How Do You Explain Relevant Experience?

Relevant Experience

You know that you have the experience needed to do a particular job well. However, does your future boss or hiring manager know that, too?

If not, you may have some explaining to do.

What does relevant experience mean? Below, we’ll help you understand what relevant experience is, where it should appear on your resume, and how to explain relevant experience in other settings, such as on your cover letter and at a job interview.

Relevant Experience – What Is It?

Relevant experience is any experience that prepares you for the responsibilities of the job to which you are applying. It is not limited to work experience and education, nor to identical jobs or those in the same field.

Types of Relevant Experience – Where to Include Relevant Experience on Your Resume

Relevant experience on your resume can generally be divided into four categories. These are work experience, education, volunteerism, and hobbies.

Work Experience

Typically, your past work experience will be the most important in proving that you can do your job. However, why an experience is relevant may not be readily apparent to your hiring manager. It is up to you to use the right descriptive terms in the bulleted list of your job description to link the two.

Think of the keywords and tasks you identified from the original job posting. In your job description, highlight aspects of your former position that relate to these, even if these tasks were not the most important to that form or position.

For example, imagine you held an entry-level position as a sales clerk at a movie theater. Your primary task was to sell movie tickets, drinks, and popcorn. However, your manager occasionally asked for your input on how to advertise movies to your age group. If you are looking into a marketing or business administration position, you should highlight this experience.

Education

Your education may have also prepared you for your job. Sometimes, relevancy is apparent in the degree that you obtained. At other times, you may have to explain extracurricular or elective activities that relate to the position to which you are applying.

For example, if you are going into bookkeeping or accounting, your math or finance degree will be apparently relevant. But, you may also list that you served as treasurer for your fraternity or sorority while in school. Without this explanation, your club membership value would not be readily perceived.

Volunteer Work

Sometimes, you may gain valuable experience while working for a charitable or volunteer-based agency. Especially if the organization’s name or sector is not directly related to your field of work, you may need to include bullet points to briefly describe your duties in relation to the needs of the current job.

Hobbies & Interests

Hobbies and interests can lend support similar to that of volunteerism, above. Some hobbies are directly relatable. For example, a photography hobby would have apparent relevance if you are applying to work at a photography studio. However, your blogging hobby may not seem relevant to a computer coding position unless you explain that you had to learn HTML and JavaScript to program your personal blog website.

Explaining Relevant Experience in Your Cover Letter

Your cover letter provides the opportunity for you to be a bit more wordy and descriptive. You can use the second or third paragraph of your letter to relate how seemingly inconsequential past experiences have prepared you for the job at hand.

For example, your hiring manager may not automatically know that the entries in a volunteer section of your resume set you on your current career path. In the third paragraph of your cover letter, you might say something like this: “While volunteering with [name of organization], I mastered the skill of…”

Talking About Relevant Experience at Your Job Interview

Your job interview provides another opportunity for you to describe how past experience is relevant to the position you seek. A number of common interview questions provide an easy opportunity to talk about your experiences in past jobs and other pursuits. These include but are not limited to:

  • “How is your previous experience relevant to this role?”
  • “What can you bring to the company?”
  • “Walk me through your resume.”
  • “Why do you want to work at this company?”
  • “Why do you want this job?”
  • “Why should we hire you?”
  • “What are your greatest strengths?”
  • “Can you explain why you changed career paths?”
  • “What do you like to do outside of work?”
  • “What are you passionate about?”
  • “What makes you unique?”
  • “Is there anything else you would like us to know?”

Any of the above questions opens the opportunity for you to steer the conversation in the direction of your relevant experience. If you think about possible questions and your replies in advance, you will be prepared to do this smoothly and with confidence.

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