The employment history or work experience section of your CV is viewed by employers as a way to see what you’ve achieved, which skills you’ve picked up along the way, and an indication of your performance.
The experience section is probably one of the most important parts of a job application, and the employer will typically spend most of their time here. Those of you with an extensive amount of experience will have a lot to focus upon, but that doesn’t mean to say it should all be included.
Someone who is a recent school leaver may have a difficult time filling out this page and drawing upon their achievements to date. But it is still possible to complete a comprehensive list of tasks and skills learned if done correctly.
Knowing what the employer is looking for will dramatically increase a job seekers chance of gaining an interview. We want you to have the best possible chance of success, so that’s why we’ve come up with 5 ways you can supercharge this all-important CV section:
Look for comparisons
The employer is going to be looking for previous job titles or a list of tasks and skills that are transferable to their business. With that in mind, don’t hide away anything that’s relevant but instead, highlight as many instances as you can which demonstrates you have the qualities they are looking for.
This doesn’t mean to say that you should be searching for an exact match, but instead trying to find similar skills and experience. For example, if you are applying for a sales role you would highlight your sales achievements. It doesn’t matter if the product or service you were selling previously was completely different – or even if your job title wasn’t an exact match: the end result is still the same. If you need to prove you have a solid sales background, demonstrate this with all of your previous sales achievements – no matter what the role was.
Be accurate – don’t leave employment gaps
Your work history timeline needs to be accurate and follow a focused career path. The employer should quickly be able to see how you got to this stage, so ensure your timeline is both accurate and easy to navigate on the page.
If you make a mistake with your start and end dates it could mean you are leaving an employment gap which can arouse suspicion. You may never have the chance to explain this error as you are likely to end up on the rejected pile. Click here to read a guide to dealing with employment gaps on your CV. or watch this super guide by Linda Raynier:
Be specific – show results
“Numbers provide a measurable outcome to your skills and they draw the eye.”
In order to prove you have the skills stated on your CV or résumé, you need to provide your past results. This could be in the form of revenue, total sales, contracts negotiated, customer relations, problem solving, promotions, and so on.
Draw parallels to the job description and make it obvious why you should be called for an interview. An employer is searching for a job application that shows the skills, qualifications and experience required – and they are also looking for a proven track record.
A huge mistake a lot of job seekers make is to write a CV with lots of bold statements. The problem with this is that the employer needs to see a more credible CV or résumé that is able to backup any claims. The examples of your performance should be accurate and honest; otherwise you may be hard to believe.
Here’s a great example of how you can present your achievements and performance:
During my employment as Credit Control Administrator I recovered over 80% of debts which had been overdue for 3 years.
Voluntary or part time is essential for school leavers
A recent school leaver will either have a small amount of experience, or even none at all. This can make it hard to complete a two page job application – but there is something that can be done to help.
Voluntary or part time work can make a huge difference to your CV. An employer will look very favourably on someone who has committed their free time to help a good cause. It shows a good work ethic, and can also help to demonstrate the applicant already has the experience needed to begin full time employment.
“In addition to giving back to others volunteering also gives you the opportunity to boost your CV with real work/life experience; and gain valuable transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, time management, organisation and decision making.”
An employer is well aware that a recent school leaver is probably not going to have a great level of soft skills at this stage, and that basic training will be required. However, if you have some work experience through a voluntary or part time position, you will already be one step ahead.
Focus on what you can do – not what you can’t
If you have a lack of relevant work experience – don’t panic. An employer is not always going to expect every CV that shows up in their inbox to have a matching work history. No matter how diverse your experience may be there will always be similar tasks and responsibilities that you can showcase.
Some roles demand specific or hard skills to be present on a CV. If you don’t have them then you would of course either need to acquire them (and expressing willingness to train can help), or not apply at all. However, if the role doesn’t request a specific set of hard skills, then you can write a CV that focuses upon similar skills.
If you choose to simply list all of your previous roles in chronological order, along with all the tasks and responsibilities, you are not going to catch the attention of the hiring manager. Instead, try to write a much smarter work history section that demonstrates you have comparable skills.
If the role you are applying for will require you to interact and help customers on a daily basis, you can look back over your history to see which roles required the same. On your CV or résumé you should aim to demonstrate your past experience with helping customers and solving complaints. Provide examples of this also and include any results or achievements.