Your résumé as a whole is undoubtedly the most powerful tool in your job search arsenal, but it’s the employment history section that generates the most interest in an employer. And it’s not necessarily where you worked that matters (though working for a big company like Google can, of course, favourably impact your application) but what you’ve done in your career and how your experience matches the needs of the job that you’re applying for.
This makes writing a résumé even scarier, but we’ve got you covered.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the work history section.
Table of contents:
But the employment history section, in particular, is the meat of any résumé. Indeed, while your career summary and skills section will, when done right, tell hiring managers what you bring to the table, it’s the details of your career history that provides them with concrete evidence of your capabilities.
Beyond this, your job history section also tells hiring managers:
- The tasks and tools you have experience with
- The results of your efforts — aka: the benefits you brought to previous employers
- How long you typically stay in a job
- Whether you’ve been consistently promoted
This all helps potential employers determine how responsible and employable you are and whether you’re worth the investment.
Every entry in this section should include:
- Your job title
- The name of the company
- The job’s location
- The start and end dates of your employment
- An optional company description
- A job description
The job title, usually in a bolded font, takes up the first line.
Avoid creative names for job titles, and instead use more common, familiar alternatives. This is especially important as hiring managers might not know that a ‘Numbers Guru’ means an accountant, for example.
On the next line, add the name of the company you were employed by.
You don’t need to use the company’s official registered name here (e.g., ‘Company ABC Limited (UK)’). Instead, use the name that the general public better knows it by (e.g., ‘Company ABC’).
On the same line as the employer name, add the city and country that the job itself was based in — not where the company is registered or headquartered in. Separate the location from the employer name with a dash (– or —), slash (/) or vertical bar (|).
If it was a remote job, meanwhile, you can add ‘Remote’ in brackets immediately after the location.
On the same line as the employer name and location, add the start and end dates of your employment as a range. Use tab stops to align the employment dates to the right of the line.
Both start and end dates should feature the month and year (e.g., ‘November 2018–September 2019’), though feel free to abbreviate month names if space is limited (e.g., ‘Nov 2018–Sep 2019’).
As mentioned previously, adding a company description is completely optional, but it can be particularly useful for hiring managers if the company you work for is new or relatively unknown.
If you do choose to add a company description, add it immediately after the line containing the employer name, location and employment dates. Limit the description to a maximum of two lines.
Starting a new line, add three to five bullet points describing what you achieved in the position. Keep bullet points as brief as possible, typically no longer than two lines each. If space isn’t an issue, meanwhile, you can consider setting off the bulleted list with ‘Notable Achievements’ or something similar.
Avoid using uncommon symbols for bulleted lists — round bullets are the standard, but square bullets or hyphens are also acceptable. Whichever style you choose, though, be sure it’s consistent throughout your résumé.
With all this in mind, here’s what an example entry in your work history section should look like:
Where in your résumé you put this section depends on the particular résumé format you’re using which, in turn, depends on your level of experience.
Generally speaking, you should almost always use the chronological format, which places an emphasis on your work history above everything else. If you take this approach, your work history should come immediately after your career summary section or objective statement.
If you have little to no work experience, then you’ll be using the skills-based format. In this case, you should place any previous employment at the end of your résumé, after everything else.
To help you get started with writing your career history, we’ve put together a handful of easy, actionable tips.
1. Start with your most recent experience first
Always list positions in reverse chronological order — that is to say that you should start with your most recent position first and continue backward through time. This gives hiring managers and recruiters a clear timeline of your experience.
2. Keep it relevant
Every résumé you write should be tailored to the particular job you’re applying for. This means you should only list jobs that directly relate to the vacancy. If you have additional experience that isn’t quite relevant to the job, consider listing it in a separate section entitled ‘Additional Experience’ underneath the main section.
3. Focus on achievements
Instead of providing a rundown of your day-to-day duties and responsibilities of your job, focus on what you accomplished: money you saved the company, processes you improved, awards you received, and anything else that demonstrates the results of your work. For example, rather than saying ‘Responsible for content marketing’, you could say ‘Increased monthly sales by 136% through development of effective content marketing strategies’.
4. Use action words
Start every bullet point with a powerful action verb like ‘revamped’, ‘implemented’ and ‘oversaw’. This maximizes the impact of your résumé and helps you write in the active voice, which is far more engaging than the passive voice.
If you’re writing about past jobs and previous accomplishments, use the past tense (e.g., ‘coordinated’). If you’re describing something that is currently happening, use the present continuous tense (e.g., ‘coordinating’).
5. Incorporate keywords
Read the job ad again and highlight any important words and phrases that stand out, and try to incorporate these into this section. For example, if the company is looking for someone who is familiar with specific HR software, make sure to work it in here (provided, of course, that you are familiar with the software yourself). This will help you get your application past the robots (also known as applicant tracking systems).
Now that you know the importance of the employment history section, what it should include, where it goes and how to write it, it’s time to actually put everything you’ve learned into practice.
And these specially created top résumé examples, based on our collection of professionally designed and ATS-friendly templates, will hopefully provide you with some inspiration for crafting an effective work history section.
1. If you have extensive, uninterrupted work experience
This is what a typical employment history section looks like:
Like the United template?
2. If you took a career break
A career break should be listed in your employment history section as though it were a job — with some minor alterations. This example illustrates how to list career breaks in your résumé.
Like the Savvy template?
3. If you have gaps in your employment history
An easy way to bridge employment gaps in your résumé is to omit months from employment dates, as demonstrated in the example below.
Like the Alternative template?
4. If you held multiple jobs at the same company
When you’ve held multiple jobs at the same company (for example, you were promoted during your employment), combine them under a single entry. You can either describe your progression in the entry’s bulleted list of achievements (eg: ‘Promoted to store manager within 6 months of employment’) or, as shown here, list each position (with dates) with a clear label.
Like the Polygon template?
5. If you have additional experience
If your work history spans over 15 years, or if you held jobs that don’t directly relate to the job you’re applying for, consider listing these positions in a separate section entitled ‘Additional Experience’ underneath the main section, as shown here:
Like the Active template?
When writing your job history, remember that it’s not all about you. It’s also about your future employer. Think about their needs and how your experience addresses those needs. This will, ultimately, compel hiring managers to give you a chance.
Got a question? Let us know in the comments section below, and we’ll get back to you with an answer!
This article is an update of an earlier version published on 31 July 2017.