Resume Tips for Career Changers & the ‘Experienced’

Some resume writers have a wide range of work and life experiences that need to be communicated effectively to employers. You are encouraged to check out Resume Information and Writing Action Verb Statements, as these are important supplements to the information found here.

What if I have been out of the work force for many years?

Do not focus on the absence, but on the skills you gained before, during, and after that time. Use volunteer work and community service to display your leadership traits and level of motivation. Committee work or special projects can also be used to demonstrate organizational, interpersonal, or teaching/training ability. If you have kept up-to-date on developments and trends in your field, you can show this by indicating recent educational seminars or courses you have taken.

One of the biggest challenges will be to translate your experience to the resume using the language of the job for which you are now applying. For example, if you are seeking a position in sales and you coordinated a fundraising drive in your community, your resume might read “Organized and solicited donations for a charity fundraiser which raised over $8,000 for a family of a disabled Iraqi Veteran”. Your task is to identify areas demonstrating your ability and to communicate this information effectively to employers.

Will even a small gap in my job history send a warning sign to employers?

In today’s changing workforce, employers are accustomed to seeing such gaps. It is also more common for applicants to have changed jobs fairly frequently; the individual who has worked for one employer for their entire career is no longer common. Focus on your accomplishments, specific projects that make your experience unique, not on your dates of employment. Choose a style for your resume that does not emphasize dates in the layout, even if that adjustment is as simple as placing your dates on the right rather than the left side of the resume.

Does my resume have to be on one page?

If you can communicate your accomplishments effectively on one page, you should. In fact, for some industries a one page resume is a must, e.g. Business, IT and Engineering. However, many resume writers have a wide range of experiences that may require use of a second page. If you choose to go to a second page, make sure that the information is relevant and enhances your qualifications. Remember, unless the first page is effective, the employer may not even reach the second page.

What happens if I have no experience at all that is related to my job objective?

Often, career changers and returning students believe they have no related experiences because they may not have done the exact job for which they are applying. Everyone has "transferable skills," or skills gained in one setting that can be applied to another, such as organizing, writing or teamwork skills. Your challenge is to identify the transferable skills that you have, and then construct effective action verb and accomplishment statements that relate those skills to the job you are seeking.

What is an "accomplishment statement?"

An accomplishment statement is an action verb description statement that shows the result of what you did in a particular task or position. When describing your experiences, you should not focus on the duties or responsibilities that you had, but on what you accomplished by performing these tasks. In fact, banish the phrases "duties include" and "responsible for" from your resume. For example, "Designed and implemented counseling program which serviced over 200 clients in its first year."

Does all prior work experience need to be included on the resume?

No. Only work, volunteer, and community experiences that are directly related to your current job objective need to be reflected in the resume. List all of your experiences, then organize them according to which are most related to your job objective.

What about my dates of employment? Most employers want to see dates reflected on the resume, at least for the most recent, relevant experience. A resume with no dates at all is likely to create questions for an employer concerning your reason for leaving them out. Including dates can also reveal your age, so be cautious about how far back you go. There are many ways to address this issue. For example, you may want to use dates for recent, relevant experiences and summarize the rest of your experience in a short paragraph without dates or you might summarize using inclusive dates, for example(1985-1990) See sample PDF.

Does personal information need to be reflected on the resume?

Personal information, such as marital status, number of children, health, photographs, and other personal data is NOT appropriate for your resume. Only information that is related to the job should be included. Any information that can be used to discriminate against you in any way is not resume material. For example, when describing experiences gained through religious or political activities, try to show what you have accomplished without indicating your particular religious or political affiliation. NOTE: There are some career fields where personal information is relevant and required, e.g. acting.

What is a "highlights of qualifications" statement? When would I use one?

A "highlights of qualifications" statement, or "summary" consists of 3-4 easy to read statements directly under the job objective. It is used by experienced candidates to emphasize particular skills that they have accumulated throughout their career which relate directly to their current job objective (see sample PDF). It is also used for job seekers who have been in a field for a long time at one job to provide a snapshot of their most significant experiences. This section is not appropriate for all candidates. Primarily, its purpose is to summarize experiences and to pull together skills that may not otherwise be given enough emphasis on the resume.

Do I include my military service on my resume?

Listing your military service on your resume can be a great way to showcase your experience, skills, and personal qualities. Information from your military service that is not relevant to the field you are seeking, should be eliminated. Make sure to "demilitarize" your experience so civilian employers can better understand what you have to offer. To get started, you have to have a strong understanding how your accomplishments, experiences, skills, awards, and trainings from the military translate into the civilian job market. Do not go into detail about any active combat service. Listing your military service in a functional format, using key words to capture the nature of your experiences, can be particularly helpful. See sample PDF


One important task when writing a resume is to determine which format will most effectively market your skills to an employer. The most common type of resume is the reverse chronological. Other resume formats also include functional and combination. For information about additional resume formats, visit the CAPE website to view our sample resumes. On the following pages, you will see samples of both reverse chronological and the functional resumes

Reverse Chronological Format

  • Focuses on your most recent experience first, although you may arrange your headings in various ways depending on which aspects of your background you want to emphasize.
  • Allows you to highlight job titles and names of employing organizations.
  • Clearly indicates employment history and dates, as well as accomplishments. Because of this, many employers tend to favor this format. This is a very common resume format, and if you can use it effectively, you should do so.

Functional Format

  • Focuses on skills rather than dates or positions. In this type of resume, you arrange your experience section to highlight your most important skills and you list your accomplishments by skill areas.
  • Effective for those who have held a position with varied responsibilities for many years, for those who are returning to work after a long absence, and for those who are changing careers and want to demonstrate related skills that may be transferred to a new field.
  • May have a separate section indicating employment history listed in reverse chronological order.
  • Provides opportunity to emphasize skills from a variety of settings in sections that directly lend support to your current objective.


The Career and Professional Education Center has an extensive resume archive on our website under the Resume and Cover Letters section, as well as a links to current resume samples. The resumes listed here provide examples of many additional formats. The CAPE also offers workshops on resume writing throughout the year. A complete schedule of our workshops is available on the CAPE website.

Career & Professional Education

Buffalo State College  •  1300 Elmwood Avenue  •  Cleveland Hall 306
Buffalo, New York 14222  •  Phone: (716) 878-5811  •  Fax: (716) 878-3152