Highlighting a promotion with a past employer proves you are a competitive candidate and conveys your growth as a professional.
The best way to underscore your past promotions is to show that each one was an individual, meaningful achievement. While you should mention any new responsibilities and the size of your team (if you had subordinates), focus on quantifying the actual good your promotion did for the company. Because that’s what recruiters want to see: how your past successes, including promotions, point to the great things you can do for your next employer.
In this article, we’ll look at how to structure your career promotions on your resume and make them stand out to your prime resume audiences.
Let’s get into it.
How to list your promotions on a resume
Receiving a promotion indicates that you are dependable, hardworking, and take pride in your job. Highlighting a promotion on your resume will show your audience that you are dedicated to your career and willing to learn and grow.
Your resume should always keep your successes front and center. Job promotions should appear in two places on your resume:
- The fourth line of your professional summary, typically first, like this: Promoted 3x
- Your work history section
Let’s break down the structure of the work history section of your resume and look at the best way to highlight each promotion for your four audiences — the resume screener, recruiter, your future boss, and the automated applicant tracking system (ATS).
1. ‘Stack’ your promotions
Don’t list multiple jobs for the same company under separate headings. Instead, “stack” your promotions by listing multiple job titles under the same company header. To the right of the company header, list the total years that you worked at the company. List the range of years that you had each title directly after each one in parentheses.
It should look like this:
While an employer may change your title simply to better reflect your duties and contributions, in most cases a title change also comes with new responsibilities. However, don’t list your new responsibilities under your new title. You can list some in your professional summary if relevant, but mostly you will convey these to your audiences through your bullet points.
Your work experience should be expressed through a list of achievements. You don’t want to portray a promotion as simply a win for you. Show how each promotion was advantageous for the organization as a whole through the quantifiable benefits they resulted in for your current or former employer.
Bullet points allow you to list your professional accomplishments in a compelling, quantifiable way. We’ll look at exactly how you should write your bullet points later in this article.
2. Put them in reverse chronological order
You should always list your current or most recent job first and work backward chronologically. This way, your most recent job is at the top, and as the recruiter or hiring manager works their way down the resume, the jobs and promotions they’ll see will be further in the past.
Any jobs that you left more than 15 years ago should be omitted from your resume. While your professional achievements in the ’80s and ’90s are important successes, they don’t tell a potential employer today anything about your current skills and capabilities. At best, it’s a waste of valuable resume space, and at worst it can expose you to ageism.
Keep your work history section neat and easy to skim. Reverse chronological order is the most common method and hiring managers will be accustomed to this format. It also makes it easier to understand and organize your job titles and achievements. If dates are all over the place, a recruiter likely will send your resume to the trash bin.
Use reverse chronological order throughout your resume, not just in your work experience section. Use it when listing skills, technical proficiencies, and academic degrees or certifications. On a resume, the most recent things are always the most important, because the skills and tools you’re learning today will be a basic part of your job when you advance in your career.
Listing first the latest skill or software you’ve learned, or certification you’ve earned, will increase the chances that they will be noticed by a recruiter skimming your resume.
3. Mention only relevant information
When deciding what information to include about your promotion, consider what will be the most useful for the recruiter and your future boss when it comes to making a hiring decision.
Job titles make a difference. They not only explain your role at the company, but they also give your audiences an idea of your position relative to others, your salary, your responsibilities, leadership skills, technical prowess, and much more.
Getting each job title right is very important. Make sure you have the correct job titles listed. If you’re unsure, check your records, the office organizational chart, or dig up old emails. For example, you don’t want to list your job title as “Team Lead” when it was actually “Assistant Manager” and vice versa. This can get you into trouble if a fact-checker decides you tried to deceive them.
However, you should keep in mind the ATS and the keywords the recruiter may use to search for resumes. If your current job title is “Field Reporter” but the company you want to work for calls it “Correspondent,” it’s fine to change it on your resume because it’s the same job and that’s likely the term the recruiter will use when they search the ATS.
Don’t bury the important things under minute details. A hiring manager today would likely not be interested in a list of irrelevant software you added to your repertoire when you got a promotion 10 years ago.
Listing everything you’ve done in your work experience section can clutter a resume. You want to stand out from your competitors by creating a strong, easily skimmable resume that puts your greatest career achievements front and center. Don’t let the highlights that will get you hired be buried under the details.
General guidelines for mentioning promotions
Showing that you’ve been promoted tells recruiters and hiring managers not only that you stick around long enough to get promoted, but also that you excel at your job to a degree that earns you advancement. Promotions within the same company indicate that you are willing to put time and effort into a company.
A study by Ladders using eye-tracking software found that recruiters will only spend an average of 7.4 seconds looking at your resume.
According to the study, recruiters will first glance at your current employer and job title, then your previous job title, before moving their eyes to the right to see the dates of each job. They want to see how a candidate has progressed in their professional roles. A recruiter will then look at the bottom of your resume at your education level to see if you meet requirements.
This means it’s important to get the order right and ensure elements like your company name, job title, and education are easy to find. It is vital to get your audience's attention quickly or your resume may not be considered.
Here’s how to list your promotions in a way that gets attention and gives you a better chance of being invited for an interview.
1. Use bullet points
Using bullet points is an effective and organized way to explain a promotion. While your promotion itself shouldn’t be a bullet point, they do explain the new job and how you’ve been successful at it.
Professionals with more than 10 years of experience who choose to use a two-page resume can include up to 25 bullet points to describe their career successes. However, if you are less than a decade into your career, you should only use a one-page resume, and you will have 10-15 bullet points to list their achievements.
Allocate the most bullet points to the most recent jobs. If you’re using a two-page resume, devote about 10-15 bullets to the last five years of your career. Devote 5-10 to the five years before that, and 5 bullets to the five years before that. If you’re using a one-page resume, use 10 bullets for the last five years and 5 bullets for the five years before that.
Don’t waste space on bullet points with a non-explanation, like “I was promoted,” “I was hired,” or “I managed.” The title of your job will tell your audience enough in that respect. Instead, focus on using bullet points to your advantage by conveying your professional successes.
Every bullet point needs a success verb and a numerical accomplishment.
Avoid jargon in your bullet points. Overly technical words don’t always grab the reader’s attention. Instead, use industry-specific words that a recruiter or potential boss would easily understand without going overboard on the technical details.
2. Use success verbs
One of the keys to writing a successful resume is getting your audience's attention and retelling your work experience in a persuasive and interesting way. Word choice plays heavily in how an action is portrayed. If you rely on boring action verbs like “established,” “managed,” or “performed” that tell what you did but don’t show how it was a success, you may not get the attention you deserve as a candidate.
Success verbs give action to otherwise flat statements. Most recruitment professionals already know the responsibilities that come with job roles, so it’s important to show them not only what you did, but also the positive ways it affected the organization.
As with all of your bullet points in your work history, describe your achievements following your promotion with a success verb and a number to show tangible results.
Using the right verbs tells the recruiter and your future boss how good you were at your job. These are verbs like “maximized,” “delivered,” and “achieved.” They show aptitude rather than simply activity. A powerful, persuasive verb (here’s a list of 25), together with a quantifiable numerical value, communicates how good you were at each task.
For example, instead of saying “established team building exercises,” write “increased productivity by 25% with team building exercises.” The second version contains a verb that shows success (increased) and a quantifiable value for that success (25%).
3. Put the company name first
As we learned from the Ladders study, the first thing a recruiter will check is your work history. List the company name and the years you spent there as the heading of the professional sub-section. Be sure to list the company name first followed by the dates you were active at each job.
The date should be placed on the right toward the margin. You don’t want the dates to crowd the company name or job title, as those are more important and need to be easy to read.
Showing consistency reveals career continuity. A career trajectory that shows lots of job-hopping or gaps will be a red flag for most recruiters.
However, hopping from job to job doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t a quality candidate. To help show your quality as a candidate even though you’ve moved around a lot, try omitting any jobs you left after only a few months. If you land an interview, be prepared to explain. If you left a job because it wasn’t challenging enough and found a more challenging position, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
4. Tailor your resume for the job you want
Always customize your resume so it suits the specific job you’re applying for today. Tailor the promotions and jobs you include to what the recruiter or hiring manager will want to see. Also consider the keywords that might be useful to the automated parser or ATS.
Like humans, each company has individual values, interests, and expectations. List your work experience in a way that complements the job you’re seeking at the company you want to work for. Spend some time on the company website and social media pages, and search online for any recent headlines where the company was in the news. Get a feel for their mission, objectives, and company culture. Then use that information to craft an effective resume.
Craft a standout resume
While promotions are great achievements that can come with financial rewards and increased job satisfaction, when applying for your next job your best ally is a strong resume.
There are many things that contribute to a professional’s overall success, but a strong resume can help candidates get the attention they need to get their foot in the door.
An effective resume grabs the attention of employers and recruiters, sells your successes and skills, shows that you’re the right choice for the position, and most importantly it gets you an interview. We can help you craft the strongest resume for the job you want.