SIUC Dept. of Communication Studies RSOs
I like to think of the Work Experience section as the main course. This section is the most important part of your resume--the things recruiters need to decide if you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to function in the advertised role. If the recruiter feels satisfied by the first few sections of the resume, they will move on to get a taste of what skills you have for the job! In some case, recruiters may just skip to the work experience and scan it for key details. This section is important because it showcases your experiences that would qualify you for a position, and by having a great format with effective wording should impress the recruiter before they ever meet you!
Let us start, as we have in Header, Profile Summary, and Education by looking at some before examples of our resumes. We think these are "just okay.” Not bad, not great.
Monika’s First Draft
For starters, my bullet points are not horrible; however, they could use some work. The primary issue is the format. What do you think? King of hard to look at, right? Here are a few things I would like to fix:
Maggie's First Draft
Maggie’s format looks clean yet appears scattered with many jobs and underdeveloped descriptions. Some things Maggie wants to work on include
These professional experience sections are not “wrong” per se, but again, to stand out in a competitive pool of applicants, research has shown that resumes more polished are more likely to get the job! So, lets get started cleaning these up!
Part 1: Format and Heading
I love using resumelab.com for resume research because their advice is informative and relevant.
Their first suggestion is to clean up the document format; As they note: most recruiters spend “on average, just 7 seconds on each resume they get." Two reasons recruiters quickly pass on resumes is because they are unpleasant to read and are hard to follow!
Resumelab has an extensive list of do's and don'ts, so check out in the article on how to effectively format your work history section.
The next step would be to personalize your work experience to the desired job.
Some of the best tips I have received is to study the job posting and to recognize the qualities that would make you stand out as a candidate--to write your previous job duties in a way that is relevant to your desired job!
(A bonus tip is to use exact phrases to “outsmart” the Applicant Tracking Software (ATS)
Experts also recommend that if you’re an entry-level candidate, to list all paid and unpaid work including volunteering, part-time jobs, and practicums. Don't forget to include co-curricular activities. Experience is experience!
Part 2: Job Details
After catching a recruiter’s eye with clean document formatting, they will move on to the juicier part: How well you did your job! This is your time to shine, so write high-impact bullet points!
Experts' recommendations are to start each bullet point using “action words” and to avoid boring, overused words recruiters see all the time--words like “hard-working,” “experienced,” and “creative.” Yawn. 🥱
Here are a few examples of action verbs that resumelab recommends [follow link for more]:
Amplified, Delivered, Completed, Managed, Maximized, Motivated, Operated,
Stimulated, Supervised, Taught, Trained, Unified
The key is to focus less on duties and more on accomplishments because accomplishment show how you excelled in your position.
The Problem-Action-Result (PAR) formula is a guaranteed way to impress recruiters!
Lets look at an example resumelab used for this formula: “Designed new phone survey scenarios to enhance customer retention by 32%.”
And last, resumelab recommends quantifying as much as possible because metrics boost your hireability by a whopping 40%! Although not everyone can quantify every activity, you should still include these kinds of data:
The above is a lot of information to digest and are consistent with what we learn in the course Business and Professional Communication here at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The course is designed by Dr. Craig Engstrom, who owns his own resume writing and LinkedIn consulting business. Dr. Engstrom has yet even more notes to add:
After taking the format, heading, and job description recommendations into account, we revised our resume work experience sections.
Monika's Revised Experience Section
I feel much better about this section after implementing the following changes:
Maggie's Revised Experience Section
Here are the changes she made that will increase her chances of catching a recruiters attention:
After our previous blog posts about the header, professional profile, and education, it is crucial to have a stunning work experience section as well. It would be a letdown to do all this work revising your resume and skip the most important section!
By following the recommendations made by our previous blogs and this one, your resume should look far more professional.
Keep in mind that our work is still in progress and we will make further revisions to the work experience section in the future. We will display our final reveal of our resumes in our final blog, so stay tuned!
Until then, keep a look out for our next blog on miscellaneous information you could include in your resume.
And tell us what you think of our advice and examples in the comments.
Monika Fudala is currently studying Communication Studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She also holds the position of Human Relations Lead of the Communication Career Council. She hopes to become an HR generalist or continue onto graduate school after graduation in Summer 2021.