Your CV's work experience section has a great impact during the interview selection process because it shows a potential employer that you have the skills and experience to match their role. Your work experience distinguishes you from other candidates because it is unique to your career goals, interests and ability. A well-written work experience section uses the space on your CV smartly to make an effective pitch to your future employer.
In this article, we cover what work experience is, why it's important, how to format your work experience using a CV template and an example that you can make your own.
What is a work experience section on a CV?
The work experience section on your CV lists your previous employment history, including your key responsibilities and achievements, in each role. It contains detailed information about your job title, company, dates of tenure, duties and skills learned. Depending on your background, you can include part-time jobs, temporary roles, internships and even volunteer experience.
Your work experience section is a dynamic document that continues to grow in substance as you become a more experienced professional. You should tailor this section to each job application. This will ensure your experience stands out during the CV screening process.
Why is work experience on a CV important?
Most employers regard your work experience as the most important section of your CV. To get a quick mental picture of your background, recruiters will often skim through your work experience first. As employers have a limited amount of time to review each CV, they look for three simple characteristics to determine whether you would be a good fit for their vacancy. These include:
Length of the work experience section
First, recruiters will glance at the length of your work experience. Typically, candidates with CVs that are more than a page long are more senior professionals. Depending on what a hiring manager is looking for, this may or may not be attractive to them.
Job titles held
Second, recruiters will briefly read through all the job titles you have held in the past. Job titles are another barometer for them to understand the expertise you bring to a job. For example, if a recruiter is looking for a candidate with only two years of experience, they may search for job titles, such as 'intern' or 'assistant'.
The experience that stands out
Third, recruiters will look for statistics, promotions and skills that stand out on your CV. Your accomplishments show your potential to a recruiter.
If you meet all three criteria discussed, it's more likely that a recruiter will read your CV in full. Thus, a work experience section is an important marketing tool that helps you secure your next job.
Related: 6 Universal Rules for Resume Writing
What to include in a work experience section
Here are some important components to include in the work experience section of your CV:
1. Job titles
Be specific about your previous job titles when typing up your work experience. For example, the role "Social Media Marketing Manager" communicates more about your responsibilities than simply stating the generic job title, "Marketing Manager."
If a previous employer has promoted you, list all your job titles in the company to show your career progression. Promotions are proof of your work ethic, so bring attention to them whenever possible.
2. Companies you worked for
Provide the full, official names of your former employers. To keep your work experience section more relevant, consider excluding details of any employment older than 10 years. In general, you should include details about only three to five of your most recent employers and you can simply name the other ones. However, if you've worked for any well-known brands, highlight them as another selling point in your CV.
3. Location of companies
Recruiters want candidates with unique experiences. If you have overseas work experience or worked in different regions in India, remember to mention these locations. This positions you as a global citizen who can comfortably work with people from different backgrounds. India, being a country with so many dialects and customs, means that you will definitely encounter diversity in the workplace. That's why it's essential to highlight cultural exchange in your CV.
4. Employment dates
Use the standard month-year format to state when you began and ended your employment contract with each organisation—for example, Jan 2018-Nov 2020. If you have brief gaps in your work history, list only the years of employment. For longer gaps, provide a brief explanation. Recruiters trust candidates who are transparent about their experiences in their CVs.
5. Responsibilities and achievements
Describe your primary duties for each job in your work experience section. Pair them with key skills and achievements that helped you prosper in the role. Use examples and statistics to back up your claims and boost your credibility. For example, instead of writing, "Responsible for managing data entry and filing system for the sales team," a sales admin should write, "Developed new sales filing practices, reducing clerical errors by 10%."
When structuring your work responsibilities, focus on no more than five points to highlight in each role. Use keywords and precise sentences to use space efficiently and save your reader time.
The three types of CV formats
Here are the three most common types of CV formats to help you decide how to best present your work experience:
1. Chronological format
In a chronological format, you list your most recent work experience at the top, followed by earlier positions in your career. This is the most common work experience format that employers prefer because it clearly illustrates how you have grown and progressed in your career.
The chronological format is suitable for professionals of all skill levels and experience.
2. Functional format
A functional CV format focuses on your skills and achievements rather than your work experience. This format's goal is to show that you are capable of doing a job because of the demonstrable skills you possess. In this case, you will use your job responsibilities to exemplify the skills you have mentioned. Thus, you will only need to provide your employer information and tenure dates in the work experience section of a functional CV.
Candidates that don't have as much work experience may want to use this format to show their potential to a hiring manager.
3. Combination format
As the name suggests, the combination CV format is a hybrid of chronological and functional format. It gives you more flexibility in deciding how to best present your work experience. With this option, you can bring attention to your strengths. To write a combination CV, first, summarise your work history, then list all your skills and accomplishments.
If you intend to apply for a senior management position, such as a c-suite executive role or board position, consider using the combination format. At this point in your career, recruiters would already have an idea about the quality of your skills and experience; therefore, it's important to highlight what sets you apart from other candidates instead.
Work experience template for a CV
Use the template below to help you structure your work experience in your CV:
[Name of most recent position]
[Name of organisation or employer]
[Start date - end date] [Location]
- List your job responsibilities in bullet points
- Remember to use examples and statistics
Work experience example for CV
Here is an example of a well-written job experience section for a CV:
Assistant Content Manager
Feb 2018 - Current | Pune
- Managed all communication campaigns developed in-house and from clients
- Developed a concise writer workflow, increasing production goals by 18%
- Delegated client projects to junior writers with clear KPIs and deadlines
May 2016 - Jan 2018 | Pune
- Collaborated with senior writers to present campaigns to clients
- Increased client portfolio by 15%
- Optimised communication for maximum readership and online traffic by 14%
March 2015 - March 2016 | Bangalore
- Accurately prepared keyword research to write blogs
- Meticulously fact-checked work and grammar, increasing turnaround time by 12%
- Improved website traffic by 8%
Work experience writing tips
Here are a few tips to help you write a powerful work experience section for your CV:
Keep it brief
Your work experience should only talk about your highlights in each role. It keeps the conversation more interesting during an interview, as you will have more details to share.
Tailor your work experience to each job
If you are a candidate with a vast amount of experience, your work experience section should focus on the most relevant roles and responsibilities for the position you are applying for. Keeping your CV concise helps it look more polished and professional.
Choose your most compelling points
Distinguish yourself from other candidates with your most notable successes and recognitions. Use statistics to elaborate on your point. This is the fastest way to get noticed by a recruiter.
Spelling and grammar check
Proofread your entire CV before you send it to a hiring manager. Sometimes, leaving your CV aside for a few hours can help you return to it with a fresh perspective. Get a trusted friend to review your CV to spot any mistakes you may have missed. An error-free work experience section is important because it shows a recruiter that you are considering their opening with serious intent.