What Is Relevant Experience? (With Examples and Tips)
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When employers or recruiting managers review resumes, they look for candidates whose professional experiences and skills are relevant to the job position. Relevant work experience is often one of the important factors recruiters consider when making a hiring decision. By understanding the importance of relevant experience for a job position, you can include them in your resume to enhance your qualifications and increase your chances of selection. In this article, we answer "What is relevant experience?", how to describe it, what to do if you lack experience, what counts as relevant experience and how to highlight your experience during the hiring process.
What is relevant experience?
Relevant experience is any professional experience that makes you eligible for a specific job. The relevant years of experience you have had in your profession form your relevant experience. It may come from internships, full-time jobs, freelance work or volunteer work. It gives you the knowledge and skills you might need to work in a job position. While relevant experience can help you advance in your field, it can also equip you with transferrable skills that you can use to change careers and work in a different industry.
Many job postings require candidates to provide details of their relevant work experience in job applications. By including these in your cover letter and resume, you can provide your potential employer or recruiting manager with an understanding of your capability. After reviewing your relevant experience, employers or recruiting managers can quickly assess your eligibility for the available position and what you can potentially contribute to the company if hired.
How would you describe your relevant work experience?
You can describe your relevant work experience by doing the following:
Consider your past work experience and customise it to fit the requirements of the job you are currently targeting.
Focus on and describe any relevant duties and responsibilities you undertook in your previous position.
Use action words to highlight your work role and follow these with a brief explanation of what you did.
Explain why and how you did something and how it benefited your teammates and the company.
How do you calculate your total relevant experience?
You can find out the number of years of relevant experience you have by listing all experiences essential for the job and counting the amount of time you have spent on each. For instance, in one column, you might list the work you have done, such as internship work, freelance work, contract work, volunteer work or teaching work, and enter the number of hours you have worked on each in the second column. Adding the numbers in the second column can give you the figure you need.
What if I do not have relevant experience?
You can still apply for a job position even if you do not have relevant work experience. To get the employer or recruiting manager's attention, you can express your strong interest in the role and highlight the skills and experiences that you do have. You must be able to show how these can make you a suitable candidate for the available position.
For instance, if the job requires you to interact frequently with customers, coworkers and stakeholders, it may help to discuss your communication and networking skills. You can explain with examples how these helped make a difference in your previous job, such as enabling you to gain more customers and increase the company's profits.
Related: Writing a Resume With No Experience
How do you get relevant experience?
You can get relevant experience in various ways in professional or out-of-work settings. If you have decided to pursue a particular career and do not intend to change tracks later, you can carefully plan and gain the relevant experience you need to succeed in that field. Consider taking the following steps:
Research the industry: Find out everything you can about the industry and pay attention to industry developments and changes in the job scenario. That can help you to understand your role and find the right path to advance your career.
Read job advertisements: Even if you do not immediately seek a job change, read job advertisements to monitor job market requirements. You can find out about new skills and acquire them to increase your employability.
Get work experience: You can get the necessary work experience with internships, freelance work, contract work, part-time work, full-time work and volunteer work. It is essential to create a focussed job history that shows your commitment to your career.
Work on self-initiated projects: By working on self-initiated projects from concept to completion in your free time, you can demonstrate to employers that you have the skills, motivation and drive they want in employees. It also shows you can work without constant supervision.
Participate in extracurricular activities: You can gain essential skills like public speaking, communication, negotiation, organisation, teamwork and time management by participating in debates, dramas and other extracurricular activities. Such participation also shows you are a well-rounded personality with multiple interests.
Participate in continuing education: Many professional organisations offer industry professionals continuing education certifications to improve their existing skills or gain new ones. With these, you can keep updating your knowledge and stay relevant in the job market.
What can count as relevant experience?
Any prior work-related experience you gained in a professional setting or out of work and which can improve your chances of getting the job can count as relevant experience. When including your relevant experiences in your resume, it is essential to highlight their importance for the specific job you are currently seeking. You want the employer to see that you have the abilities, commitment, motivation and drive to do the necessary work. The following can count as relevant experience:
How to identify and highlight your relevant experience
You can identify and highlight your relevant experience by considering the following tips:
1. Review the job description
Read the job description carefully and note the responsibilities, educational requirements and skills that the employer seeks in candidates for the position. These might help you to identify any relevant experiences you have that could be useful for the job. Think about what you have to offer the employer and how you could make a positive difference to their company. You can also note the keywords and phrases used in the job posting and incorporate some of those in your resume. That can help to get it noticed by the applicant tracking systems that many employers use.
2. Compare the job description to your current qualifications
After noting the job requirements, compare them with the qualifications in your most recent resume. You can make a list of the ones that are similar to what the employer wants and another list of those that are dissimilar. Create a third list of skills that are required but you do not have. These lists can assist you with selecting qualifications that emphasise your ability to handle the job responsibilities.
3. Emphasise relevant experiences
You can use the skills and professional experience sections in your resume to list the work activities and accomplishments that are relevant to the job and highlight your suitability for it. Remove everything that does not contribute to getting you the job. Review the remaining relevant experiences and consider how you can improve their phrasing to customise them to match the job requirements. With that, you can show the employer or recruiting manager that you want the job and understand what they need. They may be more willing to consider your candidacy then and make you a job offer.
4. Focus on achievements and tasks
Many employers care more about the previous achievements and work duties of job applicants than their job titles. It does not matter if you worked as a manager or a director. What matters more is what you did and were able to accomplish in that position. Your past actions may have given you skills that the new employer is seeking, such as verbal communication skills, negotiation skills and problem-solving skills.
You can give examples and demonstrate how you have successfully used these skills for work purposes. The employer may then be willing to consider your candidacy even if you do not meet other requirements such as an advanced degree or a specific number of years of experience.
5. Repurpose skills and experiences
If you have any skills and experiences that do not meet the job criteria, think of ways to repurpose them to your advantage. For example, a job that focuses on sales might not require programming skills. Although, the employer might be interested if you mention that you used your programming skills to build a sales application and explain how it benefited your previous company.
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