Tips for adding work experience to your CV

Work experience is the cornerstone of most CVs. How can you highlight work experiences more effectively on your CV?



Work experience CV

When hiring managers read your CV, one critical piece of information they’ll look for is your experience at past jobs. Providing information about your previous positions is one of the most important things you can do to make a prospective employer take you seriously. Here’s what you need to know about adding work experience to a CV.

What is work experience on a CV?

Put simply, the term “work experience,” “work history” or “job experience” describes past jobs and what you did in them. From entry-level jobs to CEO positions, from full-time jobs to part-time volunteer work, your CV work experience section showcases your top responsibilities and accomplishments. A great CV needs this work experience section because it shows recruiters that you have the professional experience necessary to work well in the job for which you’re applying.

If you’re fresh out of high school or a recent graduate from college and are looking for your first professional job, your work history will typically revolve around volunteer work, extracurricular work, internships and academic-related projects. In this case, you’ll probably be looking for a job that doesn’t require a lot of work history, and you’ll lean heavily on your skills and education sections to fill in potential employers about what you can do for them.

Elements for work experience section on a CV

In the work experience section of a CV, you need to include several elements for every job. At the very least, you should include:

  • Job title
  • Company name
  • Years you worked
  • Location you worked (city and area)
  • Responsibilities and highlights for each job, presented in bullet points

If you use a CV builder, the builder will typically prompt you for these pieces of information as you create your CV. You can also choose your best achievement and highlight it as a “Key Achievement” or similar term. On average, you should usually only put five bullet points maximum, attached to each piece of work experience.

Tips to improve your work experience section

No matter what CV format you’ll use for a job – functional CV, a chronological CV or a hybrid CV – you’ll need to include past jobs, even if you’re going through a career change and your work experience isn’t relevant to the specific job you’re applying for. Here are a few tips you can use to make sure your employment history is applicable to the job you want:

  • Only list up to 10 years of work experience.
  • List your work experience in reverse chronological order, regardless of CV style.
  • Add internships, volunteer experience and student organisations if you have little experience.
  • List your most relevant experiences, and emphasise relevant skills from seemingly non-relevant jobs, based on the job description of the position you want.

Employers often use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan CVs, and ATS will read through the work experience section to ensure job seekers have the right professional experiences. Make sure you look through the job description to find specific keywords for experiences the employers want (e.g., “adept at budgeting and account management”). Highlight these experiences in your CV where you can.

FAQ: Work Experience on a CV

Q: Does my CV need to include all of my work experience?

If you have a lot of previous work experience, you don’t need to list every single job you’ve ever had. A great CV writer will typically list up to four jobs and up to 10 years of work history. Narrow down your jobs to only the most relevant options if you have more than that. Most of the time, the best CV for a job application will only be a single page long, so start trying to keep your work history on a single page, then edit as needed.

Q: Should I actively try to explain gaps in work experience?

You don’t usually need to try and explain gaps in your work experience on your CV. Instead, it’s a much better idea to include this information in either your cover letter or wait until you get to the job interview. If you wait for the job interview, know that the interviewer is almost certainly going to ask about it, so make sure you know what you’ll say when they ask. Think of your times of unemployment in positive terms (new skills you learnt or personal projects you completed) so you can communicate this to the employer.

Q: Is it a good idea to include volunteer and internship work?

If you don’t have much existing job experience, volunteer and internship work is a great addition to your CV. Most of the time, you can put this under your work experience section. However, if you have job experience, you should put volunteering and internship work in their section or exclude them altogether. This type of work also goes under the same guidelines as work history—there’s no need to include work from over 10 years ago, as it’s unlikely to impact how you work today.

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