While there are many elements that make up an effective resume, a candidate’s work history is often the largest and most important section of the document, so it’s key that the work history be written in a way that clearly articulates your value as an applicant in an easy-to-read format. A well-written work history provides insight into your professional experience, accomplishments, skill level, and potential culture fit with the company.
What is a work history?
Your work history, sometimes labeled “work experience” on a resume, is a list of places you’ve worked. It includes your job titles, the companies you’ve worked for, your responsibilities, and dates of employment. This provides the reader with a timeline of your employment that indicates important information such as experience level, achievements, scope of work, and the kinds of company cultures you may have experience with (i.e., large corporate offices vs. small startups).
Each of these elements help paint a picture of you as a candidate and can highlight the value you can bring to the role you’re applying for.
What information should be included in your work history?
The following information should be included in your work history:
Dates of employment (month and year)
Hiring managers tend to focus on recent experience. A work history should typically include only the last 10–20 years of experience.
List your jobs in reverse chronological order, with your current or most recent job first, followed by previous jobs listed in order by date.
When listing dates in your work history, it’s important to include both the month and year. Without months listed, the reader won’t be able to tell the actual length of time you worked for the company. For example, if you list your employment dates from 2017–2019, you may have worked for the company for nearly three years (January 2017–December 2019) or for one year (December 2017–January 2019). Additionally, leaving out months when listing employment dates may give the impression that you’re trying to hide something.
If you can’t remember the exact dates of employment, consider reaching out to the company’s HR department to see what dates they have on file. If you don’t have access to this information, make an educated guess.
Do volunteer experience and internships count as work history?
Any experience that demonstrates your value as a candidate can be included, regardless of whether you were paid for it. This includes non-traditional work experience, such as unpaid internships, volunteer work, side projects, school projects, etc.
For example, if you’re applying for a management position, you can include your role as the head of your building’s HOA.
Formatting work history on your resume
A standard resume includes a resume summary, (a more modern and effective version of a resume objective) followed by a skills matrix (a visual tool to highlight your skills and certifications), work history, and education.
Note that if you’re currently in school or a new graduate, education will come before work history; otherwise, education should be listed after work history. If there’s room to spare, professional affiliations and awards can also be included.
This is a standard format for writing your work history on your resume:
Job Title | Month Year–Month Year
If you’ve been promoted, there’s no need to list the company twice. When highlighting a promotion, clearly list out your job titles and descriptions so the reader can see the timeline and promotion on your resume.
District Manager | April 2019–Present
Promoted to manage and coordinate operations for three store locations and 30+ staff while overseeing HR, communications, and clinical program management.
Store Manager | April 2018–April 2019
Managed a retail boutique specializing in holistic wellness and organized schedules and activities for a team of four junior staff members.
If you’ve worked in various short-term or contract roles, it can be hard to remember each company you worked for and the dates you worked there. In this case, consider listing the parent company or temp agency and the time you were employed there. You can then discuss companies you worked for in the description.
An entry of this nature may look like this:
MODE Temp Agency
Contract Administrative Employee | March 2020–Present
Contracted to provide on-call assistance for companies, including [Company] and [Company], and support various departments such as HR, accounting, and office administration based on staffing needs.
If you are unsure of timelines or company names, this is a great way to accurately list information without having to disclose additional details.
Keeping track of your work history
It can be daunting to sit down and write out your work history, and it can be difficult to remember small details from past jobs or previous assignments. To make it easier on yourself going forward, create a list of your employment information (in a Google Doc or in the Notes app on your phone, for example) and update it periodically with project information, achievements, and important dates, promotions, etc. This will ensure that you have all of the information needed to build an effective work history when you write your resume.
Read more: Do You Need an Interview Coach?