Make no mistakes. The weight of your CV or resume work history section cannot be overemphasised. So, here’s how to write the work experience section on your CV or résumé.
Top secret: That section is your most valuable real estate. It is not just a conventional segment of your CV. Instead, it is where the real gold mine lies if you situate it effectively.
This report confirms that 91% of hiring recruiters require applicants to have relatable work experience.
Another study equally proves that over two-third of hiring managers find the professional history section the most crucial aspect of a candidate’s CV.
One smart move you can make in your favour is by ensuring that this section is compelling enough. And not to miss the recruiter’s notice in split seconds! Spotting this section at first glance is the easiest way for them to grasp what value you are bringing to the table immediately.
Below is a step-by-step approach on how to list work experience on your CV:
1. Have an Outstanding Section Heading
Label your professional experience section with one of the headings below:
- Employment History
- Work Experience
- Work History
Ensure that the section title stands out from the job descriptions by writing it in CAPS or bold fonts.
2. Place your professional experience section in a strategic spot
- If you’re a fresh graduate with little notable work experience, then put it below your education section.
- Conversely, if you have got an extensive work history, then put it just below your CV profile summary.
3. A reverse-chronological sequence is the right order of listing work history on your CV
- Begin with your present or last official position
- Followed by the previous one, then the one before it (in that order).
It is only natural that the apex of your career will get the most attention. Hence, the smart thing to do is put your best foot forward by placing your recent job at the forefront.
This chronologically descending order of listing job roles has proven to almost always work in favour of most job seekers. Therefore, always use it.
4. Ensure that each entry is legible and explicit
Above each job description, place:
- Your job title
- Company name and location
- Dates worked
CV Professional Experience Example—Heading
The Bank of Scotland Plc, Edinburgh, Scotland
Note: It is okay to begin each entry with either the company name or your position. What matters is the consistency of your layout. Ensure to maintain the same pattern for all entries. This also includes the dates and duration of each job. If the dates are aligned to the left, make sure all of them are aligned to the left. The last thing you would want to do is to make recruiters search for these details. As you already know, they do not have that luxury of time. Maximise every second spent on your CV or resume.
In a situation where you transitioned to different job roles and positions in the same organisation, creating separate entries for each position will be unnecessary.
Do this instead:
For similar positions, assemble your job titles; include one set of bullet points.
Sample CV Job Description with Hospitality Sector
The Palms Restaurant Inc., London
March 2014 – Present
July 2016 – Present
March 2014 – July 2016
- Mention Promotion
But in cases where your responsibilities are very different, then enter each title as a separate subheading followed by a list of bullet points.
5. Description for each job should be between 3-5 bullet points
- Endeavour to spell out your tangible achievements, and not only your responsibilities and duties.
- Ensure that your most recent job has more role descriptions and bullets points than the others. As you descend, minimise the number of bullet points and include only significant achievements.
- Never add unnecessary details to your CV. Ensure that every bullet point adds to your suitability for the specified role. Remember that the goal is to tailor or modify each job description to the competencies listed in the job advert.
By tailoring or modifying each job description, I mean:
When you go through the job requirement included in an advert, focus on keywords that apply to the role.
If you come across responsibilities that you may have handled in the past, clearly add them in the bullet points of your CV job description.
Here’s an illustration:
If there’s a job advert for a Barista role that requires candidates to:
- Provide in-depth information to customers on beverage preparation (1)
- Offer samples of latest brews (2)
- Memorise recipes for speciality coffee beverages and seasonal offerings (3)
- Complete successful cash audits to correctly balance drawers at the end of each shift (4)
- Operate espresso machines, blenders and commercial coffee brewers (5)
A well-tailored example of a job description for a CV:
The Palms Restaurant Inc, London, UK
- Provided in-depth information to over 200 customers on beverage preparation leading to improved customers’ satisfaction (1)
- Offered 150 samples of the latest brews regularly resulting in 345 customer increase in the last 7 weeks (2)
- Memorised recipes for 70+ speciality coffee beverages and seasonal offerings. (3)
- Obtained the Associate Accounting Technician (AAT), skilful in auditing, cash management and balance drawers resulting in saving money from hiring an accountant. (4)
- Operated distinct espresso machines, blenders and commercial coffee brewers (5)
Key achievement: Improved deals of cocktail drinks by 52%
There you go! Have you seen that?
This applicant didn’t necessarily have to stuff her work history section with all her previous responsibilities. Instead, she just spelt out the ones that showcased her abilities to handle her prospective duties competently and effectively.
Note: When it comes to CV: bullet points are more effective than paragraphs! This is because bullet points make for a concise presentation as it saves space. Paragraphs are only preferable when you are writing an academic CV.
In each of your CV bullet points, necessity is vital. Study shows that over 40% of recruiters impulsively trash CVs that are generic and not tailored to the specific position.
It doesn’t end there though—
Did you notice something unique about the example above? There’s a specific section that stands out like Wonder Woman in a neon A-Line skirt. Meanwhile, for the finishing touch on your CV job description…
6. Always include a “Key Achievement” section
- It immediately grabs the attention of the recruiters.
- It should contain a value that the prospective employers will not afford to miss.
- Always adopt the Challenge-Action-Result (CAR) style to define your achievement.
Below is an example of how the CAR formula works. Remember the sample job description above?
Key achievement: Improved deals of Cocktail drinks by 52%.
Challenge, what is the problem? Lesser customer satisfaction.
Action? Provided exceptional customer service.
Result? Improving customer retention and increasing sales margin.
7. Use ‘Earlier Work Experience’
If you have any other relevant work experience earlier than 2008, then you may list them after your last ‘Work Experience’, but without dates; to avoid ageism bias. For example:
SOME PRO-TIPS ON HOW TO WRITE THE WORK EXPERIENCE SECTION:
1. Start with your current or last role.
Make sure every bullet point highlights your current or previous work experience by indicating the following three elements:
- Transferable skill
- Technical knowledge
- Measurable results
Each bullet point on your CV should show relevant technical knowledge. That is, your core knowledge of a field or discipline. For example, accounting, C++, JAVA, editorial, web and graphic design, digital marketing, or mathematical skills, to mention a few.
Use result-oriented transitioning words. For instance, ‘resulting in’, ‘as evident (shown or proved) in ‘, or ‘leading to’ to show the outcomes you achieved in the situation described. Remember to be specific!
Let’s tie these areas together to write strong CV bullet points:
- Strong leadership skills and experience managing research professionals in collaborative projects, resulting in 13 published publications and £135,000 in lab grant funding.
- Knowledgeable relationship builder with advanced skills in biological and chemical systems, as demonstrated by the optimisation of 12 different nuclear magnetic methodologies and the set-up of three cross-functional collaborations. This led to £0.5 million in grant funding.
- Knowledgeable innovator in bioinformatics and nanotechnology, as evident in five patents. And the recent discovery of four new medical treatments involving composite micrometres
- Helped the team recognise over £10,000 in grants and skilfully led 18 engineers and technicians to complete all projects and studies on time, resulting in grant renewal every year
- Rounded industry awareness supporting the identification of areas needing enhancement in postgraduate and undergraduate students’ employability and entrepreneurship training. This led to the development of designed programmes for universities and business schools.
- Strong project management skills with sound oral and written communicative ability, as evident in (also shown by / proven by / annotated in / verified through) completing a PhD with a written commendation from the programme head. Thesis noted for excellence in ‘clarity, contents and organisation’.
- Passionate and experienced researcher and lecturer with strong numeracy skills teaching undergraduate and postgraduate modules, leading to two awards by the university following student surveys.
17 non-quantifiable accomplishments examples
- Led help desk to partner with customers, spending more time providing clear and actionable instructions, empowering clients to self-troubleshoot issues in the future
- Initiated a “lunch and learn” series to facilitate knowledge and best practice sharing between the sales, client services, and project management departments
- Mentored analyst to earn promotion to Project Manager by identifying cross-training and development opportunities
- Worked closely with a Data Analyst struggling to perform—identified strengths in client service and facilitated a lateral role change to the account management team, where he now excels
- Designated as the ERP subject-matter expert—contributed to vendor negotiations and was instrumental in securing a lower solution cost
- Invited to serve on the Change Management Committee to evaluate change requests from a risk management perspective, working closing with senior leadership
- Completed the prestigious Leadership Training program, a development opportunity offered only to employees identified as top talent
- Developed a customer call framework and training program, delivering the training to all call centre staff with the intention of improving customer satisfaction and speed of resolution
- Joined the local CPA professional association chapter, and connected with the organizers to become corporate sponsors for the upcoming regional conference
- Repaired critical relationship with the key client by assigning dedicated analysts to their project—resulted in bid approval
- Fully automated the inbound inquiry assignment process, freeing up the account coordinator to follow-up with clients
- Built a production issue priority framework from scratch to more efficiently identify and resolve business-critical issues
- Delivered a webinar showcasing the benefits of Agile which is supporting a shift away from Waterfall methods; shifting company towards completely paperless operations—developed a quick scan method which eliminated the need for mail distribution
- Promoted from senior analyst to team lead by demonstrating leadership potential and proactively training junior analysts
- Received the World-Class Customer Service award for contributing to a key client’s renewal—selected from all customer service staff in New York
- Praised by [Client or Leader Name], [Client or Leader Title], [Company Name]: “[Direct quote about why you’re awesome]
2. Explain any existing date gaps (a one-line sentence is okay)
For example: ‘Took seven months off to complete a CFA III professional exam’
Example 2: ‘Took 18 months off to have a baby’
3. Show months and years of work experience
For example: (January 2015 – June 2017; or Jan 2015 – Jun 2017)
4. List your highest degree first. Leave out secondary and primary school
5. Leave lots of white space—it relaxes the readers’ eyes
6. If you’re uploading your CV to an applicant tracking system (ATS), then use a Microsoft Word (.docx) file to allow the machine to read your CV.
If you’re sending it directly to an individual, then use a PDF (unless otherwise requested) instead. This will ensure all formatting is consistent.
7. You should also tailor your CV or resume for each job application.
You do not need to include every experience you’ve ever had, particularly if it doesn’t pertain directly to the role you are applying for.
8. When applying to companies within the same industry, maintain a consistent flow to your CV.
However, if you are applying to jobs spanning multiple industries, adjust accordingly.
9. Command a ‘wow’ factor by crafting your CV to highlight your uniqueness.
For example: show how you made or saved money for the company, or helped the business operate more effectively.
10. Always use the job description to write your CV
Tailor it each time to the specific job application. Ensure you know the keywords in a job description. Free word cloud apps such as Wordclouds or Wordle.net can be a huge help. My best of them is worditout
Copy and paste the job description or personal specification. And the app will show you the most used or essential words in the text. After that, simply use those words to write your CV!
Remember, your goal here is to get your CV to pass the ATS that many recruiters use, moving it from HR to the hiring manager.
Even better would be to get your CV directly to a person (the hiring manager) and avoid the machine altogether. Thus, it is important to work through a referral in the job-hunting process, if possible.
Remember as well, if you have volunteered in the past and feel it would work to your benefit, add that here. This can be particularly useful for new graduates or young professionals without enough work history.
Anything else to add on how to write the work experience section?
Meanwhile, read more tips here.