Resume Tips - Work History

List your roles beginning with the most recent occupation first. If your work history is extensive, consider the roles that are most relevant to the industry/employers you are targeting.

Be clear and succinct in listing key responsibilities. Be specific. If it was your role to write the staff newsletter, don’t simply state “writing”, make sure you indicate that you “wrote and edited weekly staff newsletter”.

As a rule, employers will want to know more details about your more recent responsibilities and achievements as opposed to positions you held in the past.

You don’t have to have certificates or trophies to hold valuable achievements. Consider the positive feedback you have received from mentors and employers in the past. If you have been required to manage or adhere to a budget, you could list “consistently meeting KPI s (key performance indicators) under or within budgetary limitations”.

Here are two examples of how a retail assistant might list a notable achievement.

  • Wrong way: "Improved sales through various initiatives". This is too broad a statement and gives no indication of how your contribution was actually beneficial.
  • Right way: "Increased sales by 30% over a one month period by introducing reduced stock to the shop floor (rather than left in the warehouse) and placed prominently."
  • Further examples of notable achievements:
  • Stayed under budget for X quarters/years
  • Reduced client/reader attrition by X amount%
  • Were promoted after only X months in the role
  • Directed a team/group/organization (something difficult to manage)
  • Managed a project spanning X countries/continents/employees
  • Placed employees at X companies
  • Trained X new employees
  • Built a new team/division (not just hiring, also managing the workflow) for the company
  • Redesigned and implemented more effective company procedures which e.g. decreased time-to-market by X amount%
  • Met deadlines consistently
  • Supervised large/complex project in attaining goal X
  • Grew customer base by X amount%
  • Increased customer retention by amount% in months/years

Have there been times when you have exceeded the expectations of your employer? Perhaps you initiated a marketing campaign proposal or volunteered to represent your employer at a trade exhibition. These are achievements that prove your value and dedication.

Gaps in work history are common and there are ways to handle these. It isn’t necessary to try to cover these in your resume. Most importantly, do not lie. Generally, you will be asked to explain these gaps in an interview, so it is best to be prepared. Don’t discount the activities you did undertake while you were not in paid employment. You should list any voluntary work, study, travel or self-improvement ventures. Possible examples are listed below:

  • Volunteered in ticket sales for XYZ Fringe Festival
  • Coached local Under-12 football team
  • Studied French language by correspondence
  • Studied industry trends and research in order to prepare for employment
  • Employed a professional mentor and undertook career counselling