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If you’re trying to get another position, switch companies, or move up the career ladder, you should probably know how to describe work experience on a resume effectively.
First thing’s first, make sure you read these 6 tips to write a resume to make sure you’re not making these fundamental mistakes when writing your resume in general.
Now that we got that out of the way, here are 5 steps on how to describe work experience on a resume
How to describe work experience on a resume in 5 steps
Be results oriented!
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when looking at how to describe work experience on a resume is that they simply list their job responsibilities. This is an example of a greenhouse grower’s job responsibilities I pulled off Indeed:
- Participate in the continuous scouting and monitoring of the crop for health, pest and diseases.
- Inspect main areas of concern such as leaves, stems, flowers and rootzone.
- Participate in cultivation related activities such as pruning, defoliating, crop maintenance, harvesting and cycle turnover as required.
- Train and manage a team of assistant growers
Can you see when trying to describe work experience on a resume by listing the job responsibilities above in your work experience is bad? People in the field and who are hiring know what the job responsibilities of a grower is.
Listing the responsibilities above gives a hiring manager no indication of how you are as an employee. Were you a bad employee or a great employee? What were you able to accomplish in your role for the company?
You need to be results oriented in your thinking of how to describe work experience on a resume.
Let’s take the first job responsibility and make it results oriented.
Job responsibility: Participate in the continuous scouting and monitoring of the crop for health, pest and diseases.
Results oriented: Detail oriented in the diligent and continuous scouting and monitoring of the crop for health, resulting in the early detection of a pest outbreak which saved $50,000 of crop
Doesn’t the results oriented one sound so much better?
This point still shows your job responsibility, but in addition it also demonstrates to the the hiring manager and company that you’re detail oriented and diligent. These are both valuable transferrable skills. It further shows that you detected something early using your detail oriented skill that saved the company money! $50,000 to be exact!
What company wouldn’t like that?! If they hire you, they could potentially be saving money too!
So the most important point here in how to describe work experience on a resume is to BE RESULTS ORIENTED!
Quantify your results
In line with the first step of how to describe work experience on a resume, the second step would be to quantify your results. Add numbers where you can. Numbers draw attention easily. Numbers are an easy way for a hiring manager to measure your results and work as an employee.
Try to quantify your results wherever you can, whether it is in dollars, months, percentages, etc.
Again, lets take the last job responsibility of our greenhouse grower and make it quantifiable.
Job responsibility: Train and manage a team of assistant growers
Quantified results: Efficiently trained a team of 5 assistant growers in 2 months to increase productivity by 15%
That quantified results statement says so much more about your capabilities than the job responsibility statement does.
It shows that you’re efficient in your work and that you’re probably great with time management if you were training 5 people! Again it shows that you increased the company’s productivity which either made them more money or saved them money. Either way, you sound like a very valuable employee!
Include transferable and technical skills
When you’re trying to figure out how to describe work experience on a resume, each sentence should have the same structure – I call it the resume sandwich. Each bullet point when describing your work experience should contain a) a transferable skill you used to accomplish a task, b) how you accomplished the task with a technical skill and c) the quantifiable results.
Transferable skills are soft skills. They are valuable skills that can be applied in any situation and any job. They are usually character or personality related. Examples of transferable skills include innovative, creative, leadership, critical thinking, etc.
Technical skills are hard skills. These are skills that generally require education or training and are specific to the job.
In our previous results oriented example, you can pick out the transferable skill, technical skill, and quantifiable result.
Detail oriented (transferable skill) in the diligent and continuous scouting and monitoring of the crop for health (technical skill), resulting in the early detection of a pest outbreak which saved $50,000 of crop (quantifiable result).
Tailor your work experience
It should not come as a shock that step 4 for how to describe work experience on a resume is to tailor it to the specific job you’re applying for. This is pretty common sense. Your quantifiable results oriented bullet points in your work experience should match what the hiring manager is looking for.
If you’re trying to get a promotion in our greenhouse grower example, a master greenhouse grower job has “Develop and/or maintain plant production protocols and nutrient regiment” as one of the job requirements. So think about how you developed a protocol in your job, and what was the quantifiable result?
List your most current experiences first
Simply put, hiring managers have dozens if not hundreds of resumes to look through. They are not going to skim through pages of your resume. Keep your resume short. 1 page preferable, 2 pages MAX.
Related: How to write a resume with 6 tips
Put your most current experiences first because chances are they will not flip to page 2 of your resume. They will barely get to the bottom of the first page! So in learning how to describe work experience on a resume, put your most recent job first.
The exception to this is if the most current experience is not relevant to the job you are applying for. For example, if you had a first job, then switch fields in your second (current) job, then you’re trying to go back to the first job’s field. In this case, I would put the most relevant experiences first – which would be the first job.
So there you have 4 steps for how to describe work experience on a resume. Now you can go get that job promotion!