How to present “relevant experience” in your CV

Job descriptions often ask for “relevant experience.” How do you determine this and feature it on your CV effectively? Find out with CVHelp’s tips.



Table of Contents

  1. What is relevant experience?
  2. What does “relevant experience” mean?
  3. How to connect your work to relevant experience
  4. Tailoring a CV to each job listing
  5. FAQ: Relevant Experience

What is relevant experience?

When you’re writing your CV, one of the first things you’ll likely have to do is determine “relevant experience.” This goes in your work experience section, and it’s a huge part of your CV. Plus, many job descriptions will say that they require experience – for example, “Two years of relevant experience needed.” What does relevant experience mean, and what would be considered irrelevant experience? Here’s everything you need to know about determining relevant work experience and featuring it in your CV.

What does “relevant experience” mean?

Relevant experience means prior job experience that relates to the job at hand. When a recruiter asks for relevant experience, they’re looking for a work history related to the job title you’re trying to get. If you have previous jobs, volunteer work, internships, part-time work or even academic experience, this can count as relevant experience when you’re applying to a new position.

How to connect your work to relevant experience

So, what can you do to connect your past experience to your current experience and make it relevant? There are a few ways to “create” relevance for a past job position.

First of all, take a look at job responsibilities. Even if a job position doesn’t share the same job title, if you had a lot of responsibilities in common, it can still be considered “relevant.” For example, say you’re trying to get a project management position. If you worked as a full-time stage manager at a theatre company, this may be relevant because you’re doing very similar things – you’re managing a large group of people.

Next, take a look at the required qualifications for the job. The job posting will typically include information about what you’ll do in your new job and what qualifications you need to have. If those qualifications and certifications cross over, then you can call them out on your CV.

Lastly, look at the skills you were using in your past work. Many of those skills are probably transferable skills, which means your previous experience will be immensely beneficial in proving you have a good mix of soft skills and hard skills that fit the job. Check your skills section and see what you’re listing. Any job where you developed those skills might be relevant.

Tailoring a CV to each job listing

You should always make sure that you’re tailoring your CV to the job listing that you’re applying to. Your professional experience might change depending on the job you’re pursuing, and how you describe your relevant skills will almost certainly change. Here are a few ways job seekers can make their CVs perfect for a specific listing.

First, you should look for CV keywords. These are specific words that a hiring manager will put in the job listing to indicate what kind of candidate they’re looking for. It’s important that you hit these keywords because an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) will likely scan your CV and cover letter for these words and because it helps reflect whatever side of yourself the hiring manager wants to see. If the job posting says they want someone with great problem-solving and communication skills, then you should be including problem-solving and communication skills in your CV.

Next, describe your responsibilities and achievements using impactful numbers. Metrics and qualifications give weight to your experience. A hiring manager is less likely to believe, “Talked to customers all day” and more likely to believe, “Fielded over 100 calls from customers each day.” These give more of an idea of what you were doing for your previous employer.

Lastly, you may want to be careful about how much experience you present in your CV. If this is your first job or you don’t have many years of experience, then this obviously isn’t a problem for you; but, people with decades of experience, especially those who might be going through a career change, should consider this. Typically, you should limit your work experience section to the last 10 years to keep to truly relevant experience.

FAQ: Relevant Experience

Q: Should I list all education on my CV, even if it wasn’t relevant?

Even if your education wasn’t in the “right” industry — like you went to school for Creative Writing and you’re now applying to work as a Customer Service Representative — it’s still a good idea to list all your education. This showcases that you can see something through to the end – even though you didn’t end up going into a writing job, you still got your diploma or degree. However, a career expert will typically recommend not to put in secondary experience unless you have no college experience. If you went to college or university, it’s assumed that you also completed the preceding education.

Q: Where should I put non-relevant experience?

Although you typically shouldn’t list it on the CV, you can still keep it in mind for the job interview, as you can bring up experiences that you went through when using the STAR method to answer interview questions. You can also include it on your LinkedIn profile, which should be a place to put all your experience, regardless of how relevant it is to your current endeavours.

Q: How can I highlight the relevance of a seemingly non-relevant position?

If a hiring manager is likely to look at a job position and wonder why it’s there, then you need to work extra hard to connect it to the new job you’re pursuing. Mention the achievements and successes you achieved in that position, making sure that you highlight any experience and knowledge you’ll be able to bring to your new position.

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