When filling in your Resume it’s important to show that you have previous experience that is relevant to your work. There are two important sections here: your experience and your education.
Which one should go first? The one you really want your employer to pay attention to!
As a general rule of thumb, if you have 5 or more years of experience in the field, you should start with listing your experience first and education later.
On the other hand, some experts even advise that education should be listed first ONLY if you’re a recent graduate with NO work experience whatsoever or if your educational background is particularly outstanding e.g. you’ve graduated from one of the world’s most renowned universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Stanford.
Otherwise, ALWAYS point out your professional experience first.
Anyway, you’re the only one who can decide what to do in a specific situation based on the expert advice above.
Now that you know how to decide what to list first, let’s see how exactly you can do it and what information to include in each section.
Relevant Professional Experience
Your employment history is the heart of your resume. So, ideally, you want it to demonstrate your professional growth, don’t you? This section is the place for displaying your strengths, accomplishments, achievements and responsibilities you had in your previous positions.
Show every relevant piece of information that will make you stand out, but make sure you focus on matching your qualifications to specific job requirements. That’s the key to being noticed by potential employers!
Now, let’s dive a bit deeper into the details you should incorporate into this resume section.
What Exactly to Include in Your Experience Resume Section
This section does NOT have to include just the JOBS that you’ve done in your life. You can also mention internship, self-employment, or any other full-time or part-time engagement you were paid for if it’s related to the job at hand, especially if you lack experience.
It’s not the reason to be discouraged. Follow the link above to learn how to put your best foot forward and have a shot at the job even in that case.
Similarly, NOT ALL your previous jobs should be included especially if you have extensive experience.
Label the section “Work History,” “Work Experience,” “Employment Experience,” “Employment History” or any other title that concisely reveals what the section entails.
If you do feel there are unpaid experiences such as relevant volunteer work or related hobbies that the hiring manager should know about, the information should go in its own section. Label it “Relevant Experience” or “Other Experience.” Write it the same way you will the work history.
Find out more in the article How to Write Your Resume Work Experience Section.
If you are uncertain how many years of experience to include on your resume, let the job posting be your guide. Also, to learn more about how many years of experience you should put on your resume, follow the link to the article.
Again, the employers are only interested in professional experience which is highly relevant to the position you’re applying for.
Therefore, NEVER use the same resume for every job possibility! Here’s more on how to tailor your resume to the job description.
OK. You know what to include, but are not sure how to do it? Here are some suggestions.
Often people add in their job roles at previous companies. For instance, they usually do it like this:
City, State Dates Worked
- Responsibilities / Achievements
- Responsibilities / Achievements
- Responsibilities / Achievements
- Responsibilities / Achievements
Source: Learn What to Include in a Resume Experience Section – read the full article for more information.
This is not a bad practice. It shows what you did and what your experience is all about. However, most people somehow fail to properly highlight their accomplishments and abilities. They just list their previous main tasks and duties as pure dull facts.
You wonder how to avoid that mistake? Read on and you’ll find out a bit later. But, first, let’s just see what you can do to go that extra mile in presenting your previous professional experience.
Make Use of Your Previous Employer Testimonials
The way discussed above can be OK if done properly. However, employer testimonials are an even better option if you want to go a step further. So, they should be used whenever possible.
Let us illustrate the effects of this approach.
Imagine being an employer. Who would you trust more:
- The candidates saying/writing nice things about themselves
- Their previous employers telling you what those people are really like as employee
Thus, for instance, if you were to hire a virtual assistant, which of the two things would you like to see more on a candidate’s resume?
Would you rather see this:
Would you rather see this:
A) Virtual Assistant, Digital Media Company, 2010 – 2014.
– Built basic presence on social media
– Wrote press releases for the Company
– Provided valuable administrative assistance
OR, would you rather somebody told you this:
B) Virtual Assistant, Digital Media Company, 2010 – 2014.
CEO of Digital Media Company: “We were very lucky to have this person as our virtual assistant. They created their own, intuitive and very efficient filing system that saved company hours in the long run. They are extremely useful when it comes to implementing social media strategies, as they single-handedly dealt with our Facebook page and all the positive and negative comments there.”
Don’t you agree the second one is far more illustrative and it really makes you want to have that person in your company so that they can add the same value there, as well? Be that person!
On the other hand, it is not always possible to get your employer write a testimony for you, but it’s up to you to do your best to obtain it.
OK. You’ve realised what difference getting the previous employers’ testimonials makes in presenting your professional experience. But, what else should you pay attention to?
Let’s get back to the issue of just listing your previous responsibilities in an uninteresting way. Here are some quick tips on how you can improve that part of your resume.
Use Bullet Points and Powerful Action Words to Describe What You’ve Done
Use bullet points to list your responsibilities i.e. achievements and make them easy to skim-read. The average employer spends only seconds looking over an applicant’s resume, so it’s important to stand out quickly.
Bullet points allow you to highlight your most relevant accomplishments. This shows the employer quickly and easily that you are a good fit for the job. For more tips on when to use them and how to include them in your resume, refer to the full article.
Furthermore, avoid using the first person singular in every sentence possible. Instead, start them with action verbs and other power words to prove why you’re the right candidate for that particular position.
Also, refer to the article about 15 best and worst words to use in your resume according to the results of a study from CareerBuilders.
- Wrote weekly blog posts
- Set up and published posts in WordPress
- Managed company Facebook page
These bullet points show precise activities and responsibilities that the virtual assistant in question had. What’s more, using action verbs, the activities themselves became more obvious. This assistant CAN “write”, “set up”, “publish” and “manage” a Facebook page.
That informs your potential future employer about the specific skills you have. So, if they need somebody who CAN DO all these things, your resume will come to their mind.
Also, there is NO arrogant “I, I, I, and I” which is, honestly, quite hard to avoid when you are supposed to write about yourself. Don’t you think so?
Nice. Use bullet points to organise the information neatly. But you’re still not confident about what details to leave out, what should be listed first or last? No worries. You’re about to find out.
Include Only Highly Relevant Details Starting With the Most Important
Another advice is to be selective with the information you include. Determine its relevance by putting yourself in your potential employer’s position: Will this information help convince the employer that you are a worthwhile candidate to interview?
You do not have to include every responsibility you ever had. Group together similar tasks. For instance, rather than listing “Answered phones” and “Responded to customer emails” in two bullet points, you can combine and say “Resolved customer issues through phone, email, and chat conversations.”
Next, think about prioritising the information you provide in each description i.e. bullet point. Present the details that are of the greatest interest to potential employers first.
Furthermore, be extra careful with phrasing those details. And we don’t just want to say you should mind your word choice. You know it. But, here’s a secret – incorporate relevant keywords in your resume naturally and strategically when talking about your expertise and skills.
Refer to this article to get ideas on how and where to find them and what else to pay attention to.
Emphasise Accomplishments Over Responsibilities and Quantify Them
It’s important for employees to know you have the necessary experience to do the work required in the position. Still, many candidates will have this relevant experience. To stand out, emphasise how you added value. Focus on accomplishments, rather than responsibilities.
Additionally, numbers can be your friend when it comes to highlighting your accomplishments. Thus, it would be wise to quantify your accomplishments. As well, provide context.
For instance, you might say, “Increased revenue by 5%, after several years of decreasing sales.” Or, rather than saying “Answered phone calls and dealt with customer concerns,” you can say, “Resolved customer concerns, answering approximately 10 calls per hour. Became go-to person on the team for dealing with the toughest phone calls and most challenging complaints.”
While it is important to keep descriptions short, adding details and context can help show employers why you’d be a good match for the position.
For more details and examples, refer to the full article How to Write Job Descriptions for Your Resume.
Here’s further illustration that proves the point.
Suppose you’re a hiring manager looking at resumes. Which of the following statements would impress you more?
- Wrote news releases.
- Wrote 25 news releases in a three-week period under daily deadlines.
Clearly, the second statement carries more weight. Why? Because it uses numbers to quantify the writer’s accomplishment, giving it a context that helps the interviewer understand the degree of difficulty involved in the task.
Numbers are powerful resume tools that will help your accomplishments get the attention they deserve from prospective employers. With just a little thought, you can find effective ways to quantify your successes on your resume.
The more you focus on money, time and amounts in relation to your accomplishments, the better you’ll present your successes and highlight your potential – and the more you’ll realise just how much you really have to offer prospective employers.
Add it all up, and you’ll see that playing the numbers game is yet another way to convince employers that you should be a part of their equation for success.
To learn more about how to use numbers to highlight your accomplishments, refer to the full article.
Now you probably wonder what to do if it’s simply impossible to use numbers to express your achievements?
It’s true that sometimes it’s not possible to quantify achievements. Then, you need to list regular duties. At the same time, ask yourself:
- Did I save the company money?
- Did I earn the company money?
- How many people did I train or manage?
- How many people worked on my team?
- Did I increase user engagement?
- Did I impact sales targets?
- Did I break any records?
Anything you can show in numbers, do it. Numbers will attract the attention of the reader. To find out more about the best formula for putting achievements on your resume and many more hacks accompanied by examples, read the full article.
Mind you – your resume should not read like a set of job descriptions that convey only what your responsibilities were in past jobs. Instead, the focus should be on how you added value in your roles and made a difference to your department and organisation.
It’s important to show what you have accomplished in your resume, rather than a list of tasks. Your resume should communicate how you have been an asset to the past organisations with whom you have been affiliated.
To find out how to add value to your resume, follow the link and learn more about how to properly incorporate your accomplishments into your resume step by step.
Also, to get the most out of your Work Experience section, here are some Dos and Don’ts you’ll definitely want to keep in mind.
Then, here are nine ways you can jazz up your experience section to capture the attention of hiring managers and potential employers.
You can also refer to the following sources jam-packed with helpful tips and examples:
- How to Write Your Resume Work Experience Section Right
- How to Focus a Resume on Relevant Job Experience
After showing what you can do and what you’ve done before relevant to the position you’re applying for, it’s time to provide some information about your educational background. Let’s see how it can be done.
Education – What to Include and How to Present It
The education section of your resume is where you show the employer your academic achievements. List the colleges you attended, the degrees you attained, and any special awards and honours you earned in the education section of your resume. If you’re a student, include your high school on your resume.
Professional development courses and certifications should also be included in the education section of your resume. Follow the link to find out more about all the required and optional sections of a resume.
However, the most common doubt regarding this resume section too is how detailed information you should provide. The solution is simple – include relevant work-oriented education.
Your employer does NOT need to know which primary or secondary school you attended. Instead, they want to know if you have completed any courses, online training or university that assists you with a specific set of skills required for a particular position.
If you insist on listing your formal education, list only the basics. If you have your BA, you don’t need to include your high school. If you have your MA, include your BA, especially if it is in the field relevant for your current position.
It can be done like this:
Master of Business Administration, ABC University
Bachelor of Arts, XYZ College
Or perhaps like this:
Education and Training:
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas
Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, May 20XX
Certificate in Social Media Management, May 20XX
Or in any other way you find suitable.
In short, always list the highest level of education you’ve achieved and your most recent degrees FIRST.
In general, list the name of the school, years attended, and what you studied there. Also, list the course names. Keep it relevant, of course. You don’t need to list the name of your cooking class if you’re applying for a marketing position at a tech firm. Got it?
For more details refer to the full article How to Write Your Resume Education Section.
Still, other more specific courses, for instance, related to your virtual assistant position will be much more useful to your employer, so make sure you list the certificates you obtained and the skills you honed.
Think about all the tasks you will be working on when being hired as a virtual assistant. Make a list and try to complete courses that will prove that you are an expert in these fields. For example, complete a course that will teach you how to use MS Publisher.
If English is not your native language, complete a course that will show that you have a proficient knowledge of the spoken and written language.
Freelancers with Google Adwords or Google Analytics certifications should add their credentials to the Education section. These need to be backed up with the form of a certificate (PDF) or URL.
Another great idea is to provide the link to your ePortfolio if you have any. Since you’re a Small Revolution School student, you certainly have it. So, display it! Showcase your exercises and assignments, your test scores, or anything else that can serve as evidence that you’ve gained and improved the skills necessary for the job.
Also, the article How to List College Education on Your Resume can help you figure out how exactly to do it since it depends on when and whether you graduated.
Another detail you may want to know is when to include your GPA on your resume, as well.
In addition, check out these Dos & Don’ts for Your Education Section in Your Resume and the tips in the article How to put your education to work on your resume.
The examples are many, but the idea is the same – figure out what your future employers want you to know and prove that you got your education in that field.
And remember – honesty is always the best policy! Otherwise, you’re bound to end up like this guy sooner or later.
Wonder why we’re mentioning this at all?
Although lying is one of the biggest mistakes a job seeker can make, it’s more common than you might expect. According to a CareerBuilder survey, more 56% of employers have caught a lie on a resume. Follow the link to the survey to find out what people most lie about in their resumes and to see some real-life examples of blunders.
The same survey also reveals what employers really want and what causes them to pay more attention to a certain resume. Go ahead! Take a peek at it!
After all you’ve read and learnt about creating a perfect resume, you still don’t feel confident enough? Here comes some further help. We decided to put it here because this lesson is dedicated to the core of your resume. But the following can be applied to a complete resume.
Resume Writing Help
Need more resume writing help?
Monster’s complete library of resume writing tips has all the information you’ll need about resume basics like style, length and formats. Also, find resume advice for specific industries and career levels, as well as tips on how to avoid typical resume mistakes, deal with common resume dilemmas and more.
Similarly, FlexJobs also offers some resources such as articles, videos or webinars to help you write your resume.
Tired of reading articles and resume writing theory? Want something more tangible? We know it.
Check out these VA resume samples. If you like them, you can create your account there and get resume templates. How convenient that is!
You may also want to check these resume samples grouped according to job title or other categories for further inspiration.
The above-mentioned Monster also offers resume samples for various careers and levels in different industries. Then, LiveCareer offers professionally-written resume examples by industry and job title, too.
Also, here’s a resume outline that can be helpful.
Just be careful if you decide to make use of templates you find on the Internet. Here’s what you have to take into account.
How to Use Resume Templates
A resume template provides you with a layout for your resume. That way, you don’t have to design the document from scratch.
As anyone who has ever stared at the blinking cursor in a blank document knows, starting to create a resume is intimidating. A template can help kick off the process, by laying out certain set sections name and contact information, for instance for you to fill out.
The best way to use a resume template or sample resume is as starting point. But don’t think of it as a fixed-in-stone design. Just because the template uses Times New Roman font does not mean that you’re required to stick with that font.
In fact, personalising a resume template is advantageous — after all, nearly any resume template that you can find is probably available to every other job applicant out there as well. That means that hiring managers have likely seen a lot of similar looking resumes.
After reviewing a few options, choose the template which appeals to you most. Once you’ve selected a template, add your information. Then, tweak and edit the document to personalise your resume, so it highlights YOUR skills and abilities.
For more resume templates, samples and tips, refer to the full article.
Using a template can reduce the amount of time you have to spend formatting, allowing you to focus on ensuring that the content of your resume shines.
Nowadays, there are many online sources which provide free or inexpensive resume templates or resume writing services. Some of them require you create an account whereas others are totally free.
Here are some sources you might want to check:
You see how many helpful tips and resources there are out there? You’ll be able to find plenty more for sure. Just keep the basic guidelines from our lessons in mind when you use them.
Now, let’s see what those basics are.
Here are the key takeaways from your experience and education resume sections:
Tend to list your experience first if you have 5 or more years of work in that field. If not, or if your educational background is exceptional, go with the education first.
✔ List only the experience that is relevant to the job you are applying for.
✔ List your responsibilities on your previous jobs using bullet points and powerful action verbs.
✔ When emphasising your accomplishments, use keywords and start with the most important details.
✔ Avoid too many “I” sentences.
✔ Don’t list your high school if you have a BA or above.
✔ Emphasise the courses and certificates that are relevant to the job you are applying for.
✔ Don’t just copy and paste from samples or templates, but use them as a starting point. Make sure your resume reflects your unique expertise and skills.
Now, let’s see whether you’ve grasped the main points of the lesson. Do the following short quiz and show us.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Should you list your education or experience first?
a. It depends on what makes you prouder.
b. Always go with the education first.
c. Always go with the experience first.
d. If you have e.g. 5 or more years of experience – put that first. If not, but you have received impressive education or are a recent graduate with no work experience, put the education first.
2. How should you list your previous jobs?
a. Only your title and the company name will do.
b. Besides naming the job title and the company name, use bullet points and action verbs to list your responsibilities i.e. accomplishments at your previous work.
c. Only list your responsibilities. No one cares where it happened.
3. Should you list your secondary school as a part of your resume?
a. Sure! List everything you have, even your primary school.
b. No, never! It’s been ages since then, right?
c. Only if it is the last i.e. highest education level you completed. If you have a BA, don’t list your high school.