Let's face it - almost everyone has irrelevant jobs on their work history. However, you can't just leave those off your resume, as employment gaps are a major red flag to hiring managers. That's why it's critical that you learn how to present all your jobs in a way that makes them look as relevant as possible. Fortunately, by following the right strategy, you can polish up any previous positions.
Break Down What You Did at the Job
Every job has purposes and goals. Start by looking at your day-to-day responsibilities in the previous position, and what you accomplished with that company. Whenever possible, try to find solid evidence of your accomplishments. For example, if you were in a customer service role, listing on your resume that you solved customer issues isn't helpful or impressive. However, listing on your resume that you consistently scored 20 percent above the average in terms of customer satisfaction ratings is an impressive statistic that shows you're a capable performer.
It can be difficult to figure out all the different responsibilities and duties you had in a position. One way to make it easier is using an online resume builder with a list of positions and common responsibilities for each position. You can choose from that list and edit each item as necessary to fill out your resume.
Add Keywords to Every Position
Keywords have become a huge part of the hiring process. Larger companies often run the resumes of prospective applicants through a tool designed to look for specific keywords. If your resume doesn't have the right keywords, it won't be selected.
Look at a list of common resume keywords for ideas of which keywords to use. Then, use those keywords in your work history.
An easy way to figure out what keywords are likely to be on a company's radar is by simply reading their job listing. Companies often use the keywords that they value in their job postings. Pay particularly close attention to the job responsibilities.
It's important not to go overboard with the keywords. Keyword stuffing doesn't work for websites anymore and it never worked for resumes. Remember that your resume is still going to be read by a real person at some point in the hiring process, so any keywords need to sound natural.
Keep It Short and Simple
Your resume should highlight your best qualities and your most valuable experience. That means if you have to include irrelevant jobs, they should take up as little real estate as possible. Don't waste space trying to make a minor job look significantly better than it is. Write a succinct summary of the position and what you accomplished there, and then move on to bigger and better things.
It's perfectly fine to provide short breakdowns of less relevant positions, and large breakdowns of your best work experience. That keeps the focus of your resume where it should be. If your education is your best asset, make that the largest section of your resume. You may even want to put it near the top, above your work experience. There are a variety of resume formats, so use the one that works best for you.
Tailor Your Whole Resume Towards a Specific Job
When you're applying for a job, it's important to tailor your resume towards that position. One effective way to do so is by emphasizing the right responsibilities and accomplishments from previous positions.
For example, if you're applying for a high-level sales position, you should look for any sales-related experience from all your previous jobs and add that to your resume. If you worked in a store at one point, consider ways that you helped increase sales or helped customers make buying decisions, instead of mentioning customer service or other duties.
Present the Best Version of Yourself and Your Work History
Perception is very important, especially when it comes to getting job interviews. How you present yourself and your previous jobs can make all the difference. That's why it's important to use the most professional language possible when explaining what you did at previous jobs. Something as simple as "stocking shelves" sounds much better when it's presented as "arranged products and maintained inventory of items throughout store."
The key, just like with resume keywords, is not to overdo it. If you try to make your time working a fast food drive-through sound like you were in the Secret Service, prospective employers will just roll their eyes and file your resume in the trash. Make every job you had look important and productive, just make sure it's also believable.
Learning how to present yourself is an art form. With the right approach and a way with words, you can make even the shortest, most irrelevant jobs of your life look like a valuable part of your work history.