CV Writing – Work experience

Friday, January 16th, 2009 - Article, CV Writing, How to Write a CV, tutorial


CV Writing

As part of our series on How To Write A CV, this article focuses on how to write up your work experience

This is the key section of any CV – it proves or disproves you can undertake the function/competency requirements of the job, and potentially gives large indications of your fit into their team.

This section showcases your work experience – whether paid, corporate, self-employed, voluntary, or work shadowing. Experience needs to be arranged in reverse chronological order – most recent first. Recruiters and particularly HR professionals are most interested in:

  • The last five years of work or three positions, which ever is greater
  • The choices/gaps between posts. In interview, you will be asked about: why you decided to leave your last job, why you wanted your next job, and where you see yourself going

The basic outline:

For each job, you need to include:

  • Start Date and finish date – in the form of mm/yy
  • Job Title
  • Company name
  • Type of business – e.g. printer, pharmaceutical company, baker, car dealer, etc
  • Location – just the town, for large cities like London include the area (ie – North) or suburb (ie – Victoria )
  • Who you reported to – their position NOT their name
  • People who reported to you – in order of preference: how many OR team managed, including client and/or third party sub-contractors OR how many were in your team
  • Your three main areas of responsibility
  • Your top three achievements – this needs to be quantifiable (test – would your references from this period of your career back this up?) How many new clients did you bring in last year? How far over target were you? How much did you reduce costs by?

Situation, Action, Result:

You need to write each position up in a form of SAR:

  • Situation
  • (Choice) Action
  • Resolution/outcome

Consultants and Directors can add a “Brief” section prior to these (ie – before/why they were engaged), and add more detail to the “Choice” (ie – strategic and tactical optional review, and why certain choices were chosen/made)

  • Include job title, company name and location (no need for full address) – e.g: “Placement student, Rolls Royce, Derby”. Job titles don’t need to be exact, as long as they accurately describe the role.
  • Dates for each experience: under UK age discrimination legislation some recruiters may not ask for these dates, however it is still usual to include them in a CV. There are many good reasons why they are useful both to you and recruiters. For example they show there are no gaps in your CV, they could show quick progression or promotion, or juggling a number of things simultaneously like work with study. Think carefully before leaving these dates out of your CV.
  • Learn more about gathering evidence.

If you’re short of examples, why not get some work experience first?

Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Only include relevant experience
  • Do include unpaid work experience and voluntary work, especially if it’s relevant.
  • Don’t include work experience undertaken before the age of 16, unless it is really relevant, or the only work experience you have!

Do highlight experience which is particularly relevant to the vacancy. You could use sub section headings, such as “Relevant work experience”, or “Technical Work Experience”. Devote more space to this and aim to include it on the first page of the CV.

Don’t simply give a list of duties when describing your work experience – think SAR. Aim to demonstrate experience and capabilities that are relevant to the employer’s requirements. Remember too, all employers want “softer” or transferable skills – e.g. effective communication, team work, problem solving, etc.

Good Luck!

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