Resume Experience Section

The experience section is usually the part of the resume that is the most poorly written. This is where your writing skills (or lack thereof) will show. How well you write your resume work experience will often determine whether you get the interview and, when you do get the interview, if you are the one they offer or merely one of many contenders.

Most people make the mistake of listing their employer's name in big bold letters and their job title on the next line. Yet your job title is by far more important than the name of your employer. Here are two examples, tell me which one will get the interview for a software development role:

Software Development Engineer Software Startup

Google, Inc.
Night Janitor

Sure, the second person might be an elite janitor, but I'm looking for a software developer. So take note of this and list your title on the first line, your employer on the second line. You should also list the dates of employment (with " Present" if currently employed) to the right of the job title and list the city and state (with the state spelled out) to the right of the employer name. If your employer has more than one location, list the location where you work. If you have more than one work location, list your home base location.

The content of the job is often the most difficult to write. However, you should have two excellent resources from which to pull information:

  1. Your job description (or the job posting for your position)
  2. Your annual review (and/or the expectations of the role for the year going forward)

Depending on the amount of time you have been in your position, your annual reviews will typically provide you with the best and most relevant information. If you have not yet had an annual review, you should be able to find the key work experience areas listed on either the job description or the job posting for your role. You can list your job information in either paragraph format or bullet format, although bullet format is highly preferred, since most resume reviewers are looking to pick up on key relevant data in a short amount of time. If you can't say succinctly what you did for each deliverable in your role in a sentence or two or less, you need to refine it further. Most jobs have multiple responsibilities and multiple deliverables over the course of any given year. The amount of space you devote to it should be consistent with the importance of the project and its influence on your value as a future employee. So while the mundane tasks of your job may take up 80% of your time, it may be the 20% of your time spent on above-and-beyond projects that are worthy of 80% of the space in your resume. Allocate according to value.

As you are writing your experience content, keep in mind time relevance. While work you have done more than 5 years ago is important in showing career tracking and career progression, it is unlikely that you will be repeating that type of work again at this stage in your career. So focus primarily on what you have done over the course of the last five years. If you have had a long career (over 20 years) and are worried about potential age discrimination, it is acceptable to exclude earlier positions or to simply provide a summary statement such as: "Prior to 1994 included software development roles with IBM and Hewlett-Packard."