A large part of a CV is usually taken up with work experience. Some job seekers even use a full two pages of A4! But you don’t have to list your entire career history to impress the employer – there are much smarter ways.
Here are 6 tips on how to write the work experience section of your CV, and bag yourself that all important interview.
1. Make comparisons
The employer is mainly interested in seeing if you have any experience that mirrors what they do. Anything else will hold some substance, but clearly not as much as relatable experience.
Every employer looks for something different each time they read this section. But what we can all agree upon is that work experience in the same industry is the most valuable part of a CV. A proven track record in the industry, or even better, in the exact same position is going to look great. If this sounds like you then you are already onto a winner. But there is still some hard work to be done.
You need to make it as easy and as obvious as possible for the employer. Never assume they will understand every aspect of your work history, especially when job titles can often differ even though they ultimately mean the same thing. Make direct comparisons between your past roles and the new vacancy – comparisons between skills, tasks, responsibilities, customers, clients, product or service, and anything else.
2. Show Transferable skills
You don’t have to hold direct work experience when applying for a new role in order to make comparisons. There may have been lots of jobs in the past that have closely covered some of the skills required for any position – you just have to find them and make them stand out on your CV.
You need to generalise your specific tasks and show the employer how you can transfer your skills and knowledge over to them. If you have a huge amount of experience in dealing with customers and solving problems, then this would be transferable to any customer service role – no matter what product or service the company offers.
Not only should you be looking to create a work history section that makes comparisons to the new role, but you should also be transferring over as much as you can. Help make that connection for the employer and you will have a great chance of getting an interview.
Find out more:
- How to write a CV with no work experience
- How To Show Employers You Have Transferable Skills To Successfully Change Careers
3. Mind the gap
Avoid employment gaps so as not to raise any suspicions. The most popular reason for a gap is down to a mistake in listing the timelines. A mix up in the months or years causes confusion, and will not go down very well. The employer will either frown upon your CV for the lack of accuracy or may even believe that you were out of work for 5 years!
If you do genuinely have a gap in your employment you need to explain it. So rather than ignoring the gap and hoping the employer doesn’t care, you should look to fill it. Be honest and let the employer know what happened. Personal health issues, a gap year, looking after a sick family member, or taking a break for any other reason should go on your CV. However, don’t forget to put a positive spin on the gap and let the employer know you are ready and eager to get back to work.
You can also use a cover letter to explain in more detail, which can sometimes be difficult on a CV. This is a great place to be more personable, and the employer will certainly appreciate your honesty and directness. To help you decide what to write for an employment gap, here’s an example:
June 2010 – August 2011
Personal health issues would not allow me to continue to work full time. I took a break to deal with my health which was successful. I am now completely recovered and eager to get back to work.
This video by career expert and award-winning author Andrew LaCivita explains more:
4. Don’t beat around the bush
It can be tempting to keep the same CV and reuse it each time you change jobs, adding little changes along the way. However, the employer does not want to read a generic list of your entire career history. They want a more focused approach that takes their needs into consideration.
Look at the job advert and research the company to truly find out what they want. Only then can you stand a chance of writing a great work history section for your CV. You can hone in on the right skills and daily responsibilities that will grab the employer’s attention.
Every aspect of your CV should be tailored to the role and the company, and when it comes to your work experience section this is an absolute must. Try to bring forth relevant information and show transferable skills. Don’t simply list all of the tasks and hope that will be enough to show the employer you already have what they need – this will not be enough.
If you are applying for a sales role and you have some experience, then write a sales CV. Make everything look and read like you’ve been selling snow to Eskimos successfully for the past few years. Every time you had some kind of sales interaction you should write about it. Leave all the other irrelevant information in the background.
5. Don’t underestimate voluntary work and part time
A mistake a lot of job seekers make is to forget all about their time working for the local charity shop. However, this can be very valuable. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t get paid – it’s still work experience.
If you have many years of work experience and don’t feel that this would matter, then that’s understandable – especially if the voluntary work was at the start of your career about 15 years ago. However, if you are a recent school leaver or early into your career, then don’t miss this off.
Voluntary work is a great opportunity to build upon existing skills and learn lots of new ones. Those skills can go down on your CV and add a lot of value. Part time work also has the same effect and shouldn’t be dismissed – especially if you can show transferable skills.
Find out more: How to include volunteering on your CV
6. Show how you performed
The employer is not just interested in seeing what you’ve done in the past, and they also want to see how you did. Your performance is extremely valuable and will help the manager to see what you’re capable of. Listing your skills and tasks will not give them an indication of how well you performed.
Add results into your work history section to show the employer what they can expect from you. Try to include either relevant achievements or outstanding ones. Anything exceptional should always be shared, even if it’s in a different industry.
Your results can be detailed in many different ways – completely your choice. You can use actual numbers, sales figures, or even discuss a successful project. Keep your information brief and to the point. Here’s an example of two different ways you can talk about your past performance:
I consistently hit my sales targets in 2018.
I hit a total of 10 months targets for 2018, achieving the highest turnover in my sales region of £205k.
You can see from the two examples above that number 2 provides far more valuable information, and gives a much better indication of performance. So don’t be afraid to include lots of numbers and stats that backup your claims of being a great salesman.
Find out more: Why You Have to Show Instead of Tell