Oftentimes on a job application for a more specialized position, you'll see a box for "years of professional experience." What all does this entail? Is it simply how many years you've worked in a job that is exactly like this job, or very similar?

For example, if I was applying for a security job, would volunteer experience with a local police department be considered professional experience? What about simple supervisor experience at a grocery store? Does the word "professional" become strict to having had a profession, getting paid for it?

Also, where is the cut-off line for what year you should round too? For example, if I've had 11 months of experience in something, I'd probably round it off to a year. If I has one year and a month, I'd probably say I have one year experience. What if I had one year and six months experience? What if I only had 4 months experience? Should I round up to a year or just say I don't have any experience and hope they ask at an interview?

4 Answers 4


Unless they ask for months and years, I think you're fine rounding 11 months up to 1 year. Don't round 7 months up to a year though - that's a bit of a stretch.

I think the distinction of "professional" experience is important, because being paid to do a job implies that you did a good enough job that someone paid you to do it (and were, presumably, satisfied with your work often enough to keep paying you).

If you have years of volunteer experience, I think that's fantastic. Include that - it often helps, and depending on where you're applying, this might be a big plus.

However, it should not be considered professional experience. For example, as a young Boy Scout, and as an adult, I worked for years painting houses, re-shingling roofs, doing yard work, cleaning city streets, and other service/volunteer work. That's good, and to an employer it would show my willingness to "go the extra mile," and to do things that just need to get done (and not just because I'm getting paid). However, does that make me qualified to be professional painter (that you would pay money for), a roofer (that you'd pay money for), or a professional landscaper (that you'd pay money for)? Does it make me qualified to mentor or supervise a professional in any of those industies?

No, I'm afraid it doesn't.


There is no standard by which that question should be answered. There is some room for interpretation by both the interviewer and interviewee.

My advice is this. Be as honest as possible and don't write down anything that you wouldn't feel comfortable defending during an interview. If you are nervous about rounding it might help to put ~10 years when you really mean 9 years 11 months. Then there is no potential for them to claim you outright lied.

Getting caught in a lie or a perceived lie during the recruiting process is one of the surest ways to kill your chances for getting a job. It just isn't worth risking it. Many companies do background checks for basic things like dates of employment with previous employers. It is unethical and just bad strategy to exaggerate on a resume on things that can be objectively measured and refuted.


I would include only work that was a) paid and b) in a relevant field. I'd mention any volunteer experience or other possibly useful but not directly related experience elsewhere in an application.

However, if you really feel your volunteer experience was similar enough to a real job that it should count, or your experience in a completely different job has enough in common with this one that it should be considered, I don't think it would be unacceptable to include it in the count, as long as you mentioned the specifics elsewhere in an application. If you do that, just make sure you really do have good reasons for counting that experience, and explain them clearly - otherwise you run the risk of appearing to pad your application, and they may not consider your other claims trustworthy.

As for rounding - I'd put "0.5" for six months, etc, if the form allows that (don't go to smaller fractions than 0.5 - I think rounding to that is reasonable enough). If the form doesn't allow it... I suppose I'd take the risk go for 1 rather than 0, since you have some experience, and then specify at the interview, along with possibly asking them to improve their form.


“Years of professional experience” refers to the number of years of experience that an employer would like to see an applicant have as it would mean they have a solid understanding of the area.
It's often thought of (and often worded so, e.g. "must have") as a minimum, but in reality it's nearly always a guideline and if you have other factors such as code or lots of recommendations (or volunteer work) that can easily compensate.

Sometimes the "minimum years" is set partly by HR who do it for all employees whereas the people in the department itself may even prefer someone relatively new who they can 'mold'.

For times, you basically are on the right track already, e.g.

0-4 months: Say the number of months
5-7 months: "6 months"
8-9 months "9 months"
10-15 months "1 year"
16-20 months "1 1/2 years"
21-28 months "2 year"

Don't focus on that though. Make sure you have the true dates if asked. What's important is your skills, experience and character and how much you prepare for interviews, learn about the company, etc.

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