Resume Work Experience: Accounting for Special Circumstances

View Worksheet

When creating your resume work experience section, you might find yourself in a dilemma if less-than-desirable circumstances surround your work history. These less-than-ideal situations do not have to be a deal breaker when it comes promoting yourself on a resume, however.

Three common resume work experience circumstances that you might need to account for include the following:

  • Long absence from the workforce
  • Termination from previous job
  • Most relevant experience is not most recent

If you find yourself in any of these positions when writing your resume work experience section, careful planning and attention to detail can help account for them on your resume without hurting your chances of obtaining an interview.

Resume work experience circumstance #1: Long absence from the workforce

Regardless of your reason, you might find it hard to explain a long absence from the workforce on your resume. In a situation like this, you are better served choosing a resume type that showcases your skills and achievements sections over a resume work experience section. Your life experiences have likely taught you marketable skills and allowed you to achieve in various ways.

Consider creating a “Relevant Experience” section instead of a resume work experience section. Under this newly titled section, describe your unpaid experiences. List the names of any organizations for which you have volunteered. Describe what you did, and use dates just as you would for relevant experience from a paid work experience.

Resume work experience circumstance #2: Termination from previous job

Prospective employers are more likely to consider you for a position if you are currently employed than if you are not. Your resume makes it clear when you are currently unemployed, and employers often ask themselves why. That curiosity can make it tricky to list jobs from which you have recently been terminated. How you handle presenting the relevant work experience ultimately depends on the reason for your termination.

  • Layoffs—If you were laid off because a company downsized or went out of business, do not misrepresent your employment status by implying you are currently employed in your resume work experience section. Instead, use the cover letter to explain your situation. Update your resume with your most recent achievements from the employer.
  • Termination—If your employment was terminated as a result of your performance or a conflict, do not write this in your resume work experience section or cover letter. Instead, prepare an explanation if you are given an interview. Research or ask for advice on how to talk about the experience in a positive light. Negativity of any kind is something you want to avoid on your resume and in an interview.

Resume work experience circumstance #3: Most relevant experience is not most recent

When your most relevant resume work experience is not your most recent, you can still highlight the relevant experience. There are two approaches you can take:

  • Approach #1: Create a section near the top of your resume, and title it “Highlight of Qualifications.” In this section, write a brief statement that highlights your most relevant experience.,/li>
  • Approach #2: Use a combination resume or a functional resume, and create two sections to replace the traditional resume work experience section. One titled “Relevant Professional Experience,” and the second titled “Other Professional Experience.”

These special circumstances and others, such as employments gaps and job hopping, are likely concerns as you prepare your resume work experience section. However, when you plan, prepare and address the circumstance in the right way, you can mitigate the effects of situations that prospective employers may not view favorably.