Tailor your work history to the role, show achievements and explain gaps

Lady writing work history on laptop

The work history section of a CV is sometimes seen as the most valuable part of the application process.

Skills and qualifications are not always essential, and certain roles require experience to get the job done efficiently.

A candidate who demonstrates a proven track record requires less training and support, and can be trusted to quickly get on with the job. Even if certain skills and qualifications are essential you will still find that a well written work history section can tip the balance in your favour.

With most employers looking to capitalise on experienced candidates, let’s take a look at 3 amazing tips on how to write your CV work history.

1. Show off your achievements and results

A CV which only offers to match the skills and qualifications required leaves a blank hole in what otherwise could have been a fantastic application. The missing ingredient comes down to the lack of evidence and that the candidate is able to put those skills to the test. The employer will be inundated with qualified candidates, but what will set you apart from most is how you can demonstrate you have what it takes to succeed.

Have you ever come across someone at work that has a huge amount of qualifications and is extremely smart, but for some reason still struggles to succeed in the role? I know I have on many occasions, and that’s not to say that I haven’t been in that position myself before. Once you see that happen you question what’s actually needed to succeed in the role. What personal attributes does one need to achieve great results and move forward in a career?

The answer to this question is that a successful career isn’t just forged upon fancy qualifications, education, or a huge list of attractive skills – it’s also about being able to put those credentials to good use and adapting to any situation within the workplace.

In addition to the mandatory requirements your CV needs to show achievements, results, accolades, performance, and much more. But remember to try and keep this as relevant to the role as possible, with the expectation of anything outstanding in other fields. Achievements like employee of the month, regional sales winner, published articles, scholarships, 1st class honours, and so on.

Whilst some of your achievements can go into a dedicated section for your CV, you can also include these in your work history. After you’ve listed your tasks and responsibilities you should aim to include examples of your performance. The hiring manager can then get a good sense of how you could perform for them, which will help your application stand out.

Above: Note how achievements are highlighted for each role in this example Recruitment Consultant CV template from CVTemplateMaster.com.

2. Tailor your work experience

The most common approach to wiring the work history section of a CV is to simply list all of the previous job titles, company names, and tasks and responsibilities. However, there is a much smarter approach which will grab the attention of the reader.

Tailor your work history and try to provide relevant information. For example, if you were applying for a role which required a high level of face to face communication skills, then focus upon past roles and tasks which prove you are capable. The hiring manager will have very little interest in reading all about a job that has no bearing on their company. However, this doesn’t mean to say that a previous job which didn’t have the same title or wasn’t in the same industry cannot be taken advantage of.

Your CV work history needs to demonstrate transferable skills. It isn’t up to the hiring manager to cleverly pick out certain aspects of your career and make them fit the new role – it’s your job. You have to write a work history section which clearly highlights and demonstrates everything which would be of benefit to the company. Everything else should either be left off altogether or stripped back to the smallest of details.

3. No employment gaps

Finally we come to something which is quite common but often underestimated as an issue – employment gaps. But what do we mean by an employment gap and how can we effectively plug this?

An employment gap refers to when someone was out of work for a lengthy period of time – typically 3 months or more, but some employers still get concerned with even 1-2 months. This can happen for any number of reasons, and here are a few examples:

  • Personal health issues
  • Family health issues
  • Raising a family
  • Gap year
  • Back into education

These are all perfectly valid and acceptable reasons, but if you don’t give one then the employer is left to decide for themselves. Instead, look to plug that gap on your work history timeline and allow the hiring manager to quickly move on to more important aspects.

If your reason for being out of work for a lengthy spell is personal to you and isn’t something you want to go into detail about, then don’t. You simply have to state something like, ‘Due to personal health reasons I was unable to work between March-August of 2019, but I am now fully recovered and more passionate than ever to succeed’.

You can of course go into as much detail as you like, and the more you can offer and reassure the employer that all is well, the more likely you are to quash any doubts they have about your unemployment period.

Find out more about filling employment gaps:

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