Experience

We previously looked at education, what to include and how to write it. Now we’ll take a look at experience in the same way.

What are the key types of experience? The main experience you’ll be listing is your work experience; you might also have industry-related placements or internships. In addition to work and placements, sometimes significant projects or studies you have been involved in, will blur the lines between education and experience and should be listed if they are relevant. Additional things, that can be encompassed by the umbrella of experience, are things like volunteering, sports and other community involvement.

What work and placement experience should I list? Potentially all of it, however, this can be a nuanced question. You will need to consider the industry you work in, the number of years you have been working, the relevance of the roles and the space available. It is common advice that you should only include the last 10-15 years of your work history, while it’s convenient to have rules, I would suggest that you consider your industry and your experience. For example, a teacher may want to include more than ten years of experience because the schools they have taught at in the past create an interesting and useful indication of the type of experience they have had. Before following the 10-15 years rule consider your individual circumstances. If you are a graduate you may be tempted to use everything you can possibly think of to ensure your CV looks ‘full’ but this is a bit of a trap. A single page CV is perfectly acceptable so it’s best to remain focused on meaningful and relevant information; quality over quantity. A final consideration, that will not be relevant for everyone, is what to do with interruptions in your work timeline. These can occur for a number of reasons including the arrival of new family members, extended travel, redundancy, working on personal projects and numerous other reasons. Depending on how long the break was you may want to address it in some way. A great way to do this and add value is to explain something you gained from this period in your life that relates to the work you do, eg. confidence, communication etc.

How should I write it? Just like education, your experience should be listed in reverse chronological order. As a minimum you should include what (role), where (employer) and when (month & year range). Your main &/or most recent experience should be broken down into ‘responsibilities’ and ‘achievements’. Focus on meaningful responsibilities rather than just listing duties or tasks. Try to ensure your achievements are specific and measurable (as much as possible). You won’t necessarily want to list responsibilities and achievements for all of your roles but you should definitely do that for your most recent and/or most significant work/placement experiences. The rest can be written either, in the same way but with less points; by highlighting a utilised skill/notable achievement or simply noting the core facts (what, where & when).

Do I include volunteering and other sporting or social activities? Yes, provided you have the space and the volunteering or sports were recent. This type of experience can tell the prospective employer a lot about you and it shows commitment outside of work and study, which can be appealing. These experiences can also be used to highlight or support the key skills that you have identified. Just be careful to ensure you articulate these in a clear and easy to understand manner for others who may not have the same niche knowledge. Also think twice before including old experiences from years and years ago if you haven’t kept up with similar things since. If the last time you volunteered was 2010 and you haven’t done anything since, the subsequent gap may actually look unfavourable.

Generally, your experience will be the most essential part of your CV, make sure you keep it as relevant and focused on your intended industry as you can.

Keep an eye out for the fifth ‘e’, we will delve into, examples.