How to Lay Out Work Experience on a CV

In a candidate-led market, it’s important to stand out from the crowd when you apply for a new role.

The best way to do this is with your CV, which can demonstrate your skill set, your work experience and your qualifications to a potential employer.

Above all else, the most important section to consider is your work experience, which not only provides context for the employer but highlights previous successes and the skills you used during your tenure.

If you’re working with recruiters, a good CV also means you’re halfway to being hired, as they’ll likely be able to match your skill set to the clients they work with. 

So how should you write work experience on a CV? Below we explore the best way to format your work experience on a CV and the different approaches you might take.

How to write work experience on a CV

When you come to write your work experience on your CV, it’s worth breaking down the process into several steps so that you’re not overwhelmed. Firstly you’ll want to think about structure and then about the contents itself.

Understanding how to properly format a CV – particularly your work experience – is a critical skill that will aid you frequently throughout your career.

1. Format the work experience section correctly

As a general rule of thumb, recruiters or hiring managers expect to see a work experience section within your CV, usually within the top half of the document. 

The format of the work experience section should run in ‘reverse chronological’ order. This means you put your most recent experience first and work backwards throughout your career.

Depending on how many roles you’ve had, you’ll also want to limit the work experience section to the most relevant or recent positions. If you’re applying for a senior engineering role, for example, it’s not worth noting down the retail roles you had at 16 when that space could be used to further explain the other 3 engineering jobs you had.

In terms of structure, make use of titles, font formatting and bullet points to break down your responsibilities or past experience. This not only saves on space but increases the readability of your CV.

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2. Be consistent with the information you provide

For each entry within the section, be sure to include the same facts. You should note down the following: 

• Job title

• Employer name

• Dates of employment (use ‘present’ if you’re still working there)

• Your primary responsibilities

• Work achievements

• Promotions

The last three sections will make up the bulk of the information and this is where you’ll want to highlight key points around the job role. Wherever possible, use context to explain your responsibilities and achievements as this helps readers better understand how your skills led to successes.

You can use the problem, action, result method to achieve this. An example of this is:

“Identified and automated a step in the reporting process that reduced processing time by 25% and increased productivity for the associated team members.”

Rather than explaining what you did, explain why what you did was useful – this is much more effective for both recruiters and hiring managers.

3. Use engaging language and statistics

When you start writing out your responsibilities, take the time to use ‘action’ words where possible so that you can create a more engaging document. For example, instead of saying ‘I was responsible for…’ you might say ‘I devised…’ or ‘I supervised and actioned entirely new processes’.

Likewise, when providing context you’ll want to make use of statistics as they act as tangible proof of your accomplishments.

It’s much better to say ‘the team I supervised directly increased sales by 50%’ rather than saying ‘I helped increase sales’.

If you have a particularly exceptional achievement it’s worth including this underneath the work role on a separate line, perhaps preceded by ‘key achievement’ in bold. This ensures that readers see it and puts more emphasis on the success.

Why is work experience so important on a CV?

For both recruiters and potential employers, there’s no better measure of a candidate than their work experience. It can tell a lot about a candidate’s knowledge, skill set and even work ethic – all of which are incredibly valuable. On top of that, work experience may help an employer better understand how much training or resources you may require within the role.

Finally, the work experience section acts as a map of your work life so far and, in some cases, may provide some insights into what the future holds for your career or ambitions you have. This is useful for employers to know as it shows commitment, dedication and how you might fit into the business over the long-term.

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