It goes without saying that the longer you do something, the better you get at it. As such, the resume you started out with back when you were a first-time job seeker is not going to look the same as the one you’re touting once you’ve been in the workforce for a good number of years. But an experienced resume isn’t some piece of paper that you can just keep tacking things on to.
You know all that coveted job experience that everyone’s always talking about? You worked hard to gain those skills, so how exactly are you supposed to showcase them in all their glory without turning your resume into a thesis?
Good question! Here’s what you need to know about your mid-career resume, whether you’re on the job hunt or getting it ready just in case a great offer comes along.
How to write an experienced resume
1. Make sure your resume doesn’t read like an autobiography
“The resume is a marketing piece promoting a commodity—you,” says Kim Isaacs, Monster resume expert. You do not need to list every single job you’ve ever had. Instead, judiciously edit and carve out the most important, relevant experiences to the job to which you’re applying.
2. Show growth
Whether you were at the same company for a long time or you changed jobs, you want to be able to illustrate that your career advanced along the way. Did your job title change? Did your level of responsibility change? For instance, over time, you might have been tasked with leading a team, been given a bigger budget to work with, or taken on other levels of responsibility. Demonstrate that over that time period you were doing different things than you did on day one. And don’t just add new job titles—explain on the resume that you were promoted after achieving XYZ results.
3. Give more real estate to what you’ve been doing lately
“Employers care most about recent experiences,” says Isaacs, so elaborate on your most recent positions, and give less space to the early part of your career. To save space, you can try grouping early jobs (especially if they were similar) into one listing. Example: “Sales Representative | Big Box & Mass Retailers, 2006–2010.” You can then provide a brief overview of each position, says Isaacs.
4. Quantify whatever you can
Numbers are an experienced resume’s best friend. Explain how you increased revenue, decreased cost, improved customer satisfaction, and provided value. Also include details like the size of your budget, how many people you managed, if your projects completed on time and under budget, how many departments were involved in your project. At this level, recruiters and hiring managers are looking for action verbs and data.
5. Tailor the resume to each job opening
This is true no matter what level you’re at. You can have one general resume template, but tweak it according to what each employer says they’re looking for. “You want to emphasize the desirable experiences and downplay irrelevant qualifications,” says Augustine.
The nitty gritty
Once you have the general rules down, it’s time to sharpen your experienced resume so that it doesn’t seem outdated or irrelevant. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Resumes need to quickly get to the point. “Think easy-to-skim info nuggets versus long, drawn-out paragraphs on resumes,” says Isaacs. Graphics, color, charts, and other visual elements—if done tastefully—can also be very effective for highlighting the sections of your modern resume, she says. Just be sure to have a plain text version, too, since graphics and resume-scanning technology don’t always mix well.
Update your contact information. Social media wasn’t part of the job search until somewhat recently, but now you’re expected to have a social media link on your resume. It also used to be standard practice to include your full mailing address and multiple phone numbers, but that’s no longer the case, she says. Just include your cell phone number and one email address; if it’s important to include your location, your city, state, and zip code should suffice.
Tell a story. Include a professional summary that sets the tone. Take about three to five lines to explain who you are, what you’re great at, your areas of expertise, and your core competencies. The idea is to set the stage before getting into work history and education.
Keep ATS and AI in mind. Applicant Tracking Systems and Artificial Intelligence platforms are likely on the front lines of figuring out if your resume makes the initial cut. Today’s resume is part art and part science. It has to get past electronic gatekeepers, but also catch the eye of a recruiter. To do that, be sure to include keywords that will flag you as a potential candidate, and keep the format simple when uploading to a job application system.
Don’t shy away from including career changes. “We’re multidimensional, and most mid-career professionals have a range of valuable skills and experiences,” says Isaacs. So if you’re an IT professional with a previous health care background, you can include both segments of your working life. Just separate experiences using headers such as “Tech Experience” and “Previous Health Care Career.”
Avoid the “overqualified” label. Having a lot of experience in one area means you’ve probably reached a certain level of income, and you know that trying something new might require taking a step back. However, an employer might see your resume and automatically think they can’t afford you. What to do?
“If it’s blatantly obvious that you’re overqualified and unlikely to get interviewed, an explanation in the cover letter could help,” says Isaacs. You can also think carefully about the pieces of information you provide for each of the jobs you’ve held.
For example, say a position is seeking someone with five to seven years of experience and you have 12. Although you have 12 years in the industry, perhaps you’ve only been flexing the specific skill set they’re seeking for the last seven. If that’s the case, frame it that way in your professional summary.