8 tips to highlight your work experience on your CV

So it's' time to create your CV and get back into the job market. But how do you ensure that recruiters will notice your CV in the long list of applications?

By listing your work experience and skills as accurately, clearly and concisely as possible in a reader-friendly way!

You might have years of experience and be perfect for the job, but if your CV is too wordy or complicated, it will get binned.

Recruiters, whether agencies or in-house, spend no more than a few minutes scanning every application. If they don't find what they're looking for, they move on.

That means it's up to you to ensure that your CV stands out and you're the one who gets the interview. Apart from using a professional cv template, the content of your cv will determine whether or not you will be invited for a job interview.

Therefore, here are 8 tips on how to list your work experience and craft a winning CV.

1. Start with your most recent or most relevant job

Employers want to know what recent experience you have that's relevant to their vacancy. That's why you must start from your current or most recent job and work your way back. Focus on the responsibilities mentioned in the job post and leave out anything that's irrelevant.

Only in exceptional cases, you can choose not to start with your most recent work experience. For instance, when you've just graduated and your side job is your most recent work experience, while you have done an internship that is more relevant to the potential employer.

Tip: If you have no working experience, list post-school training and education and detail your highest level of schooling. You can also list hobbies and interests if they relate to the vacancy. Don't include primary school education, though.

2. Use short, sharp text to catch the reader's eye

You want your CV to be both easy to read and informative. Avoid long sentences and list your work experience in point form. Select keywords from the job post that match your work experience and adapt your wording to align with them.

3. Focus on what you can actually do that will benefit the employer

List acquired knowledge, developed skills and competencies, performance results and proven responsibilities. Match them to the job you're applying for and write it in a way that stands out. Think of each aspect this way – if the employer takes references from past employers, would this work experience be confirmed as accurate?

4. Short sentences and bullet points are a must

Short sentences are reader-friendly and convey your relevant work experience precisely. Bullet points space sentences well and give order to information. Don't string a few sentences in a single bullet point. Instead, space pertinent details out and ensure that irrelevant info is excluded.

5. Give pertinent experience the most attention

When you're listing your work experience, arrange it to match the order of responsibilities on the job post. You want appropriate work experience top stand out. Briefly list other experiences lower down, or leave them out if it's not related.

6. Adapt your job titles to match those on the job ad

Most jobs have various titles depending on the company. So adapt your job titles, but don't misrepresent yourself. This is an essential step to get past CV parsing software that looks for specific keywords and auto-rejects all applications without them.

For example, a waiter is also known as a server and a waitron. Using the potential employer's terminology lets them recognise your work experience immediately, too.

7. Match your profile summary with your CV

Every winning CV opens with a brief profile summary. Briefly mention essential work experience in this summary, and then reinforce the info in your CV. If a recruiter is impressed by your profile summary, they'll read on. It's vital that they find the supporting details in the CV body as well. Remember to also include achievements that relate to your work experience if you have any.

8. Include details of impressive results and outstanding achievements

This isn't about just getting your job done – it's listing results and accomplishments that are above and beyond what's expected. Include details based on the situation, what you did and what the end results were. Only include info that can be verified in some way, though. If you don't have any great achievements yet, that's fine because it's not essential to getting an interview.

Refine your work experience before you write your CV

Save time by doing a rough draft of your work experience. List all your current and past job responsibilities and then compare them to the job post. Extract only what matters and leave the rest out. Rearrange your duties for each job so that the most relevant is at the top.

Work according to this quick checklist –

  • Briefly describe each responsibility, focusing on crucial info
  • List skills and competencies used and gained in each position
  • Include outstanding achievements where relevant
  • Open each job with a brief description of your role
  • Add on the job training courses

There's a gap in my CV; what do I do?

Don't panic – there are ways to deal with this that won't make your CV look bad.

Many people have gaps in their CV for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes it's to spend time with their children or to care for a relative. Other times it could be extensive travel or just a sabbatical. However, it's not something that will stop you from getting hired.

If it's only a few months, you can get around it by using years for each job on your CV only instead of months and years. Where you didn't have a job for a year or more, you can leave the dates as they are on the CV. Then briefly explain the gap in a short cover letter.

If your experience matches the job, it's improbable that a recruiter won't contact you. When they do, you can briefly explain the gap.

I've previously had a side-hustle: should I mention it?

Everything on your CV must be relevant to the job you're applying for. If your side job included skills and experience listed in the job post, include it – if not, leave it out.

When you already have a reasonable amount of experience, side jobs aren't relevant unless you gained skills of worth. For instance, if you worked as a part-time waiter at some stage and are now applying for a restaurant manager, put it in. It shows that you've always had an interest in the food and beverage industry.

Where you have little or no working experience, however, it's best to mention all side jobs to show that you have experience in the workplace. Even though the work experience doesn't match, there are disciplines we learn.

Wrapping it up

Your education, skills and work experience are of prime importance when it comes to getting hired, but how you present it matters just as much at the start.

Particularly today, where most job responses are initially screened by parsing software. Your CV can't be a long-winded 'story'; it must be a short, sharp, professional document that highlights your abilities.

Otherwise, you won't get an interview, and you won't get hired.

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