Learn how to meticulously showcase your professional journey to impress employers
Documenting work experience on your CV, to showcase your talents to prospective employers, is no mean feat - especially when you only have two pages to play with.
But have no fear.
In this article, you'll learn what actually qualifies as work experience - and then you can follow our step-by-step approach to crafting the work experience section of your CV, complete with examples as well as an easy-to-use template.
What is CV work experience?
First things first. It's a good idea to know exactly what constitutes work experience when talking about CVs. It's any time spent in a work environment, in any sector or industry, where you gain first-hand skills from working on the job. Most people acquire work experience via their own professional experience, i.e. formal employment. However, volunteering, internships, and work shadowing all count as well in these circumstances.
Types of CV work experience
In addition to professional employment, there are eight other forms of work experience, believe it or not, that you can add to your CV. They are:
School work experience placements
Sandwich university courses
Insight events or open days
Employment workshops and classes
Why is work experience important on a CV?
Employers need to understand what your experiences have been in a work setting in order to gauge what your professional capabilities are. They're looking to see if you have any experience related to the role you're applying for, as this would suggest that you have the right skill set with which to do the job.
If your previous work experience is directly related to the role you're applying for, you can show off your hard skills and achievements on your CV. You can also showcase any soft skills or transferable skills, which are extremely valuable in all forms of employment, regardless of the job title or industry.
How to write CV work experience
It's all very well having work experience of some form, but it's how you present it on your CV that counts. Writing it incorrectly or badly is equal to not having any at all.
So, here's a step-by-step approach to collating, organising, and writing work experience on your CV so that it looks professional and ensures you're seen by the right people.
Document your employment history
Regardless of whether you've had zero formal jobs or 10, it's best to start by collating all work experiences that could contribute towards a comprehensive employment history. Start with your most recent position and work backwards through your experiences documenting:
Dates of employment (include the month and year if you can)
A short summary of the role
An overview of your key responsibilities
A handful of your accomplishments and successes
Reversing the timeline of an employment history will be a straightforward exercise for most people, but if you're in a position where you've had little or no work experience - for example, you're a recent graduate or returning to work after a long time away from the job market - it can be tricky to select what's appropriate.
To combat this, reflect on the experiences from your education or hobbies that demonstrate your professional growth and capabilities. This can be when you headed up a group project at university to show leadership traits, or the time you dealt with a sticky situation during a volunteering role, showcasing your amazing problem resolution attributes.
With regards to including the month and date for each job role you've had, if you have any gaps that you don't want to draw attention to, it's perfectly acceptable to just put the years. This makes your experience seem more consistent, especially if you can put concurrent years throughout.
Additionally, if you've had any jobs that have no relevance whatsoever to the position you're applying for, it's fine to leave them off. If you do this, however, you must be prepared to face any questions in an interview as to why you've left them off, especially if it creates a huge gap in the work experience on your CV.
Select what to include in your work experience section
Once you have a list of all of your work experience, make a shortlist to include on your CV.
If you've been in professional employment for a number of years, it's likely that you'll plump for a traditional CV format, which lists your work experience in reverse chronological order.
Top tip: Only include the last 10 to 15 years of work experience, or your last five to six positions within this timeframe, to keep your CV hyper-relevant to the prospective employer.
However, if work experience is thin on the ground, you can opt for a functional CV format instead, which is designed to highlight skills and competencies instead of job titles and experiences. Read through the job description and write out the skills that you have which are essential to the job, to be included in your functional CV. Then prove that you have these skills. It's all about the show, not just the tell, on a CV.
Tailor and format each work experience for the role
Now that you have a draft version of your work experience section, take the time to tailor and polish it.
Start the section with a clear heading, like “Work Experience,” “Employment History,” or “Professional Experience.” Then include a subheading for each role, including:
Dates of employment (month and year)
Using the short summary and responsibilities that you listed during the planning phase, concisely describe the remit of your role in two to three sentences. This is so the prospective employer gets a flavour of the scope and level of your role.
Under this, bullet point between three and six key achievements and accomplishments that demonstrate your value. Customising your CV to the role as much as possible will alert a prospective employer to the fact that you've taken the time and effort to really think about how your skills match the job description, and they'll be able to distinctly see how your talents align with their requirements. Don't forget to bolster each point with numbers and statistics to add tangible weight to your claims. Figures tend to really pop off the page, catching the eye of anyone reading your CV, and impressing them no end!
Typically, your most recent job should contain the most detail, as it's often the highest point of your career so far and demonstrates your peak skill set. As you work your way back through your career history, you can reduce the detail.
Top tip: Make sure you leave what's most relevant from your earlier jobs, to impress any prospective employer.
Adding your work experience section to the right part of your CV
The normal structure of a CV starts with your name and contact details, followed by your personal statement, key skills, and then your work experience. It's the top half of the first page that's seen as the most important part of the document, so you want to try to incorporate your work experience in this part as much as you can.
However, if you're crafting a CV for your first job, then you ought to consider moving your education and qualifications ahead of this section, as it's likely to be a stronger representation of your abilities.
Example CV work experience section
Here's an example of a work experience section on a CV for a candidate applying for a Head of Digital Marketing role at an ecommerce store.
XYZ Furniture Co., London Jan 2020 - Present
Digital Marketing Manager
Overseeing all marketing initiatives and strategies and collaborating with cross-functional teams to drive brand awareness while increasing online sales. Maximising the potential and contribution of three Marketing Specialists by using consistent messaging on performance, quality, and standards. Adopting a calm and logical approach when dealing with any problems or issues, reaching rapid and satisfactory resolutions for all concerned to maintain excellent client and staff relations.
Implemented a new social media advertising camaign which resulted in a 30% increase in website traffic and a 20% rise in sales within the first quarter of 2024
Launched a targeted email marketing campaign that led to a 15% boost in customer retention and generated £100,000 in additional revenue
Revamped the company website, optimising SEO and improving the user experience, leading to a 25% increase in organic search traffic and a 10% increase in conversion rate
ABC Digital Solutions, London Jun 2017 - Dec 2019
Senior Marketing Specialist
Managed lead generation campaigns, collaborated with the sales team to drive conversions, and analysed marketing data to optimise campaign performance.
Developed and executed a content marketing strategy that increased website traffic by 40% and generated in excess of 500 new leads
Led a successful product launch campaign, resulting in £1.2 million in sales revenue and surpassing the initial sales target by 15%
Used A/B testing on landing pages, leading to a 25% improvement in click-through rates and a 10% increase in lead-to-customer conversion rates
DEF Advertising Agency, Reading Jan 2015 - May 2017
Collaborated with clients on marketing strategies, managed social media accounts, and coordinated promotional events.
Coordinated a successful influencer marketing campaign that reached 1 million impressions and led to a 12% increase in brand followers on social media
Assisted during the organisation of a high-profile product launch event, resulting in over 200 media mentions and a significant sales boost for the client
Implemented a customer feedback survey, gathering valuable insights that helped to optimise marketing strategies and led to a 12% improvement in customer satisfaction
Work experience CV template
Here's a simple CV template to help you to draft your work experience section.
Company, Location date - date
Day to day explanation of the role. Sell the relevance of the role towards the customer's goal. Three or four sentences should be plenty.
Key Contribution or Accomplishment 1 - remember to quantify wherever possible
Key Contribution or Accomplishment 2 - remember to quantify wherever possible
Key Contribution or Accomplishment 3 - remember to quantify wherever possible
If you've been able to absorb all of the above, you'll be well on your way to including your work experience on your CV in a clear and organised manner. So, take the time and the effort now to crack on and make a splash with your CV!
Writing work experience on a CV is not that difficult when you have the know-how. However, you only get one shot at showing a prospective employer that you're the best candidate for the job. Enlisting the help of TopCV's professional CV writers could be a surefire way to head straight to the top of the interview list. Additionally, you can check out the free review of your CV to get some insider knowledge.
This article was originally written by Laura Slingo and has been updated by Elizabeth Openshaw.