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How to Communicate Your Work Experience (Podcast)
Career Booster


00:00 / 00:20:33



At Grantham University, we believe your education doesn’t have to stop with your degree. That’s why we offer online help for the job-hunting process—from interview prep to putting together the perfect resume. Recently, three of Grantham University’s Career Launch experts got together for a series of podcasts about helping students and graduates reach their career goals.

Here are some of the highlights of the podcast covering how to ensure the experience section of your resume—the area hiring managers review first—is as good as it can be.

The First Thing Reviewed: Your Work Experience

Name. Check. Contact information. Check. Work experience … this should be triple checked.

“It’s the first section hiring managers will review,” says Doug Dimler. “Everything else is not irrelevant, it’s just that they’ll go to this section first to make sure things are the way they should be.”

Whether you title it “Work Experience,” “Professional Experience,” “Relevant Experience” or some other name, it needs to clearly define your knowledge, involvement and, yes, experience in an industry and in specific jobs and career paths in that industry. What’s more, everything you put in this section should be relevant to the job you’re applying for now.

Career Trajectory

In your ‘Work Experience’ section, you’re going to also give potential employers a snapshot of your career trajectory or progression. In other words, how you’ve moved from entry-level jobs into positions of more responsibility—it’s a demonstration of how you’ve grown and matured in your desired career field. With that in mind, present your information in a reverse chronological order.

“If you’ve stayed at one job and you’ve progressed in one job,” says Dimler, “you want to put those dates on there so a hiring manager can clearly see that you’ve gone from one job to another, how long you’ve been in that job and see if you’ve progressed. Same thing if you’ve had multiple jobs.”

“The experience section is really the heart of your resume,” says Brandon McAuley. “If you begin doing this section of your resume first, the rest of your resume will be a little easier to write … this is really the story of what you’ve actually accomplished in your position.”

Action Words

As you begin writing your experience, use action verbs to reveal details of your position. (Google ‘keywords’ or ‘action words’ for resumes to get some help on what words to use.) Be specific. Be action oriented. And be current.

“There are some action verbs that are overly used or even old,” says Dimler, “that you shouldn’t use. If you use those ‘old’ action verbs, it makes your resume dated, and you definitely don’t want that.”

Make sure they aren’t old, out-of-date or overly used action words. These can hurt your resume. Avoid repeating the same action words (I provided…, I performed…, I provided… and I performed…) over and over again. And avoid using clichés like:

  • Responsible for
  • People Person
  • Self-Starter

Tense Situations

Make sure your work history and experience match up tenses with current and past positions.

“A common error that I’ve seen on resumes is not aligning your tenses properly,” says Bell. “And what I mean by that is moving from ‘served’ to ‘serves’ and ‘led’ to ‘leading’ when you’re talking about your current job versus a previous position.”

How Much Experience to Share

One concern resume writers bring up is exactly how far back should they go when reporting work history, especially if they have years and years of experience.”

“Ten to 15 years is a good number,” says Jeromey Bell, “but if you go any further back than that you might get into positions that might not be as relevant to the task [or position] at hand. It’s information that just may not be important on the document.”

“Especially in technical or IT fields,” says Dimler. “Anything over 10 years, any languages that you’ve learned, even any tasks that you’ve done, just might be obsolete.”

One other thing, if you’re looking at leadership roles, don’t dwell on entry-level experience. Again, the idea of your resume overall is to make you appear to be the best candidate for the job.

Note: Federal or government jobs want to know everything. A federal resume will require a more detailed and more complete work history. Go back all the way. But with corporate positions, limit yourself to 10-15 years.

From Formatting to Content: Additional Work History Tips

  1. Format your work history section (and your resume, in general) in a way that hiring managers find readable and useful:
  • Job title
  • Employer/Company name
  • Location (City, State … if it makes sense)
  • Dates—years alone or months and years, whatever works best for you. Just remember, use reverse chronological and make sure all the individual entries line up.

“Consistency is key,” says Bell. “You want to be consistent with your formatting.”

  1. Employers are looking for what you can bring to the table. Combine your experience with accomplishments in your job. Match your work and specific position with goals you were able to help your company achieve. Provide two-or-three sentences (or three-to-four bullets) that list out these accomplishments. Show how you did something new … saved the company time … saved the company money—be specific.

“This is what I did,” says Bell, “and this was the result of what I’ve done.”

And remember, whether you’re providing bullets or paragraphs with bullet points, be consistent from one work history entry to the next.

  1. Don’t over-list. Avoid listing things not relevant to the job you’re pursuing. You might have a lot of duties and roles, but they may not be relevant to the job you’re targeting. Do some editing to make your resume more concise and relevant.
  2. Gaps in your work history … fill them.

“If you’re a stay-at-home parent,” says Dimler, “list that.”

Explain the gaps. If you spent time volunteering, list that. PTA, Cub Scout, church duties, list that. Make it quantifiable. List associations, clubs, professional organizations you’re affiliated with—especially ones that are relevant to the job at hand. Find a way to beef up your resume experience if you’ve been out of the game for a while.

Now that you’ve had a taste, take 20 minutes out of your day to listen in as Bell, Dimler and McAuley offer their professional insights in this podcast.

About The Author

Shauna Lawrence is a project manager on Grantham University’s marketing team. As the university’s former social media strategist, Shauna has a passion for connecting with others and building a sense of community among all Grantham stakeholders. She holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and marketing from Kansas State University and is currently working on her MBA at Grantham University.