What Is Relative Experience on a Resume?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 26, 2021 | Published December 7, 2020

Updated February 26, 2021

Published December 7, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Relevant experience is a big part of your resume. Employers judge your relevant experience when determining whether to hire you. Therefore, it's important to know which of your past experiences are considered relevant for the job you're after. In this article, we will go over what relevant experience means and how you can include it on your resume.

What does relevant experience on a resume mean?

Relevant experiences are previous jobs you have worked that are related to the position you are applying for. The best way to quickly show that you have relevant experience is by listing it on your resume. This is often the first document an employer will see about you, as they quickly scan the resume to see if you have the right experience for further consideration.

However, relevant experience doesn't just mean past jobs. Other examples of relevant experience could include an internship, projects you worked on at school, volunteer work or work you did as a freelancer. Essentially anything you worked on related to the job you're applying for, whether you were paid for it or not, can count as relevant experience.

Read more: How To List Volunteer Experience on Your Resume

Why is relevant experience important?

Relevant experience is one of the first things that an employer will look for. They typically want someone familiar with the job tasks involved, no matter how they acquired that experience. Performing a similar job in the past is often best, but relevant experience gained freelancing, at school, at an internship or during volunteer work are all beneficial.

Another reason that relevant work experience is important is that it can help you adjust to the job. Relevant experience can show the employer that you should be able to pick up new tasks quickly to complete the job.

Related: How To Write a Resume Employers Will Notice

Examples of relevant experience

To get a better sense of what qualifies as relevant experience, here are a few examples:

Example 1

John is applying for a job as a social media marketing manager. He has never held this title before, but he has managed social media accounts for various brands. This would be considered relevant experience for the job and should be included on the resume.

Example 2

Mary has spent the past five years working as a customer support representative. She has come across a similar position at a different company that is offering a higher salary. Her previous work experience is very relevant to her new job and should therefore be included.

Example 3

Mark is involved with two different charities. In one of them, he helps to build homes, and in the other, he spends time at a soup kitchen. Mark has found a job opening on a construction team and wishes to apply. While he could list both of these volunteer experiences on his resume, he should emphasize his time building homes, as this is the more relevant experience.

How to show relevant experience on a resume

The best way to let employers know about your relevant experience is by not only including it on your resume but doing so in the right way. Here are some steps you can follow to show relevant experience on a resume:

Related: How To Write Work Experience on a Resume

1. Read the job description.

The best way to know what an employer is looking for is by looking at the job description. Inside the job description, you'll find things like what type of experience the employer is looking for, what skills you should have and anything else that might help you land the job. Pick out a few keywords from the description and write them down so that you can use them when creating your resume.

2. Pick the best few.

If you have a lot of experience, you you should typically avoid listing it all. When listing your relevant experience on a resume, it's better to focus on quality rather than quantity. List the job experiences that are most relevant to the one you are applying for. Use the keywords you pulled from the previous step to help you determine which experiences are the most relevant.

The same goes for any relevant experience besides your past jobs. Pick out the most relevant volunteer or freelance work to include on your resume. If you try to include everything, you may end drawing focus away from the most important items.

3. Include achievements.

One of the best ways to highlight your relevant experience is by listing any achievements you have. Achievements do a better job of showcasing your skills than just listing the jobs you have performed. For example, rather than just listing the number of years you worked as a salesperson, you could include the number of times you were the top salesperson in that company.

4. Decide on a resume layout.

The right resume layout can help to emphasize your relevant experience. There are essentially two different formats for resumes to consider. The first is a chronological resume, and the other is an experienced-based resume.

You may want to use an experienced-based resume if you think your relevant experience is your strongest attribute. When you have strong relevant experience, you don't need to list your previous employment in chronological order. Instead, you can start your list with your most relevant experience and work your way down.

5. Write your relevant experience.

Once you decide on a format, it's finally time to write up your relevant experience. Be sure to include the keywords you pulled from the job description. Also, focus on your specific tasks and achievements from that experience. Whenever possible, you should highlight your results rather than just the task assigned to you.

If you think the relevancy of your experience isn't immediately apparent, be sure to explain. For example, you could talk about why your experience working as a cashier has prepared you to become a salesperson by improving your communication and customer service skills.

Explore more articles