Want to Show Relevant Experience on a Resume? Here's How!

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January 19, 2024
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min read

3 key takeaways

  • What relevant job experience to consider including on your resume
  • Why it’s important to highlight your most recent relevant experiences on your resume
  • How to use an AI Resume Builder like Teal’s to tailor your experience so it’s always relevant

The job of your resume is to showcase the top 10% of your experience that's 100% relevant to the job you're applying for. 

That means the skills, qualifications, achievements, (and more!) you include should directly mirror what a company seeks.

To make sure you're hitting the mark, you have to prioritize relevant experience on your resume and tailor each section to reflect the job description. 

But what does that mean? And how can you emphasize all you have to offer in a way that makes every word count and focuses on what truly matters to your next potential employer?

Definition of relevant experience on a resume

“What type of experience should I put on my resume?” is a common question for job seekers. 

The truth is that you might have a lot of different background experiences that could benefit you in your job search. But does all of it apply to the specific job you’re applying for? Usually, no.

Relevant experience on a resume includes any information that showcases your specific skills, knowledge, and achievements while aligning with what the hiring manager or recruiter believes is necessary for the role. 

And while past job experience falls under this category, other types of experience, such as academic work or volunteering, can also show that you’re a good fit for the position.

The one thing that’s important to keep in mind is that what counts as “relevant” experience ultimately depends on the specific job. This means you may have to tailor your resume (including the “Work Experience section” section) for every job application.

What counts as relevant resume experience?

While it will vary from one application to another, there are a few categories of relevant experience you should consider including in your resume and cover letter:

Previous job experience

Your resume work experience is the most important section.

To deserve a mention, a past job needs to be recent and relevant. That means the achievements you list beneath that experience include skills, qualifications, and impact that align with the job you’re applying for, and it’s part of the past 10 years or so of your work history.

For example, while you may have customer service skills from a past experience fifteen years ago, your relevant qualifications and experience as a copywriter might be a better fit if you're applying for a role as a certified professional resume writer.

Relevant experience on a resume
Make sure your past job experience is recent and relevant.

Volunteering efforts

If you’re involved in any volunteer work or community service projects, these are things worth listing on your resume. Volunteer experience may not demonstrate transferable skills in the same way that relevant work experience does. However, any good career coach will tell you that hiring managers and potential employers highly value volunteer work.

Volunteer experience shows you have a good work ethic and a strong moral compass—qualities employers prioritize. Depending on the nature of your volunteer work, it may also showcase soft skills such as leadership or communication.

Freelance work

There was a time when freelance work wasn’t viewed all that highly by prospective employers. Today, though, it’s often some of the most relevant experiences you can list.

Freelance work related to the job position counts as relevant experience, the same way holding a full-time job in the industry would. Freelance experience can also demonstrate important soft skills and competencies to a potential employer, including:

  • Good time management
  • Problem-solving
  • The ability to self-motivate

Academic work

It’s obvious that you’ll want to include any degrees or certifications you’ve earned on your resume. However, there are other types of academic experience, aside from just your coursework, that may be worth listing as well, such as:

  • Research experience
  • Thesis or capstone projects
  • Leadership roles in academic organizations
  • Teaching/tutoring experience

Internships and Co-ops

Internships and  co-ops (cooperative education) experiences are invaluable additions to any resume—particularly for recent graduates or those transitioning into a new field. These experiences are rich sources of relevant skills and knowledge, allowing you to:

  • Gain hands-on experience in a real-world setting.
  • Develop and apply industry-specific skills.
  • Network with professionals in your field.
  • Understand workplace dynamics and expectations.

When listing internships or co-ops, focus on the impact you had and the skills you developed that are relevant experience to the job you're applying for. Highlight any projects or achievements that demonstrate your capability (and adaptability) in a professional environment.

Training and Certifications

Beyond formal education, additional training and certifications can greatly improve the relevant experience on a resume.

This section is particularly crucial if you're applying for roles that require specific technical skills or certifications. Include:

  • Professional development courses
  • Technical certifications relevant to your industry
  • Workshops or seminars attended

These additions underscore your commitment to continuous learning and staying updated with industry trends and technologies.

Add relevant experience on a resume with Teal

The Teal AI Resume Builder offers comprehensive resume sections to help you focus on relevant experience, incorporate freelance projects, highlight relevant skills and certifications, and more in one central location—for free.

Adding relevant experience on a resume with Teal
Add all of your relevant experience on a resume in one location.

Best practices for listing relevant experience on a resume

Along with knowing what counts as relevant experience, there are several other factors that you need to consider before listing work experience on your resume.

If you want to know how to make your resume stand out to potential employers, here are the best practices you should follow:

1. Align your relevant experience with the job description

One of the first and most important steps when applying for a new job is to carefully consider the job description. 

Here, you'll find the specific skills, qualifications, and experience the employer seeks in a candidate. You can use this information to determine which experience to showcase on your resume.

For example, if the job description mentions the need for good project management skills, experience overseeing successful projects will make your resume appealing. Or, if it lists coding skills as a requirement, competing in coding competitions could be a great thing to show off.

It’s also worth noting that aligning your relevant experience section with the job description doesn’t just mean listing industry-related experience. It can also be helpful to align your relevant experience with the mission and values of the company you are applying to. 

For example, if they focus on sustainability, volunteer work in conservation would be a great thing to mention.

Remember that the job description is an employer’s chance to tell you what they’re looking for. If you pay attention to the details and structure your application, cover letter, and resume accordingly, you’re more likely to see positive results.

Pro Tip: Use the Teal AI Resume Builder and Job Application Tracker to pull the skills, relevant keywords, and other crucial language from any job description. Then, using the same platform, seamlessly incorporate them into your resume to highlight your relevant experience.

Higlighting job description keywords to showcase relevant experience on a resume
Align your resume to any job description with the right keywords and language.

2. Coordinate relevant experience and recent jobs

Potential employers are more likely to be interested in your recent work experience than in a job you worked at over a decade ago. This is because your most recent work experience is more likely to reflect your current skills and knowledge.

If your most recent roles align closely with the job you're applying for, emphasize them prominently on your resume. If there's a significant gap between your last relevant role and your current job, consider highlighting transferable skills alongside any metrics and impact and any applicable side projects or freelance work.

By prioritizing recent experience, you can let potential employers know that your skills and knowledge are still sharp and up-to-date with the times, making you a competitive candidate.

3. Tailor your resume to include relevant experience

By taking the time to tailor your resume to each job you apply for, you give yourself a serious leg-up over the competition.

Customizing your resume involves:

  • Rephrasing bullet points using keywords that match the job ad
  • Adding or omitting certain experiences to better align with the specific job
  • Adjusting your professional summary to align with the requirements of the role you're applying to
  • Editing your target title to match the title of the job (Note: As long your target title aligns with your experience and qualifications, it doesn't need to be one of your previous job titles.)

Not only does this approach ensure that you're highlighting the experiences that will appeal to each potential employer, but it can also showcase that you took the time to understand the employer’s needs and are committed to fulfilling them.

4. Highlight achievements and impact over job duties

Job duties can provide a broad overview of your work experience, but they don’t usually tell the full story. Instead of simply listing your general responsibilities, focus on the impact of those responsibilities.

For example, rather than just saying that you worked as a project manager and listing your responsibilities, talk about how you successfully led a cross-functional team to complete a project ahead of schedule—or how you increased departmental efficiency by 15%.

Listing your job title and job duties only tells employers that you held a certain position and checked a box. But listing your key achievements and corresponding impact tells them that you excelled at that position.

It’s easy to see how this will be much more appealing to potential employers considering multiple candidates with similar work histories.

5. Review your resume and the job description

Once you've completed the steps above, take a moment to compare your resume to the job description. Do you meet at least 70% of the required skills? Does your language align?

If you want to save time and compare your resume to a job, Teal offers a Matching Mode feature that gives you an analysis of how well your resume aligns with the language, keywords, and skills of the job.

Comparing resume relevant experience to a job description
Compare your resume to any job description in seconds to make sure they align.

Add relevant experience to your resume with Teal

Customizing and optimizing the relevant experience on your resume for each new job you apply for can be a powerful way to boost your job search. 

It also requires a lot of time and effort when done manually.

Thankfully, Teal’s free AI Resume Builder can help. With Teal, you can build your resume (by importing a previous version, uploading your LinkedIn profile, or from scratch) and then easily customize your content (and cover letter!) to match any job description using the right keywords and language to align your qualifications.

Sign up for free today and start using Teal to create, tailor, and manage your resume!

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I highlight relevant experience on my resume if I'm changing industries?

When changing industries, focus on transferable skills and accomplishments that are universally valued, such as leadership, project management, or problem-solving. Tailor your job descriptions to emphasize how your past experiences align with the requirements of the new industry. Use a functional or combination resume format to showcase relevant skills and achievements upfront.

Can volunteer work or internships count as relevant experience on a resume?

Absolutely, volunteer work and internships can be considered relevant experience, especially if they've allowed you to develop skills or knowledge applicable to the job you're applying for. Be sure to describe these roles with the same level of detail as paid positions, focusing on your responsibilities, contributions, and the skills you've honed.

How far back should I go when listing relevant experience on my resume?

Generally, it's advisable to include up to the last 10-15 years of professional experience on your resume. However, if older roles are highly relevant to the job you're applying for, you can include them. Make sure to prioritize relevance and impact over chronology, and consider summarizing older roles in a separate section if necessary.

Dave Fano

Founder and CEO of Teal, Dave is a serial entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience building products & services to help people leverage technology and achieve more with less.

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