3 Dos & 3 Don’ts for Your Work Experience Section

3 Dos & 3 Don’ts for Your Work Experience Section

There are tried and true techniques that jobseekers employ to increase their chances of being called in for a job interview. There are also many, many mistakes that jobseekers make when writing their resumes that result in the documents being tossed in the wastebasket pretty fast. To maximize the power of your Work Experience section, here are some Dos and Don’ts you’ll definitely want to keep in mind.

DO: Highlight Your Accomplishments

A lot of the resumes I see list only job tasks and responsibilities in the Work Experience section, which make it difficult for me to know if the candidate is good at the job they’re describing. Instead of focusing solely on tasks and responsibilities, focus on quantifiable achievements. Demonstrate that you’ve helped the company solve its problems and achieve its goals. Quantify your experience as much as possible—mention numbers if you’ve done something that has saved time or money, made money, etc. Here are some examples:

“Generated 700k in pipeline over three months through 300+ cold calls a week and 12 email campaigns to 2600 prospects.

“Managed project tool to log status updates of 20+ projects spanning three departments.

“Implemented new payroll and tax accounting systems that will save 800k USD in staff costs over the next 10 years.”

It’s okay to provide an estimated number as long as you can justify everything when (or if) you’re asked about it in the interview.

Aim for a one-page resume, but if all of your older roles critically relate to the job you’re going after, extend your resume to two pages. Definitely do not try to cram 15-20 years of experience into a single page resume!

DO: Use Action Verbs

“Accomplished.” “Designed.” “Initiated.” “Supervised.” These are all terrific examples of action verbs to use when describing your accomplishments and duties in your Work Experience section.

Also, in order to show that you are a good cultural fit for the company, try using key terms that the company uses to describe itself on their About Us page, or in the job ad.

DO: Tailor Your Work Experience Section to Each Job

This might sound like a time-consuming task, but it is absolutely critical that you tailor your Work Experience section to each job. You significantly increase your chances of securing an interview when you take this step.

A big mistake that I see many jobseekers make is using the exact same resume for every job vacancy, regardless of the industry or job title. If your resume is cluttered with information that’s irrelevant to the position you’re applying for, it won’t get a lot of attention.

Also focus on the relevant keywords listed in the job description, especially if it’s known industry jargon. Examples of keywords might include specific computer programs, or skills (for example: “excellent verbal communication skills”), plus words/terms like “social media strategist,” “management” or “accounts payable.”

Finally, aim for around 5-8 bullet points for each job you describe in your Work Experience section. You don’t need to put periods at the end of bullets. Use the present tense with your action verbs when describing a role you’re currently in (and the past tense when describing a past role).

Also, your summary statement and skills section should also be tweaked for every job you apply for to show you have the skills and experience needed. Feeling like you’ll need some resume writing assistance? Consider using a resume builder or resume templates to get your game in proper order.

Examine the job ad/job description. Examine it closely, and make sure your skills align with the ones they’re looking for a candidate to possess. Also pay very close attention to the language used in the job ad, particularly in the skills and requirements departments. Use the exact same language that appears in the job ad when describing your skills and accomplishments.

DON’T Put Too Much Info in Your Work Experience Section

While recruiters and hiring mangers want to see enough work history to understand the depth of your experience, there is no need to list every job you’ve ever had, especially if you have 20 years of experience, or the jobs from your distant past have no relevance to what you’re looking to do right now.

Include only the most relevant positions held. Typically, you don’t need to include more than the last 10-15 years of work experience. In fact, if you have over 10-15 years of work experience, you can either exclude select previous roles (for instance, ones that bear no relation to the job you’re aiming to secure), or extend your resume to two pages.

Aim for a one-page resume, but if all of your older roles critically relate to the job you’re going after, extend your resume to two pages. Definitely do not try to cram 15-20 years of experience into a single page resume!

Spend some time studying how to write a resume to learn more about the best format to use and information to include in your application materials.

DON’T Forget to Check Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling

I’ve seen candidates who list “attention to detail” as one of their strengths, yet they have spelling mistakes on their resume. Have your resume reviewed by someone (even if you’ve used spell checker when writing), or consider using a tool like Grammarly.

DON’T Use Multiple Fonts or Colors

Stick with one font throughout the resume. The many designs, templates, and format possibilities out there may be tempting (especially if you’re a designer or graphics person), but in the long run, a resume is a professional document that cannot afford to look like an art project. You can change size of fonts and use limited amounts of color with you name in the header, as well as with your headings (if you want), but a single font is easier to read. Popular fonts include Arial, Verdana, Tahoma, and Calibri.

Again, make sure you write your Work Experience section (and your entire resume, for that matter) with a focus on the target job. Generic resumes are a thing of the past and easily recognizable by hiring managers that stare at them all day.

You need to be crystal-clear about your personal brand and the benefits you offer future employers—make sure your Work Experience section reflects that!

About the Author

Margaret Buj

Margaret Buj is a career and interview coach who specializes in helping professionals get hired, promoted, and paid more. Margaret has 12 years of experience in recruiting for global technology and e-commerce companies across Europe and the United States. Over the past 11 years, she has successfully coached hundreds of people to the jobs and promotions they were seeking, with a focus on mastering interviewing skills; identifying unique selling points; and creating self-marketing strategies that enhance a reputation with a consistent online and offline brand presence. Recognized as one of LinkedIn UK’s Power Profiles in HR, Margaret has spoken at countless career events and conferences, and has done training sessions and workshops in London, Monaco, Athens, and Saudi Arabia. She has written the “Land that Job” e-Guide, and has been featured in Cosmopolitanmagazine and interviewed for The Financial Times and Management Today. You can learn more about Margaret, her services, and her award-winning blog here.

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