How to write your work experience in a CV

Andrew Fennell Andrew Fennell

Your work experience, or career history is one of the most important parts of your CV.

It gives you the chance to showcase your skills and knowledge, whilst proving how you apply them in the workplace – a great way to win over recruiters

This guide will show you exactly how to write your work experience section in your CV, including which roles to add, how to list them, and how to structure each job.

 

Contents

 

 

Which jobs should be listed?

You’re not obliged to list your entire professional history when writing a CV – How many of your jobs you include will depend on how much experience you have.

If you have many years of experience – you will benefit from listing only your most relevant work, and you can leave out jobs from your early career

If you have very little experience – you should include all of your jobs to showcase as much as your experience as possible.

 

Work experience CV

 

Paid work

Paid work is going to be the most important and typically largest section of your CV, as employers will be looking for candidates who already have experience and expertise in similar work environments. Paid work should always be prioritized over academic work or voluntary work on your CV.

 

Voluntary work

Voluntary work is great to add to your CV, especially if you have little to no work experience or have gaps in your CV. Voluntary work demonstrates initiative and an eagerness to work, both of which are highly desirable skills in any candidate. Voluntary work can even enhance your CV when applying for certain roles: for example, if you’re applying to work in a veterinary office, having volunteer experience working in an animal shelter will demonstrate your passion for animals and boost your suitability.

 

 

School or university placements

Placements undertaken during university or school are also great additions to your CV, especially if you’re at the debut of your career or have minimal work experience. Again, the key here is to highlight the transferable skills gained during these experiences. Don’t simply list that you were chosen for the placement – explain and demonstrate why these experiences were valuable, and how they enhanced your skillset.

 

Where to include work experience in your CV?

If you are an experienced candidate, list your work experience at the top of your CV, just underneath the profile or core skills – because recruiters will be most interested in your experience at this level.

If you have little experience, but lots of recent education (like a graduate or school leaver) add your experience underneath your education section – because at junior level, employers will want to see your recent and relevant qualifications before your work experience which may be less relevant to the jobs you are targeting (e.g. part-time bar jobs or paper rounds)

 

How far back should a CV go?

How far back you go on your CV is a question of experience. If you have lots of senior-level experience, you should  highlight only your most recent roles, emphasising your skills and responsibilities in these areas – omitting some of your older, less relevant work.

But, if you’re less experienced, like a school leaver or graduate,  you might want to list all of your previous jobs to show an eagerness for work and a diverse spectrum of skills and knowledge.

Ideally you should try to get as much detail as possible into 2 page of A4.

 

How long CV

 

However, don’t forget that the purpose of your CV is to demonstrate your skills and credibility to a potential employer. If you’re applying for a role as a junior financial analyst, you don’t need to include the 6 months you spent working in an ice-cream shop when you were a student – because it is irrelevant to your target employers.

Put simply, if an old job isn’t going to add value to your candidacy or demonstrate a relevant skill, you can leave it out.

 

Experienced candidates

For experienced candidates, hiring managers are going to be more interested in your last 1-3 years of employment than anything else. While you can certainly list your full employment history if you wish to, experienced candidates should use the limited space on their CV (around 2 pages) wisely to elaborate on their relevant and recent roles, especially roles that are relevant to the jobs you are applying for.

Don’t forget to always tailor your CV for the job you want: this means demonstrating that you have the specific skills the employer asks for in their job description. As always, prior research is essential.

Don’t forget that recruiters often receive an excess of 100+ applications for a single role: if you want to make your CV stand out, it should be precise, easy to read, and highlight the work experience that counts. In general, a CV for an experienced candidate should be no more than two pages long, so you can always use length as an effective metric: if your CV is over 3 pages long, you’re probably listing too many old jobs.

 

Juniors and students

If you’re a student or a junior employee at the beginning your career, your CV should include all (or most) of your former roles, including part-time work, student work, and maybe even your first ever job. Employers like to see evidence of a strong work ethic when hiring new graduates or young people, so it’s a good idea to demonstrate an early eagerness for the world of work.

When adding retail jobs or student jobs to your CV, the key is to highlight the transferable skills you gained while working in these roles. For example, if you worked in a high-paced call centre as a student, this shows a recruiter that you’re equipped to handle the demands of working in a corporate customer service environment. Or, if your first job was working in a local supermarket and taking stock, this demonstrates that you have experience in inventory management.

When it comes to writing a CV with minimal work experience, the formula is simple: show, don’t tell. Make it clear why you’re telling the recruiter about a former job – explain what the role added to your skillset, and why it would be beneficial in the role you’re applying for.

 

CV builder

 

Which order should your jobs be listed?

When adding your work experience to your CV, you should list your most recent jobs first, and the rest of your jobs in reverse chronological order – meaning from newest to oldest.

This means that the oldest job you wish to include will be last at the bottom of your CV

 

Order of work experience CV

 

Don’t forget that recruiters and hiring managers are going to be most interested in your last 1-3 years of work, so make use of the space on your CV to highlight these jobs and how you excelled in these roles.

Structuring your work experience effectively is key to grabbing the attention of recruiters, and I will explain how to do this below.

 

How to structure recent jobs

When it comes to structuring your recent jobs, you want to make it as simple as possible for the recruiter to understand your current skills, your previous responsibilities, and the value that you brought to your former company or organisation. The formula below can help you highlight your previous employment effectively.

 

How to structure work experience on CV

 

Outline

Here, you want to briefly summarize your former role: what company or individual you worked for, what your role consisted of, and to whom you were accountable. Don’t go into too much detail here – you’re going to explain more in the ‘Responsibilities’ section.

 

Responsibilities

In this section, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your day-to-day responsibilities while highlighting your skills and competences at the same time. You should write this section in bullet points, so that it’s easy for the recruiter to read and digest.

Within your responsibilities, hiring managers will be on the lookout for the following:

  • Who you deal with – Do you work with clients? Is your role B2B or B2C? Who do you report to on a daily basis? Are you in charge of other employees – if so, how many?
  • Skills using various technologies and office tools – Do you use Microsoft office? Are you familiar with excel and spreadsheets? Do you use coding software? You can discuss various office tools and programs that you use frequently or on a daily basis.
  • Expertise – Recruiters will be on the lookout for someone who already has in-depth knowledge of their field – you can demonstrate your knowledge and expertise by using known acronyms, phrases, and discussing trusted work methods.
  • Portfolio / Projects – The nature of your portfolio will differ depending on your job. However, if your responsibilities entail producing physical work, you should discuss these in the responsibilities section. Your portfolio can include anything from annual reports to physical products that you helped build.
  • Your work environment(s) – Employers always want to know how well a new employee will be able to integrate into a new work environment, especially if it’s stressful and high-paced. You should discuss your previous work environments – were they busy, fast-paced, non-stop, or more slow-paced and analytical.

 

Achievements

In this section, you want to explain the positive impact you had on your former company or organisation, and how you brought value to the table. Again, this section should be written in bullet points to give the recruiter easily digestible, memorable information.

If you can list your achievements with accompanying quantifiable figures, it’s going to make an even better impression.

Here are some ideal types of achievements to include:

Financial Achievements: For example, successfully cutting costs and overheads, winning new clients, how your input resulted in increased profits (Figures and numbers should be inserted here where possible). Increasing productivity / creating effective new work methods could also be highlighted here.

Customer success: For example, did you create a successful marketing strategy for a customer, resulting in increased sales? Did you help your customer land new clients, resulting in increased turnover? Have you received or maintained high-quality, 5-star reviews from customers online? Your customer success stories = your success stories.

Media recognition: Did you contribute to any projects recognized in the media? Did your company (with your help) win any awards in the media?

Internal recognition: Promotions, being given extra responsibilities within your organisation, winning company awards etc.

 

How to structure old roles

old roles

 

When adding old jobs onto your CV, you don’t want to go into extensive detail and take up valuable space on your CV. Most hiring managers are going to focus on the upper quarter of your CV, where you detail your core skills and your last 1-3 years of employment.

When adding an old job, simply add the length of time spent in the role (mm/yyyy-mm/yyyy) the name of your employer, your job title, and a brief outline of the role. If your old job title is self-explanatory, you don’t need to give an outline of the role – i.e., “dog walker” “checkout assistant.” As always, highlight relevant skills where possible.