There’s no one size fits all solution to writing a resume. Your work experience section forms the core of your resume, and should always be the focal point, but beyond that, there are infinite ways of structuring it. How you list your work experience will depend on your job history, the position you’re applying for, and what you want to highlight, but there are also some general do’s and don’ts you should always follow.
Listing work experience on your resume: A step by step guide
Let's start with the basics — here's how to structure a basic work experience section on your resume:
- List your job title.
- List the name of the company you worked for.
- Include the dates of employment — month and year is fine.
- Add your location (optional).
- List 3-6 accomplishments in bullet point format.
Here's an example of what that might look like:
And here's a simple template you can follow:
RESUME WORDED & CO. – London, United Kingdom
Senior Analyst, Business Development & Operations, Apr 2017 – Present
Business Analyst, Jul 2015 – Apr 2017
- Managed cross-functional team of 10 in 3 locations (London, Mumbai and New York), ranging from entry-level analysts to vice presidents, and collaborated with business development, data science, and operations
- Launched Miami office with lead Director and recruited and managed new team of 10 employees; grew office revenue by 200% in first nine months (representing 20% of company revenue)
- Designed training and peer-mentoring programs for the incoming class of 25 analysts in 2017; reduced onboarding time for new hires by 50%
- Notes: Your most recent experience should have the most detail; avoid using more than 6 bullet points per experience; if you have accomplished a lot at one company and have more than 6 bullets, split them up into job titles at the same company.
For more ideas on how to format your work experience, browse our selection of ATS resume templates.
The key components of a work experience section
If you held a job with a standard or self-explanatory title, list it exactly as it exists within your company. This ensures that your resume will line up with any potential reference checks and prevents misunderstandings (or worse, appearing like you’ve deliberately falsified your job history). If you feel like there’s a disconnect between your title and the actual job, you can clear that up in your bullet points or with an introductory paragraph.
You can list the name of your employer before or after your job title. It’s usually more compelling to list your job title first, as it places the emphasis on what you did more than who you worked for, but the opposite can work in your favor if you worked for a particularly prestigious company.
Dates of employment
Always include the dates of employment for any job you list. Leaving them off makes it impossible for employers to tell how recent (and therefore how relevant) your experience is and is likely to raise a red flag about whether you're trying to hide something.
You don’t need to put exact dates — listing just the month and year is fine. Some people prefer to list the years only, which is okay as long as you do it consistently and it still accurately represents your work experience. If you worked somewhere for a couple of years, listing it as 2018 - 2019 is fine. If you were only there for a few months, it’s better to list it as December 2018 - February 2019. And if you’re currently employed, list your end date as “present,” not as the current date (which could make it appear as if you’re currently unemployed).
This doesn’t have to be super specific — just the city name is fine. If you worked remotely and want to emphasize that you’re based in the United States, listing your location as “Remote (US-based)” is fine.
If you think this should say “responsibilities,” think again. Your resume shouldn’t read like a job description and shouldn’t focus on simply listing your duties. Each bullet point should start with an action verb and be quantifiable wherever possible. “Wrote Facebook posts” is vague; it describes what you did, but not how well you did it. “Implemented new social media strategy that increased Facebook conversions by 30%” describes exactly what you accomplished and sounds a lot more impressive.
You should aim for up to 6 bullet points for your most recent roles. Older jobs should have fewer, around 1-2.
For even more tips, check out our guide on how to write resume bullet points.
How to make your work experience stand out
Once you've mastered the basics, here's how to make the work experience section of your resume truly impressive.
Target your resume
It doesn't matter how impressive your work experience is — if it isn't relevant to the job you're applying for, it's unlikely to mean much to a recruiter. When writing your accomplishments, check the job description for the key skills you should be highlighting, or upload your resume to a free ATS checker that can analyze the job description and identify important keywords and skills missing from your resume.
Add context to your work experience
While your resume should aim to be as concise as possible, you can include a short introductory paragraph before you get into your bullet points. This can be useful if you want to highlight a particularly noteworthy accomplishment, like if you were promoted significantly ahead of schedule.
An introductory paragraph like this provides extra context about your accomplishments to emphasize that you went above and beyond in the role.
You can also use an introductory paragraph — or even just a short sentence — to provide a little more information about what exactly your role or company did. This is a good idea if you worked for a little-known or startup company, or if you held an unusual job title.
Highlight promotions in your work experience
If you’ve been promoted or taken on new responsibilities, make that clear on your resume. This is especially important if you’ve been at one company for a long time — to don’t want potential employers to think you’ve stagnated. You can show career growth by listing a progression of titles, emphasizing increased responsibility, or explicitly noting the promotion in your bullet points.
If the roles were similar, you can group them together like this:
Listing your titles in succession makes it clear you were promoted while allowing you to group similar accomplishments together.
If the roles were different, you can list them separately and include bullet points under each one like this:
Listing your roles separately under one employer heading makes it clear that the new role was a promotion, not a completely separate job.
If you’re still unsure about how to illustrate your career progression, read our tips on how to show a promotion on a resume.
Even if you haven’t been promoted, there are still ways to show career growth, like highlighting key projects you worked on.
Include key projects
If you want to emphasize specific projects you worked on, you can include separate bullet points underneath each project instead of grouping them all together. This is a great strategy if you work in a project-based role — for example, if you’re a freelancer or consultant — and you want to highlight your most impressive work.
Listing individual projects on your resume like this is a great way to draw attention to any particularly noteworthy ventures.
Formatting your freelance or consulting experience under a general heading like this allows you to combine your experience in multiple roles under the same heading while distinguishing between different projects.
Optimize your resume
Once you've finished writing your work experience section, get a free resume review to highlight any potential areas for improvement. Score My Resume evaluates your resume based on key criteria recruiters and hiring managers look for and gives you actionable steps to improve your resume.
Use a chronological resume format
Your work history should be in reverse chronological order, with your most recent job at the top. If you’ve held older positions that were more relevant, you could consider options like splitting your resume into “relevant experience” and “other experience” sections, or including a resume summary that provides more context for your work experience.
Only include things that strengthen your candidacy
Everything on your resume should a) be relevant to the job oyu're applying for, and b) make you a stronger candidate in the eyes of a hiring manager. This means that you don’t need to list every job you’ve ever held on your resume. Your resume should be a brief summary of your work experience, not an exhaustive list, which means it’s okay to leave off older or less relevant jobs if you don’t feel that they strengthen your candidacy. The same thing applies to jobs you only held for a very short time (a few months or less). Short-term jobs are unlikely to add anything to your resume, and having more than one or two of them risks flagging you as a job hopper.
Include the title of the job you’re applying for
If you can, it’s best to include the exact title of the position you’re applying for somewhere on your resume. Why? Resume screeners and automated Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) can sometimes use these terms to filter out resumes that aren’t a match. Only do this if your position was reasonably similar to the target role — it’s more important to be honest than to look good, but even better if you can do both.
Eliminate the jargon
Remember how we told you to use your exact job title? The exception to this is if your company uses a lot of jargon or buzzwords in its titles — think “Business Ninja” or “Coding Rockstar.” These titles don’t make it clear what your job actually was, and they mean very little to a hiring manager. In cases like this, it’s best to use a standardized version of whatever position you held, like “Business Analyst” or “Software Developer.”
What if you have a non-standard job history?
If you don’t have a lot of paid work experience
If you’re a student or recent graduate, you can still include non-traditional work experience on your resume. Simply format any volunteer or student work the same way you would any other job and read up on how to list volunteer work on your resume.
If you’re listing volunteer work or other unpaid projects, stick to the standard format and use bullet points to highlight your accomplishments like this.
If you have gaps in your resume
Small employment gaps (say, under six months or so) aren’t likely to be an issue unless you have a lot of them. Even larger gaps aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but hiring managers will want to know what happened. If there’s a good reason — like if you’ve been dealing with a personal, family, or health issue — the best strategy is to address it head-on so employers aren’t left wondering if you’re trying to hide something work-related.
This format clearly explains the reason for a career break and gives you an opportunity to highlight anything you’ve accomplished during that time.
If you’ve been spending your time volunteering or taking on short-term (temporary or contract) work, you can use that to fill a gap in your resume, too. If you’re curious about formatting, learn more about the right way to list contract work or temporary jobs on your resume.