How to Describe Work Experience on a Resume

by Ethan Pendleton; Updated September 26, 2017
List your accomplishments clearly to clearly convey your talents.

When you write a resume, you walk a fine line. As you describe your work experience, you don’t want to make it seem as though your previous positions were lacking in responsibility and you don’t want to underplay how well you did your job. Importantly, you don’t want to mislead a future employer as to what you accomplished. Through the use of selected detail and judicious language, you can fairly represent your previous work experience and impress potential employers who see your resume.

Step 1

Gather information about your previous jobs, ensuring that you haven’t forgotten any recent or important positions you’ve held. Jot down dates and the full names for each company, as well as the specific job title you held.

Step 2

Decide whether you will present your work experience in a chronological, functional, or automated manner. These three types of resumes, according to the state of California, are best suited for different occupations. A chronological resume notes your most recent job first and then lists the rest in reverse chronological order. This kind of resume allows an interviewer to see where you are in your career and to work his way back. A functional resume focuses upon your job skills and accomplishments. This approach may work well when you have been out of work for a while or are applying for a job different from anything else you’ve ever done. An automated resume is designed to get attention from computer programs that search for keywords related to the job for which you’re applying.

Step 3

List each position according to the resume type you’ve chosen. Begin listing the job duties you performed under each position. Joseph Pratt, a writer for the career development website Resume Templates, advises you to be as succinct as possible, limiting each job description to six lines or fewer. Further, each of these job duties should have its own bullet, making it easy for an interviewer to quickly ascertain what you’ve accomplished.

Step 4

Revise your job descriptions so that each detail you provide begins with an action verb. As Wellesley’s Center for Work & Service notes, starting each bullet point with a strong verb can cause the reader to grasp your job duties and how well you accomplished them. For example, if you were a restaurant cook, you probably wouldn’t write, “Cooked food for many patrons.” You should begin with a more powerful verb and go into greater detail, writing “Prepared cuisine according to the French tradition in a 100-seat fine dining restaurant.”

Step 5

Discuss your work experience with a friend, asking him for his advice as to whether you have described your previous jobs accurately, modifying accordingly. Check for typographical errors and grammar mistakes.

About the Author

Ethan Pendleton is a teacher and writer in Columbus, Ohio. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Ohio State University at Marion and teaches writing in various capacities in his community.

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