Resume Writing Tips – Demonstrating Your Experience
Your Experience section should clearly demonstrate to a prospective employer that you possess the skills, abilities, knowledge, experience and personal characteristics that will enable you to excel in the position you are applying for. You should address the employer’s concern, “If hired, how can you immediately benefit the organization.” For most job seekers, the Experience section is the most important section of your resume because it focuses potential employers on the most significant qualifications from your previous work experience and provides the necessary reasons for bringing you in for an interview.
When writing your Experience section, it is essential that you understand the type of position, career field and industry you are seeking so that you can tailor the presentation of your previous experience in a way that effectively qualifies you for your job target. Include only those job responsibilities, skills and achievements that substantiate your qualifications for your next job and consider including any previous experience (even unpaid, part-time, volunteer, or consulting work) from the past 10 to 15 years that demonstrates your ability to achieve success and produce positive results. Your Experience section lists your positions at previous companies in reverse chronological order beginning with your most recent job.
Insider Tip: Update the heading of your EXPERIENCE section to a more representative name as yet another way to reinforce your suitability for the position:
MARKETING AND SALES EXPERIENCE
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT EXPERIENCE
The most important thing to remember is that your Experience section is more than a listing of your job history. It’s a sales pitch to prospective employers about what you are best at, so sell the qualities that are most important. Highlight your strengths to make your resume stand out.
What Information Should be Included
The most persuasive Experience section includes a summary paragraph (2 to 3 sentences) that measurably describes your overall role, outlines your most significant accomplishments, and offers tangible information about the company itself.
Describe the size of the company, size of your department, size of your annual budget or sales, or the number of people who worked for you. Give the employer an idea of your company’s place in the market and your place within the company. If the industry is not obvious from the company name and is relevant to your future employer, then you may want to describe the company in more detail (“a leading advertising agency”). Consider including a statement about who you reported to if it is an indication of your level of responsibility (“Reported directly to the Executive Vice-President of Sales”).
Your summary paragraph is followed by a bulleted list of your major accomplishments within this position, which demonstrates your ability to produce results in this role.
FinanceSoft Corporation, Los Angeles, California 1999 – present
Senior Sales Manager
Directed sales force of over 250 account managers, regional managers, and sales representatives to develop and deliver marketing campaigns for $8M financial software publisher. Established quotas and managed performance to meet sales goals of $3M.
When deciding what to include in your Experience section, take into account the career field you are seeking and shape your resume to include only that information which helps your job search. Rephrase any unrelated jobs that do not effectively communicate your qualifications for the position into statements that identify transferable skills, or consider leaving them out of your resume. When listing your experience, you generally only want to include the last 10 to 15 years. Focus your writing on the most relevant experience, and summarize older, less relevant experience.
Ask yourself, “What are the most important reasons for hiring me?” Always prioritize statements about your job responsibilities and accomplishments and rank them in the order that would be most compelling to the potential hiring manager.
Choosing a Persuasive Writing Style
As with the rest of your resume, your Experience section should be written in a commanding, professional tone. Streamline phrases by eliminating personal pronouns (I, me, we) and removing articles (the, a, an). Use an active voice that presents your qualifications strongly and confidently.
Compose authoritative statements about your experience and accomplishments, beginning with compelling action verbs that illustrate a decisive action on your part, followed by a positive benefit to the company. Some of the most compelling action verbs are listed below; however, refer to ResumeMaker’s Action Words for a more comprehensive list:
Sample Action Words
Directed • Launched • Reduced • Created • Reorganized • Managed • Oversaw • Secured • Designed • Constructed • Implemented • Reported to • Negotiated • Maximized • Developed • Established • Led • Increased • Organized • Improved • Analyzed • Identified • Demonstrated • Researched
Demonstrate Your Ability to Achieve Results
Employers seek out candidates that can prove they have the ability to achieve results and add value to an organization. When you provide specific, impressive statements about how your achievements have produced a positive result with previous employers (through convincing Action-Benefit Statements™), you validate your qualifications for the position and hiring managers will be more inclined to ask you to an interview.
How to Write Action-Benefit Statements™
An Action-Benefit Statement™ is a strong and clear description of an action you took, which resulted in a tangible, measurable benefit to your organization. Action-Benefit Statements demonstrate how your abilities and experience have made a positive impact on a company’s bottom line. Action-Benefit Statements consist of:
Action: A specific action that you took when faced with a situation, problem or opportunity or a job responsibility that enabled you to achieve a positive result.
Benefit: The positive result or benefit to the organization, such as an increase in revenue, a reduction in costs, streamlined processes or systems, or improved morale.
Consider the following example, “Analyzed declining sales and developed a campaign to increase orders by 30% in less than one month.” This statement describes the situation or challenge you faced (declining sales), the Action you took (developed a campaign), and the Benefit of your actions (a 30% increase in orders). Always Quantify or Qualify accomplishments and achievements described in your Action-Benefit Statement.
When you are quantifying results, consider the impact of your work in measurable terms and include the numbers, percents, dollars, values and other measurements of success that represent your experience in the best possible light:
Good: Supervised a large staff of retail employees covering multiple territories. Effectively managed business unit P&L and consistently grew profits.
Better: Ten years experience managing 15 employers across multiple territories on the East coast. Effectively managed P&L of $10 million business unit. Consistently generated 30-35% gross profit.
Alternatively, when you are qualifying accomplishments, consider describing the process, depicting the environment and including the personal characteristics that a future employer would consider valuable in that role:
Good: Increased sales through cold-calling, follow-up and account management.
Better: Consistently grew revenue and profits in a rapidly changing environment through aggressive cold-calling, persistent follow-up, and relationship-focused account management.
Good: Designed electronic equipment.
Better: Prepared complete, precise, accurate designs of precision electronic equipment using the latest CAD/CAM software, which resulted in a 25% reduction in overall design flaws.
Communicating Skills, Job Responsibilities, and Accomplishments
Employers want to have confidence that you will be successful in the position before they hire you. When reviewing your resume, employers are asking the following questions: Do you possess the necessary skills to perform the required work? Have you had similar responsibilities or performed comparable work in previous positions? Do you have a demonstrated record of achieving results and the capability make a positive impact in your role?
Ask yourself what kind of person the company needs and what the employer would hope to see in a qualified applicant. Review as many advertisements of your job target as possible and discuss the requirements of a typical position with hiring managers beforehand to ensure that your resume effectively demonstrates these abilities.
Your skills are the essence of your qualifications and encompass your abilities, capabilities, acquired knowledge, and personal characteristics. Including relevant skills demonstrates to prospective employers you have the tools needed to perform well in the job. Use concrete examples of how you used skills to solve problems or create opportunities and emphasize those skills that are the most relevant to the job you are applying for.
Insider Tip: Consider emphasizing the skills you possess that you enjoy using and downplay those capabilities you would prefer not to use again.
Your Job Responsibilities
Your job responsibilities are the tasks you have performed using your skills and they tell a prospective employer that you have carried out the functions of the job before. Describe the tasks you performed, the products or projects you were involved with, the responsibilities you were given, the interaction you had with co-workers and the roles you played. Give the employer an idea of what you did on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
Insider Tip: Many inexperienced job seekers limit their resume to only listing the job duties performed at each job. However, employers are looking for evidence that you can apply your skills and abilities in ways that add value to the company. The best way to demonstrate your skills and job responsibilities is through action-oriented accomplishment and achievement statements.
Accomplishments demonstrate how you have used your skills and abilities to achieve success and produce positive results. An accomplishment can be any task you performed that provided a tangible benefit for the company. The best accomplishment statements describe how you added value by increasing efficiency, saving time, saving money, or contributing to the bottom line. Accomplishments should be succinct, measurable and results-oriented Action-Benefit Statements that demonstrate your success. Use concrete examples, situations and stories about your accomplishments and how you have achieved results.
Insider Tip: You probably have your own list of significant accomplishments, but consider browsing ResumeMaker’s sample resumes for examples of other accomplishments. After reviewing these samples, you may consider updating or enhancing your list of accomplishments.
Identifying Your Accomplishments
The following questions will help you identify your most impressive achievements. When answering each question, think about challenges you faced, how you overcame those challenges, and the positive result of your actions.
Questions for Accomplishments
Additionally, consider asking yourself questions about your personal and educational background. This is especially important if you are changing careers or are a recent graduate. What are the most significant accomplishments and achievements of your career? Have you ever received an award, certificate or commendation from any group? Are you a community leader or are you involved with a local school or organization? Have you received an academic award or merit scholarship? However, remember to include subject matter that supports your candidacy for the position and shows you are focused on and committed to your career.
Most job seekers undersell their abilities by labeling themselves with job titles that do not accurately reflect the job responsibilities they performed in a particular role. When choosing a job title, it may be more truthful to use a title that genuinely reflects your job duties and responsibilities than to use your actual title. Don’t oversell your role, but don’t undersell it either. Always give yourself an appropriate title based on your responsibilities.
For example, if your official title was Account Manager, but the true nature of your work involved managing all of the company’s national accounts, then it would be more appropriate to use a title such as National Account Manager. Additionally, if you are looking for a career in a specialized field, make sure that your resume communicates your expertise. If you label yourself as a Software Engineer, most employers will not understand your specialty. If you were really a Senior Level Java Programmer, then list yourself with this title. Instead of Attorney, it may be more appropriate to identify yourself as a Patent Litigation Attorney and use accomplishment statements that support your job title.
Additionally, a job title means different things at different companies. A Vice-President of a small company might have the same basic responsibilities as a Division Manager in a larger company. In some companies, an Administrative Assistant might perform Office Manager duties.
Insider Tip: If you are changing careers or your previous job titles do not reflect the nature of the work you are seeking, then consider replacing unrelated job titles with skill headings that reflect the true nature of work you have performed and are more relevant to your targeted career.
For example, if you perform sales functions in your current position but are seeking a career in marketing, then tap into the marketing responsibilities of your existing position and use a skill heading that is reflective of your marketing experience.
Job Title Sales Manager: Oversaw 25 employees in sales and marketing department. Effectively launched sales and marketing campaigns to increase revenue 30% in three years.
Skill Heading Marketing Management: Oversaw product marketing department with 25 employees comprising product marketing managers, brand managers and account managers. Launched 12 effective marketing campaigns, which increased revenue 30% in three years.
Note: During the interview, refer to previous jobs using your actual job titles. You can explain your reasons for restating your job title when you have a chance to reinforce your qualifications for the position in person.
Multiple Jobs with the Same Company
Employers look for a candidate who can demonstrate career advancement in the same, or a closely related, field or industry. A detailed record of promotions identifies an employee who is able to manage increasing amounts of responsibility. Emphasize your promotions within the same company, highlighting additional qualifications demonstrated in your previous roles.
List each position you’ve held with the company in reverse chronological order as a separate entry on your resume, repeating the company name with each entry. List dates (in years) for each position. This focuses the reader on your increasing levels of responsibility, illustrates your ambition and shows that you’re an employee that can be promoted.
Senior Software Engineer, Highland Corporation 2002 – 2004
Software Developer, Highland Corporation 2000 – 2002
If you want to maximize the reader’s interest in your most recent position or if previous positions within the same company are unrelated to your career objective, then it is preferable to list your combined experience for the employer under one entry, using your most recent or most relevant job title.
Senior Software Engineer, Highland Corporation 2000 – 2004
Emphasizing Your Most Relevant Experience
Focus the reader on your most impressive experience and qualifications. Keep in mind that this experience may not always come from your “most recent” experience. If you are moving to a similar position at a new company or advancing within your career field, your most relevant experience will probably be your most recent job. Provide the greatest amount of detail for your most recent job, and less information about each job as you go back in your work history.
If you are changing careers or are returning to a past career, your most relevant experience may come from a previous job listing. In this case, provide the greatest amount of detail when describing this experience. Consider bolding or underlining text to emphasize important information from previous careers and consider pulling your most impressive accomplishments, skills and capabilities into a powerful Summary or Accomplishments section closer to the top of your resume.
Common Writing Mistakes to Avoid
When writing your Experience section, here are some common mistakes to avoid:
- Including reasons for leaving. Explaining reasons for leaving a former employer on your resume is never advisable. Even if reasons for leaving can be presented in a positive light, it is more appropriate to discuss this topic at the interview.
- Noting unrelated experience. If your career history contains experience that is unrelated to your career goal, and does not directly substantiate your qualifications for the position, then eliminate it or use a Functional resume that downplays your work history and focuses on transferable skills.
- Underselling your abilities. Avoid labeling yourself with a job title that does not accurately reflect your legitimate job responsibilities. Choose a descriptive job title that reflects your actual abilities and contributions.
- Overlooking accomplishments. Employers want more than a boring list of job duties. They want to hear about your achievements and contributions. They search for candidates that can communicate not only what tasks they can perform, but how their performance can be translated into measurable results.
Insider Tips for Changing Careers
Your Experience section should only describe how your skills and abilities are applicable to the job you are seeking. Analyze your job target and determine the necessary skills and abilities the position requires, then use your background for examples of how you have demonstrated these skills and abilities. The following are tips to use when writing this information:
- Remove or rephrase job duties and skills that pertain only to your previous career.
- Remove industry language and jargon that pertain only to your previous career.
- Identify and communicate transferable skills that are valuable to your new career.
- By using examples, reinforce that you adapt quickly and are a fast learner.
- Emphasize your qualifications for your next career, and downplay unrelated experience.
The same skills are often used in many different careers. A useful skill for most careers is the “Ability to Communicate Effectively,” both verbally and in writing. Language and computer skills are abilities that cross over well into most other occupations. “Negotiation,” “Management,” “Leadership,” “Critical Thinking,” and “Problem Solving” apply to most careers. When switching to a new career, you need to redefine your experience and skills to meet a new set of challenges.
Job seekers involved in a significant career change choose a Functional resume, where the most interesting and compelling reasons to hire you appear in various sections of your resume. In this case, your Experience section should de-emphasize unrelated experience by including only the most basic information about your previous employment, such as job titles, company names and dates. With a Functional resume, you focus on selling your qualifications throughout the rest of your resume and downplay your employment history altogether.
Insider Tips for Consulting, Freelance or Temporary Workers
If you have worked for a company or several companies as a consultant or through a temporary/staffing agency, you should list the actual company’s name as your employer on your resume (unless listing the staffing or consulting agency would be more impressive to the reader).
If you have worked for several high profile companies and want to highlight your achievements within each company, consider combining these employers under the same entry. This strategy allows you to demonstrate your success at each company, but eliminates potential gaps in your work history.
FINANCIAL SERVICES GROUP and HIGHLAND CORPORATION 2002 to 2004
Account Management, Business Development
For FINANCIAL SERVICES GROUP, Business Development Department
For HIGHLAND CORPORATION, Outside Sales Division
If you performed consulting work for several companies whose names are less significant, then list your accomplishments under a general job title that reflects the nature of your work.
Business Development Consultant 2002 to 2004
Created strong market penetration and established several accounts through the development of a new marketing campaign/strategy. Organized and participated in several trade shows and Chamber of Commerce activities to increase sponsorship/exhibit opportunities and to reach new markets. Handled the $5 million rental product line and asset management for the entire business unit consisting of seven locations throughout Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware.
Insider Tips for Students and Recent Graduates
Students and recent graduates with little or no real work experience find writing the Experience section of their resume especially challenging. However, even recent graduates should be able to develop a list of experiences from various paid or non-paid internships, student jobs, extracurricular activities, and other volunteer work. Consider the skills you developed, the experience you gained and the accomplishments of your work. If this is not enough, find a way to use elements of past work experience to include as relevant skills in your job search. For instance, managing a newspaper route or watching the neighbor’s children demonstrates that you are reliable and can accept responsibility.
Insider Tips for Interns and Volunteers
When listing volunteer work or internships within your career field, use the name of the company where you interned or volunteered as the employer on your resume; and describe skills, experience and accomplishments as you would any other job. The fact that this work may have been unpaid is irrelevant and you do not need to list these roles as volunteer or intern work. The primary message to deliver to future employers is that you’ve gained valuable knowledge of a particular industry, attended regular industry meetings, interacted with professionals in the career field, learned to speak the industry language, and developed the skills you’ll need in your next position.
Insider Tips when Returning to the Workforce
Describing your past work experience following several years out of the job market poses a challenge for those re-entering the work force. Adding this information to your resume may cause a prospective employer to question whether you possess the necessary, up-to-date skills and can compete on the same level as other candidates. However, leaving this information off your resume introduces a noticeable employment gap that might raise further doubts or concerns.
If you have held part-time jobs, worked out of your home, or volunteered during this time, then consider an entry on your resume that reflects “Self-Employed” or “Volunteer Work.” However, it has become more common to list experience during your time out of the job market on your resume, just as any other corporate job. For example, if you were out of the job market because you were a stay-at-home parent, choose a job title or heading such as “Full-Time Parent” or “Domestic Management.” Then, evaluate the transferable skills and accomplishments in your domestic role and rephrase this experience in a way that demonstrates your value to an employer.
Domestic Life Transferable Skills
Planning • Organizing • Scheduling • Conflict Resolution • Problem Solving • Coordinating • Counseling • Resourcefulness • Crisis Management • Leadership • Purchasing • Budget Management • Communication Skills • Negotiation/Mediation Skills • Inventory Management • Customer Service
Be sure to include experience and skills that you have gained through active participation in community and school events, volunteer programs, alumni associations, and religious or social organizations.
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