Resume Best Practices: 4 Things You Should Always Include in Your Employment History Section
Your employment or work history section of your resume is likely the single most important category in the entire document and, when done well, can make a powerful case to your potential employer about how and why you’re well qualified for their open position.
Here are the most important “best practices” around crafting a stand-out employment history section on your resume or CV:
One of the most important things you should do to optimize your resume so it makes its way to the top of the “yes” pile is to mirror the language and keywords in the job description. Include relevant keywords throughout your work history section that demonstrate your past professional experience is aligned with what the new employer is looking for in that role. Most skills, tasks, projects, or experiences can be described in a wide variety of ways and words, so be sure that the language in your work history descriptions mirrors the language used in the job description. Not only will this boost your chances that your resume will make it past the automated Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that many employers use, but, when it finally crosses human eyes, the reader will be able to easily and quickly discern that you have the precise skills and experiences that they’re asking for.
A great resume goes beyond listing a detailed account of your job duties and responsibilities for past employers but also includes quantifiable, measurable, and impactful results that are directly tied to your previous roles. Most employers don’t just want to know the kinds of duties you performed in the past, they also want to know the level of expertise and success you had in these roles. The best and most common way to do this is by communicating results you achieved or past successes. This conveys that you don’t simply know a particular skill for your own sake, but that you know how to use that skill to get positive results for an organization or department.
If you’ve ever been on the other side of the job search where you’ve had to sift through hundreds of resumes to find just the right candidate for the job, you know that most resumes contain the same standard action verbs and descriptive language at the beginning of each entry in your work history section. This can make your resume seem unoriginal and, frankly, just “ok.” To make your work experience really stand out against your competitors, opt instead for descriptive, rich action verbs. While you may not be able to eliminate entirely words like “manage” or “led” or “organized,” you shouldn’t overuse the same action verbs for every single job history entry. Looking for some inspiration to enrich your resume vocabulary? Wake Forest University has a nice list of powerful resume action verbs.
Accurate employer information
In addition to demonstrating your ability, your resume tells a kind of professional story of the way your career path has developed over time and is a reflection of the professional choices you’ve made and opportunities you’ve won. If, for example, some of your details don’t make sense -- like dates or your employment not making sense or crucial employer information that’s missing -- it may raise a red flag about the accuracy or integrity of your job application materials. At the very least, whoever is reviewing your resume will likely have to spend more time reading your resume to try and figure out the inconsistencies, and considering most hiring managers are said to spend on average about 6 seconds scanning each resume, any additional time they have to take to figure out your information will probably not reflect well on your candidacy.