-solving, and computer skills . If you use a strategic approach, your lack of work experience won’t hold you back from writing a great resume.

#2. Can I List an Internship Instead of Work Experience?

Yes, you can list internship experience on your resume instead of work experience.

Internships provide valuable on-the-job training and give you exposure to a professional work environment, so they’re always a great thing to add to your resume.

Like work experience, internships allow you to gain important skills, learn about a particular industry or role, and build accomplishments you can use to show potential future employers. 

Internships can be a vital resume section for candidates with less experience, such as students, career changers, or stay-at-home parents re-entering the workforce, since they show hiring managers you have enough relevant hands-on experience to succeed at the job.

#3. How Can I Explain an Employment Gap on My Resume?

The key to managing a gap in your work experience section is to address it briefly and positively on your resume or cover letter .

In a line or two, explain what happened and move on without dwelling on it, since employment gaps are relatively common and can happen for different reasons.

For example, if you had to take a year off to recover from a medical issue, just say so in your resume without going into details. The important thing is that you’re now better, ready to resume work, and the hiring manager knows it won’t be a problem.

If you have a short employment gap, you can probably skip the explanations. Simply list the start and end dates for each role without explaining the time in between. A couple of months between jobs is perfectly normal, and hiring managers aren’t likely to ask about it.

#4. What If My Work Experience Isn’t Relevant?

If you're applying for a job and none of your work experience is relevant, it’s a bit more complicated.

As a general rule, any work experience is better than no work experience. Most soft skills are applicable across industries, so you can focus on them in your resume.

If you’re an entry-level candidate, you might want to leverage other areas to show the hiring manager that you’re a good fit for the role.

For example, if you want to be a graphic designer but only have experience in customer service , emphasize your art education, portfolio work, and personal projects instead. If you’ve taken any more recent courses related to the field, you can list them before your work experience.

However, if you’re an experienced professional looking to change careers , things are a little different.

For a career change, you need to articulate your transferable skills and show how your previous experience can help you in this new role.

Let's say you're a sales professional interested in marketing. You could highlight skills like communication, market analysis, client relationship-building, and goal-oriented achievements that show your valuable marketing skills.

Key Takeaways

You’ve made it to the end!

Now, you’re all set to write a flawless work experience section.

But before you go, let’s recap what we talked about:

  • Always list your work experience reverse-chronologically so the hiring manager can see what your most recent achievements and experiences are.
  • If possible, focus on work achievements over day-to-day tasks. This way, you can immediately show the hiring manager what you’ve done for your previous team and what the value of hiring you would be.
  • Carefully format your work experience so it passes the ATS and so that the hiring manager can easily read it.
  • Instead of paragraphs, use bullet points to describe your previous jobs. For newer experiences, 5-6 bullets are good, but for older ones, 2-3 bullet points are enough.
  • If you don’t have work experience, use this section to list your internship, volunteer experience, personal projects, or extracurricular activities. Treat them the same way you would treat work experience, and list your responsibilities and achievements in bullet points.
  • Make sure the other sections in your resume complement your work experience for a flawless job application.

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