How to Demonstrate Relevant Experience on Your Resume

Ronda Suder, Resume Writer

10 min read

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Let’s say you’re in the market for a new job, and you think you’ve found the perfect fit. As you’re reading through the job description, you’re excited that you seem to have most, if not all, that the employer is seeking. 

Then, all of a sudden, near the bottom of the post, you read, “5 to 7 years of relevant experience required.” Darn! What does that mean exactly? What’s considered relevant, and what’s not? 

Before you begin to sweat it, let’s get clear on what it is and how to demonstrate relevant experience on your resume. 

The dilemma

Job seekers are constantly being told to focus on relevant work experience when they’re creating a resume. However, relevant experience can be relative and thus difficult for many candidates to properly define. Sadly, that can make it hard for some job seekers to properly identify which previous employment experiences are most likely to be relevant in a new position.

Far too often, candidates assume that a past job is relevant simply because they held the job and view it as such. In this post, we’ll examine the idea of relevant work experience, offering some tips to help you better craft your resume narrative. 

Here’s what you’ll learn:

What is relevant experience?

Before you can even begin to include your relevant experience, you need to be able to identify relevancy. When it comes to resumes, that means thinking like the employer. So, while you may have held jobs that seem very relevant to you, your opinion means less than the employer’s needs. Every open job position has certain requirements that need to be met. Different duties require specific skill sets. Ultimately, your job is to figure out which experiences and skills an employer is looking for from job candidates.

Obviously, you cannot read that employer’s mind and it’s probably unwise to just blindly guess. The good news, though, is that you don’t need to read minds or guess and hope for the best. The reality is that there are a number of ways to identify the employer’s needs and your own relevant experience, which we dive into in detail later. 

What are different types of relevant experience?

In short, relevant experience is the things you’ve done in your career that are directly relative to the job you're targeting in terms of required skills and knowledge. Relevant work experience does not imply that you have to have the exact same title of the job you’re applying to, nor does it mean you have to have worked in the exact same industry. As long as you can show that the experience aligns with the knowledge and skills required for the position, it’s considered relevant. 

In addition to traditional employment within the same history, relevant experience can come from a number of areas in your professional history, including:

Transferable skills from work in another industry.

If you’re changing careers, then you’ll want to find where you accumulated transferable skills and experience to highlight it as relevant work experience for the new position. For example, if you’ve been working in marketing and now are seeking an HR job, be sure to highlight your marketing experience, like working with clients, your ability to communicate well, and reporting skills related to marketing data, all of which are transferable to an HR job. 


Did you know that adult internships are becoming more and more common? That’s right! Internships aren’t just for college or entry-level candidates anymore. Many adults are securing internships to learn new skills and obtain relevant experience to support them in changing careers. 

Volunteer experience.

Just because you didn’t get paid doesn’t mean your volunteer experience didn’t provide you with relevant duties and skills. It’s okay to list a section titled “Volunteer Experience” to include this type of relevant experience on your resume. 

Part-time jobs.

Let's say you've been working part-time in your area of expertise so you could be at home with your children. In that case, your part-time work can definitely present you with relevant work experience for a full-time job when you're ready to make the transition from part-time to full-time. Even if your part-time job isn't in the industry you're applying to, still use it on your resume if there are any relevant transferable skills that stand out. 

Practicums and residencies.

Some professionals, like those in the healthcare field, are required to complete a practicum or residency as students before graduating. The practicum is similar to an internship, where the student receives hands-on relevant work experience in the field they’re pursuing, and it can definitely add relevance to your resume.

Freelance work.

Depending on the type of freelance work you do, you could definitely have relevant experience to highlight on your resume. For example, if you’re a freelance copywriter, then you certainly have relevant skills when you apply for a full-time writing or communications position for an organization. Or, let’s say you’re applying for a job that’s not in the same field as your freelance work yet requires organizational, time management, and communication skills. Then your freelance work would apply as relevant experience since you need these skills for success as a freelancer. 

Extracurricular activities.

Many don’t consider the fact that several relevant skills are learned during extracurricular activities, from participating in sports and community groups to being a member of professional organizations and boards. Soft skills like leadership, communication, collaboration, teamwork, and time management can be improved upon or acquired through extracurricular activities. Hard skills can also be acquired depending on your role with the extracurricular activity. For example, let’s say you're the treasurer for a local organization. In that case, data entry and bookkeeping could be acquired hard skills relevant to some positions you might apply to in the fields of finance, accounting, and more. 

Academic projects.

It's common for students at all levels – Bachelor, Master, and PhD – to be required to complete projects for various courses. Be sure to include a section on your resume titled "Projects" or "Academic Projects" and list all that are relevant, especially if you lack relevant work experience. It's also a good idea to include a brief description of the project.  

Speaking engagements.

If you’re applying for a job that requires strong presentation and communication skills, then listing your speaking engagements would indeed highlight that you have relevant skills to support the new position. 

Tips to Identify Relevant Experience

Essentially, hiring teams want to know you’re the most qualified candidate for the position, which often means you have the most relevant experience. Here are some tips to help you incorporate only what’s relevant into your resume. 

1. Start with the job description

The job description is your best source for defining which experience will prove most relevant. To maximize its usefulness, you need to break it down into its central features:

  • Use a notepad or Word document to document your findings.

  • On that document, make two columns, with one labeled skills and the other labeled duties or responsibilities.

  • Now go through the job description, line by line, and highlight each job duty and named skill required.

  • Insert those skills and responsibilities into your document.

You now have a list of all the core skills you need for the job and the responsibilities with which you will be tasked. Your next steps include:

  • Go through your resume and identify previous jobs where you’ve had similar responsibilities or been required to use similar skills.

  • Make a list of those jobs, the duties you performed, and the skills you used.

  • Be sure to use the exact keywords from the job description in your job list.

2. Omit irrelevant experience

As you go through that list process, you should eliminate any previous job experience that lacks relevance. That will include many of your early jobs, as well as any that use completely different skill sets.

However, if you have soft skills or some technical skills that could be transferred over to your desired position, note them under a separate list. They can be included in a separate resume header section labeled “Other Skills” or “Special Skills.”

3. Quality over quantity

Avoid the temptation to stretch the definition of relevancy just to pad your resume. Employers care more about the quality of your relevant work experience than the quantity.

Remember, their goal is to ensure that you have the knowledge and skills needed to fill the position. For most employers, it won’t matter whether that relevant experience was all gained at one job or ten.

4. Ignore past job titles; focus on problems and solutions

As you go through your prior work history, ignore your job titles. Those titles don’t always tell the story when it comes to relevant experience. Instead, focus on the tasks and challenges you faced and the solutions and results you achieved. In most instances, those results will prove the true relevancy of your experience.

5. Achievements matter more than duties

Don’t fall into the trap of highlighting the tasks you performed in past jobs. Instead, focus on what you achieved. Try to use real numbers to highlight the value of any relevant experience. That’s the best way to ensure that a potential employer sees just how relevant your prior work history truly is.

For example, don’t simply say that you led the company’s advertising team. Instead, describe that experience using quantifiable numbers that showcase value:

  • Led ABC Corp’s 12-person ad team, revolutionized client ad campaigns, and increased client retention by 23% and profits by 31% yearly.

Expert Tip

View 200+ more professional resume samples for all industries, along with a guide to writing resumes from our career experts.

6. Don’t forget to highlight your skills

Finally, emphasize your relevant skills. Always describe how you used relevant skills to showcase their importance. That will help to ensure that you create a resume filled with relevant experience that speaks to an employer’s needs. And that’s the best way to showcase yourself as the top candidate for the job and land that crucial interview.

Expert Tip

Having the right combination of skills is key to passing the ATS scans. Learn how in our guide: 10 Vital Skills to Put on Your Resume & Stand Out

7. Tailor your resume

Once you have your lists and have done your research, tailor your resume to incorporate all of the information relevant to the job. When doing so, ensure you’re incorporating the terminology used in the job description and using as much quantifiable data as possible when incorporating your relevant achievements.  

8. Hire a professional resume writer

Sometimes, it can be challenging to tell what is important and what is not important when it comes to information on your resume. If you're spending an hour or more debating if your experience is relevant, consider hiring a professional resume writer.

Decide what is relevant and begin!

Deciding which of your skills and accomplishments is an important part of an effective resume. You don't want to fall into the trap of providing too much information and forcing the employer to decide what is relevant. Instead, you need to craft your resume so it answers the question: Why am I the right person for this job?

To ensure your resume answers this question and includes only relevant information, consider hiring the ZipJob team of writers to create a resume you’re confident will help you land your next job!

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Written by

Ronda Suder, Professional Writer

With a drive to foster safety and expand possibilities through writing, performing, and working with others, Ronda brings 25 years of combined experience in HR, recruiting, career advice, communications, mental and behavioral health, and storytelling to her work. She’s a certified career coach and holds a Master’s in Human Resources, a Master’s in Film and Media Production, and a Master’s in Counseling and Development. As a writer, she’s covered topics ranging from finance and rock mining to leadership and internet technology, with a passion for career advice and mental-health-related topics. When she’s not at her computer, Ronda enjoys connecting with others, personal growth and development, spending time with her beloved pooch, and entertainment through movies, television, acting, and other artistic endeavors. You can connect with Ronda on LinkedIn and through her website.

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