Differences Between Qualifications and Experience on Resumes

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When you need a job and have to write your resume, employers usually want to see your qualifications and experience. These two items are not synonymous. Subsequently, they require different formatting and placement on your resume. Paying attention to how you address qualifications and experience affects the impression you make on the recipient and, ultimately, whether you get the job.

Qualifications Defined

The term "qualifications" refers to skills, knowledge or abilities you have. Put another way, qualifications tell the resume reader what you can do and what you have learned. They describe what you can bring to the company. Examples of qualifications include leadership, communication and organization. Broadly, a degree is also an example of a qualification because degrees provide an accepted standard of information, developed skills and abilities assumed necessary in a particular field.

Experience Defined

The term "experience" refers to the opportunities you have had to acquire skills. It provides a context for the qualifications you have and shows how you developed them. Examples of experience might be volunteering or working for Company A for five years.

Qualifications, Experience and Hiring

Experience and qualifications often go hand in hand. The more you do, the more skills, knowledge and abilities you gain and refine. However, this is not always the case. For example, some people are naturally comfortable with public speaking, while others are terrified to speak in front of others no matter how much they practice. You can't assume that just because a person has had Experience X it translates to Qualification Y. This means that, in general, qualifications trump experience in making hiring decisions, although employers still may ask for a minimum level of experience to screen applicants. Employers ultimately are more concerned with your ability to fulfill your job duties than how you learned to do so. This is why people still can get jobs fresh out of college and why people can transfer from sector to sector to jobs using similar skill, knowledge and ability sets.

Qualifications Presentation

Because employers ultimately want to see whether you have the skills, abilities and knowledge necessary to fulfill all the functions listed in specific job descriptions, usually, you should place your qualifications before your experience. If you've listed your qualifications well, then it becomes redundant to use an objective statement, as you usually list qualifications in that sentence. List just three or five of the most impressive qualifications you have as bullet points or in short paragraph, taking into consideration how those qualifications align not only with the job, but with the overall vision of the company.

Experience Presentation

When you list your experience, provide a heading for each experience point. For example, you might write "Senior Editor, One Awesome Magazine, 1984 - 1990." Then provide the details related to the experience with bullets. An example of a bullet might be "Produced biweekly publication in both print and digital formats for readership of 1.2 million" or "oversaw editorial staff of 15, including scheduling and content assignment." Note that the bullets for experience start with action verbs.