Resume Work Experience: Accounting for a Limited Employment History

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When you’re writing a resume with a limited employment history, preparing the resume work experience section might seem like a challenge. However, whether you have a limited work history or you are applying for your very first job, selecting the right type of resume and including the right information isn’t as hard as you might think.

Functional resumes or combination resumes are your best choice if you are applying for entry-level positions with a limited employment history. These resume types emphasize your skills while taking the focus off your work history, which is usually the focus of the commonly used chronological resume.

The following areas of focus allow you to highlight your skills, accomplishments and achievements when creating a resume work history with limited a employment history:

  • Research on a position and the related job description
  • Strategic placement of relevant information
  • Adequate assessment of what you bring to the table
  • Unique qualifications
  • Related experiences

Deciding on a resume type with a limited employment history

The functional format is best if you have no work history at all because there is no chronological accounting in the resume work experience section (when included). The combination resume is a good choice if you have some work experience that is relevant to the position for which you are applying. While a combination resume still includes chronological information in the resume work experience section, the focus of this resume type is a Summary of Qualifications.

Why you should research a position when you have a limited employment history

While carefully reading a job posting gives you the specific requirements a prospective employer is seeking, you can boost your resume or resume work experience and skills information by conducting research about the position in general. Look for information about the job and the job description. Determine what skills are desirable, and then decide how you can show competency in those areas by looking at your personal attributes and unpaid experiences.

How to identify unique qualifications when you have a limited employment history

Essentially, look for any transferable skills that make up for your limited employment history. Try to think of 3-5 unique skills or accomplishments that can help you stand out from other applicants from the following experiences:

  • Hobbies
  • Part-time jobs
  • Temporary jobs
  • Volunteer work

How an adequate assessment of what you bring to the table helps with a limited employment history

Ask yourself why a prospective employer should hire you, and assess what you bring to the table for a position. In many cases, your lack of an employment history is made up with motivation. Look at your skills, accomplishments and achievements through the eyes of a prospective employer. Make sure the information you include shows your strengths in ways that relate to the position for which you are applying by showing how you are results oriented.

As you assess your key skills and abilities, focus on the value of them. If you are still a student or have recently graduated, you can focus on relevant courses, internships or projects that are in line with requirements of the position. Highly transferable skills might include the following.

  • Ability to work effectively alone or with team members
  • Creative problem solving
  • Foreign language(s) aptitude
  • Interpersonal communications skills
  • Research competency
  • Technical capabilities
  • Written communication skills

Why strategic placement of relevant information matters with a limited employment history

Your resume work experience section still matters in certain resume formats. However, by placing more relevant information (skills and achievements) strategically when you have a limited employment history, you can improve your chances of landing an interview. Consider what you have to offer, and place your qualifications in the most relevant categories. Skills, education, volunteer work and other categories that highlight your qualifications should appear before your resume work experience. This strategic placement puts the least amount of emphasis on your employment history.

Ultimately, you must consider what about your experiences are benefits to prospective employers – what makes you stand out from your competition for the position. When you can weave credentials, skills and accomplishments that are compelling into your resume, prospective employers take notice and are more likely to consider you for a position–despite your lack of experience from having a limited employment history.