The most important section on your CV by far is your previous work experience or career history. Its content is more relevant to the employers than any other section. In the end, this information is what convinces a hiring manager whether to offer you the opportunity of having an interview or not.
A work experience description should include the following information:
- the role/position title
- the name of the institution/corporation, institution, or employer
- the start and end dates
- a brief description of the institution/corporation and your position there
- your principal responsibilities and accomplishments
This guide focuses on how to write work experiences that not only represent your overall value within a specific role, but that will also catch the eye of employers and recruiters alike.
Before getting started
One of the biggest mistakes occurs when candidates start to write their CV without having a clear idea about what they want to achieve with their writing. Before starting to write about your past work experience, stop for a moment and take some time to brainstorm. Take out a piece of scratch paper and answer the following questions for each of your previous work experiences:
- What was the company like, where I previously worked? Is it big, average, small, or family-based? What do they do? Is it multinational? Is it a leading company in some aspect?
- What was my work environment like? What division or department did I work in? What role did I play in this division or department? Who did I report to? Was I in charge of other employees?
- What were my responsibilities? Write them down. Avoid listing specific tasks instead of responsibilities. (For example, a list of tasks would be: “Answer the telephone,” “Respond to client emails & clarify their doubts,” and “Assist customers with the buying process by answering their questions through the company’s website chat.” A responsibility in the same respect would be: “Customer support through email, phone, and chat”).
- Did I confront and overcome obstacles or difficult situations? What were they? (Peak workload, issues with clients, new openings, new product launchings, etc.) How did I succeed in facing and surpassing these challenges?
- Can I measure my performance in numbers? How do I measure it? (Number of sales, conversion rate, ratio of customer support tickets solved, clients attended per hour or day, teams managed per week, patients cared for per day, number of students per class, etc.)
- What were my greatest achievements? Make a list of your achievements and what they meant for the company/institution. (Had the highest number of sales for the year of 2017, voted Best Teacher of the Year, named Employee of the Month for 6 consecutive months, etc.)
The answers to these questions should be the foundation from which you write your work history descriptions. In fact, by no means will you use all of this information. It is recommended that you use just 30% of this content -- the most important information -- that which is absolutely necessary to demonstrate mastery in your field of work.
Work experience content selection
This is the part where the description for the position to which you are applying will come into play, along with a little bit of common sense. Following the section structure shown below, you need to select the information that is most relevant to the position you are applying for. In order to determine which information to include, use the answers to the questions above, and one-by-one ask yourself: “Will this information best help convince the employer that I am a good fit for the position at hand and that I deserve an interview?”
Career history section structure
Here is the correct order by which to structure your work experience section:
- Position or role title, company/employer name, start - end dates (The dates should include the month and year. You may also put the dates before the role.)
- Brief company/employer description and if applicable, an explanation about your specific department.
- Description of responsibilities, the effect your time in this position had on the company, and accomplishments that you achieved or contributed to the institution. (If you utilized a specific software, method, technology, etc. to complete your responsibilities and this is one of the requirements for the position at hand, this is a good place to mention it. You need to utilize some kind of bullet point format for your responsibilities and accomplishments so as to make them more easily readable.)
- If you have not already mentioned your accomplishments, or you simply want to emphasize their importance, finish the section by mentioning your greatest achievements within this company. (Don’t forget to try to use numbers to measure your success.)
Work experience examples
01/2007 - 08/2013
CS Team Leader
Hoteles AI is an international chain of hotels specialized in vacation hotels with 46 establishments in Spain, Italy, and Greece. Within the Booking Department, I was in charge of the Customer Service Team and reported directly to the Sales Director. I managed a team of three employees in the central offices as well as a team of 300 receptionists and booking agents. My responsibilities included:
- Organization and supervision of the Customer Service Team and across all customer interaction channels, i.e: call centre, email, live chat, Facebook Messenger, etc., as well as customer service follow-up in all 46 establishments 24 hours/day, 360 days/year.
- Creation of the Customer Service Guide for the hotel chain along with the Public Relations Team and coordination of continuing professional development and training of front desk employees in all establishments.
- Integration of an incident detection and tracking system with the hotel chain’s CRM, (Salesforce), that reduced 40% of negative opinions in Tripadvisor, which raised the chain of hotels an average of 8 positions/year.
- Intervention and resolution of problems in “special” cases, minimizing the intervention of hotel managers by 200%.
01/2007 - 08/2013 Sales Floor Team Member
Target Corp, USA
Target is the second highest earning discount retail store in the United States of America, with more than 1,800 stores throughout the country. I worked in the Galesburg, IL Target as a Sales Floor Team Member in the food, decoration, sports, toys, and seasonal areas. My main responsibilities were:
- Actively assisted clients that visit the store, helping them locate items and make purchasing decisions.
- Formed part of the upselling program, increasing the sales of Halloween decorations and costumes by 20% more than the past year.
- Managed the entire stock inventory via an automatic barcode system, including stockpiling of arrivals, the removal of expired goods, and the delivery of products to clients or required departments within the store.
Store personnel frequently changes throughout seasons, so knowing how to manage teams and receive new members has been a basic part of my experience while working at Target. I received the “Best Team Player” award 14 months out of the two years that I worked there.
01/2007 - 08/2013 Marketing & Communications Director
Diafarma is a pharmaceutical company that produces and commercializes a great variety of OTC products and parapharmaceuticals related with health and wellbeing with a focus on natural products. Diafarma sells and distributes registered brands such as Ricola cough drops and Colgate toothpastes, among many others, in the European markets of Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy. The company has a total of 160 workers on staff and serves a market population of nearly 180 million people.
The marketing department that I lead was made up of 4 in-house workers and 6 external advertising agencies. I was in charge of design, implementation, and execution of the marketing and communication plans for 32 lines of varying products. As the director, I was responsible for all of these lines and reported to the company’s general manager.
My daily tasks included direction and coordination of advertising campaigns within conventional media outlets as well as digital markets. I conducted leading market research efforts to uncover the viability of new and existing products and also worked in close liaison with media and advertising agencies.
I lead the transformation of advertising efforts to digital media outlets, increasing the benefits of Diaframa by 10% over a period of 4 years. This was possible thanks to a 20% increase in sales thanks to the increase in sales of existing products and the incorporation of two new brands and 28 lines of products. One of the campaigns that I am most proud of having lead is the “Smile Operation” campaign from Colgate, in collaboration with the Council of European Dentists and the support of 30 influencers and celebrities. We not only reached record KPIs such as a total audience of 25 million people and 2.2 million views on Youtube, but we were also able to offer dental care coverage for more than 2,000 at risk families.
Frequently asked questions and answers
Q: Does this work experience description structure apply to all kinds of jobs?
A: Yes! This is applicable for all types of positions. No matter what position or institution that you worked for the above mentioned work history structure is recommended because it gives your CV reader a clear idea of the work experience that you completed, when you worked in said position, and for which company or institution you worked for.
This advice applies to executive, managerial, and entry level positions as well as all kinds of career fields and industries. If your application requires you to incorporate specific projects, cases, ventures, programs, etc. you can briefly mention them in your work experience description and then elaborate on the specific assignment in a section devoted solely to these projects.
Q: Is there any specific advice that applies to higher level executive, directorial, or managerial positions?
A: It is important to mention that for executive positions, the last position that you completed, or perhaps your current position, should be the most elaborate of all of your relevant job experience. In other words, it should contain the most information.
Q: What if I don’t have any work experience in the field in which I am applying for a job?
A: In this case, you should incorporate descriptions of the experiences in which you have the relevant skills for the role to which you are applying. For instance, if the position requires a responsible person, in your work experience descriptions, you must demonstrate that you have had previous responsibilities and that you have managed them with success. The more impressive these responsibilities, the better! (e.g.: Responsible for the cash register closing operations for a store with a €15,000 daily revenue.)
Pro Tip: Always keep in mind that it is important to include only the positions that are somehow related to the one to which you are applying. If you add experiences that are not related, try to incorporate a perspective that embraces the mentality of the company where you want to work, or that demonstrates soft or hard skills that fit the position.
By employing this work experience description advice, you will be sure to create a winning CV that will ultimately get you more interviews and eventually land you your dream job. For more tips about your cv-writing process, check out our full guide on how to write a great CV.. For help with your CV format and design, you can always save time by using an online CV builder.
Cvonline.me provides a wide range of job specific CV samples as well as online and PDF CVs to help you with your CV creation process.