What’s the Best Format for Writing About Your Past Experience In Your Resume?

As you prepare your resume, keep in mind that the best format for past experience has less to do with font choice and spacing and more to do with emphasizing skills that match the job requirements. It’s also worth keeping in mind that this part of your resume should be concise, honest, positive, and targeted. The following advice will help.

Basic formatting advice for the past experience section

Most hiring managers give a cursory scan of the many resumes they receive for job openings, and they will often quickly disregard a resume that’s difficult to read. A 12-point font is the standard, and if you use a 9-or 10-point font to squeeze more on the page, you risk making your resume look jumbled and disorganized. You’ll just make your resume that much harder to read.

  • List the employer, your job title, and dates employed, with the most recent job first.
  • Use bullet points to focus the reader on what you want them to know.
  • Match your skills and accomplishments to the job requirements.
  • Describe instances where your input created a positive outcome. Don’t just list your responsibilities.
  • Start your sentences with past tense action verbs. The only exception to this would be a job that you still hold. In this case, use present tense.

Be honest

The purpose of a well-crafted resume is to get the interview, and the purpose of an interview is to get the job, but if there are inaccuracies or exaggerations in your resume, you’ll probably be found out. You want to paint yourself as the right person for the job because you are the right person.

Integrity is a valuable asset in an employee. Don’t ruin your chances by misrepresenting your past work history.

Avoid negativity

If you indicate that your career advancement was halted because of a vindictive manager or an uncaring corporate culture, you’ve put yourself in a negative light right from the start. No potential employer wants to hire a complainer. Stay focused on your positive contributions.

The best format for a past experience section includes keywords from the job description

Many companies use applicant tracking systems that scan resumes for keywords identified by the hiring manager. If those keywords, like “project management experience” or “spreadsheet creation,” are included in your work experience section, they’ll stand out whether it’s a computer system or an actual human being scanning your resume. You can usually identify those keywords by closely reviewing the position description and matching your skills and experience to the job requirements. Use the same words while making your resume unique.

You don’t have to include every job you’ve ever had

Just because you have work experience that goes back 30 or 40 years doesn’t mean you have to list every job. In fact, it could trigger age discrimination that you’d never be aware of. It would also likely make for a multi-page resume. Providing your relevant work experience from the last 10-15 years is honest, and it won’t work against you.

Put your best foot forward

When describing accomplishments at previous jobs, include both hard and soft skills. Keep in mind that the first read of your resume is more than likely a quick scan, so make sure your most standout successes at each job are listed first. You want potential employers to keep reading.

If you’re still confused about the best format for the past experience section of your resume, have a look at some of our sample resumes. Otherwise, for step-by-step assistance with a resume aimed at the job you want, visit LiveCareer’s Resume Builder.

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