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So, what have you been up to in your career? The work history section of your resume is where you show potential employers what you’ve accomplished—which helps set up the conversation about what you can do for them! When you’re writing this part of your resume, it’s good to keep a few key points in mind to be sure your work history section is the best it can be.

First things first: choose chronological vs. functional

The format of your work history section should depend on how long you’ve been out in the working world. If you’ve recently graduated, it makes sense to use a functional format. This means you’ll break out your skills and accomplishments separate from your work history. In a functional format, lead with a paragraph that describes your skills, especially as related to the job to which you’ve applied. Then, a second section includes a simple list of past job titles, company names and dates (if you have any).

A chronological format is appropriate if you’ve had several pertinent job experiences. In this type of format, you list each past job individually with your title, company name and dates you were employed. Then, under each past job, you include details of that position—your role, your responsibilities and what you accomplished.

Five pro tips for your work history section

As you fill in the details of your past employment, consider the following five tactics:

  1. List your past 3-5 jobs. You want to keep your work history straight and to the point. Unless a job early on in your career gave you experience directly related to the position you’ve applied to, it’s acceptable to curtail your work history at 3-5 past jobs.
  2. Don’t be generic. When describing your past work history, make yourself stand out! Skip fluffy words and include descriptive terms that paint a picture in the hiring manager’s mind. If you can quantify your accomplishments with numbers (for example, “Responsible for a caseload of 35 beds,” “Improved sales efficiency by 35 percent”), it’s much easier for a potential employer to understand the level of your success.
  3. Use power words. Your past work experience should include plenty of verbs, and some are stronger than others. Choose words that exude leadership and energy. Good choices include: coordinated, directed, oversaw, headed, mentored, implemented, devised, consolidated, negotiated, streamlined, developed, crafted, boosted or enhanced.
  4. Look for industry buzzwords. Keyword searches are common when hiring managers sift through resumes. To find some in your industry, simply review a few different job descriptions for similar jobs as the one to which you’re applying. What phrases do they have in common? You might want to pepper some of these into your resume.
  5. Apply this formula: Action – skill – result. When describing your past work experience, it’s effective to first list the action you took (possibly using a power word, as described above), then the skill you used and finally, the result of your actions. This makes it clear to the reader what you did and how it ended successfully.

A carefully crafted resume makes a difference

When you take time, and think about the word choices and formatting of your resume, it really shows in the quality of the document you create. And this can get you one step closer to your next job offer.

Need help finding your next job?

Once your resume is polished and sparkling, you might want to use it to apply for a new position. And if you’re in search of job opportunities, McGrath Systems can help. We place IT, engineering, light industrial, administrative and human resources applicants with jobs across the country. To learn more, contact us today!

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