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Impressing employers with your career history on your CV

As with everything else on your CV, your Career History (or Work Experience) section must effectively sell you to an employer. This means that it has to be persuasive enough to convince them that:

  • You have the skills and experience they're looking for.
  • You've held responsibility in the past.
  • Your work history is marked by achievements.
  • You've progressed throughout your career.

If the above leaves you feeling aghast, take heart - there are ways to present your Career History that will show you in this light, even if your career hasn't been straightforward.

1. List your jobs

First, sit down and write out a list of your jobs. Start with the most recent first and work backwards, noting down the employer's name and town/city, your job title, and the dates you started and finished (years only - there's no need to include months). Don't include your salary or reasons for leaving. If it isn't obvious what an employer does from their name, add a very short sentence describing their line of business.

Generally speaking, it's only necessary to go into detail about the jobs you've held in the past 10 years. For jobs you held earlier than this, you only need to include the employer, job title and inclusive dates.

If there are gaps in your employment, try to explain these briefly.

2. Define your responsibilities

You now need to list the responsibilities you held while you were employed in each job. Write these in order, starting with the most important or central responsibility, and then work down to the less important. Do not include every minor activity that was involved in the job, but aim for around five to six lines. Include more detail for your more recent roles and less about the earlier ones.

If you're not sure about how to describe what you did in a post, try checking over your job description. Alternatively, imagine how the position would be advertised in a newspaper.

3. Add a few achievements

You also need to think about the achievements you made in that post. At this point, bear in mind that achievements and responsibilities are different. A responsibility is part of the job description, which can be held by anyone in that role, while an achievement is a measurable result that happened because of your personal input. You need to include about six to eight achievements from your Career History in the Achievements section of your CV, but you can include any additional ones in your Career History.

4. Make it interesting

If you've held a string of similar jobs, try to phrase your responsibilities in different ways, so that the CV doesn't become repetitive and boring - a big turn-off for employers.

This is where you need to strike a careful balance. Your descriptions need to be short and to the point, yet they also need to be readable and persuasive from the employer's point of view. Try to use effective statements and professional language. Always be positive. Always make it sound like you made things happen, rather than them happening around you. Use active verbs - for instance, write "developed role" rather than "given new responsibilities", and "effectively scheduled work of eight people" rather than "organised rotas".

Another good trick is to include some key phrases from the job description for the post you're applying for. These will register with the employer as they read your CV. However, don't make this too blatant.

5. And finally

Follow these guidelines and read back through your Career History. If you feel quite pleasantly impressed by your work background, then it's quite likely the employer will be too! Resumes & C V Writing Tips 

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