Next in our series on what to include in a CV, we explore in more detail how to structure your employment history and education sections and why they’re important.
When it comes to writing a CV, it can be tempting to treat it as one continuous document. While it may end up as one when it reaches potential employers, crafting it requires more of a segmented approach. Each section has a purpose, which means you’ll need to spend time making sure each is up to scratch. Two essential areas are your employment history and education.
These two areas can go a long way to demonstrating why you’re a good candidate for a role. However, get them wrong, and you could muddy the waters significantly. We take a look at what you need to include in each section, and why they play such an important part of your overall document.
If you’re just starting out on your CV writing expedition, you might want to check out some of our other articles first. In the first instalment on what to include on a CV, we take a look at some of the basics you need to bear in mind. It explores things like the length, format, and language you should use, as well as how to write your personal information and personal profile.
You can also check out our article on free CV templates. Here, you’ll get some useful insight on some of the sections you’ll want to include, as well as some examples of how to structure them.
Employment history and experience
The employment history section of your CV is often one of the most interesting ones for hiring managers. It highlights the job roles and experience that you have undertaken so far. It should easily show them what kind of work you’ve done, where you’ve done it, and for how long.
If you’ve already gained some experience, you might find this section has the potential to take up a lot of space. On the other hand, if you’ve not had many (or any) jobs in the past, you could be faced with a daunting task. It’s therefore worth knowing what’s worth including and what you can leave out:
What to include
Let’s start with the types of things you’ll want to include in this segment. Again, some of these will depend on the roles you’re applying for and the seniority of it. However, as a guideline, you’ll want to note:
- Permanent jobs
- Temporary/part-time jobs
- Contract roles
- Internships and work placements
- Saturday/summer jobs
- Voluntary work
Of course, someone with 10 years’ experience applying for a management role won’t need to include details of the summer job they had before university. Use your judgement and decide which ones are relevant to the position(s) you’re currently applying for.
What to leave out
In some instances, rather than leaving out roles that aren’t relevant, you may just want to leave out all the minute details. For example, if there are gaps in your professional experience, you may want to add in a line that explains what you were doing during that period. That being said, there are some things you don’t need to include:
- Contact details of your previous employer or manager
- A job description instead of your achievements/experience
- A list of roles from years ago
- Unnecessary details and jargon that the reader won’t understand
Removing these elements not only makes the section shorter, but it gives hiring managers the chance to get only the most relevant information.
Although there are several ways that you can structure the employment history section of a CV, there are some elements you need to include:
- Your job title. Avoid any embellishment or non-industry terms here. It should be clear to the recruiter what your role was/is.
- The company’s name. Here, you should use the name that the organisation is best known by. It should be either easily recognisable or straightforward to research.
- Location. Some people like to include the city/country where the job was based. You don’t need to add a full address, however.
- Employment dates. You need to outline the month and the year you started/finished a role. If you’re still there, use something along the lines of ‘May 2019 – Present’.
- Experience. This should be a brief summary of your main duties, responsibilities, and achievements while in the role. It doesn’t have to be lengthy but should cover the skills and experience that are relevant to the positions you’re applying for.
How to write it
Your employment history section can take several forms, often depending on the types of jobs you’re applying for. However, you want to avoid simply listing out a series of job descriptions. Employers want to see instances where you’ve used your skills, hit goals, and achieved things in your jobs.
It’s always useful to quantify your results in this section. For example, you might want to include something such as ‘helped to successfully deliver the highest trading day of the year’ or similar. You also want to avoid overly long paragraphs and sentences. Keep things simple, clear, and to the point.
Try and avoid using buzzwords and clichés in your employment history (and the rest of your CV). Instead, use action verbs like coordinate, integrate, guide, and complete to show the positive steps you’ve taken.
There are several other points that you should bear in mind when writing this section:
- Sort your list of jobs in chronological order, making sure your most recent or current one is at the top.
- For the heading name, ‘employment history’ or ‘professional experience’ are usually appropriate. However, if your professional experience is limited, you might want to go with ‘work experience’. A skills-based CV might also be a good choice if this is the case.
- If you do have employment gaps in your experience, make sure they’re explained either in your education section (if appropriate) or in your cover letter.
Usually, your education section will follow your employment history. It’s another important area of your CV, and depending on the stage of your career, could be crucial in finding a job. As with the previous section, a large amount of it depends on your current situation. However, the more relevant job experience you have, the less detailed this section might be.
It’s not just school/university grades you should cover here either. You may want to add any additional qualifications or professional certificates to your CV. Often, you can add a separate section for those you’ve achieved whilst working.
We’ve highlighted how you might structure your education section depending on the stage of career you’re at:
Recent school leavers
If you’ve only just left school, you’ll want to focus on your GCSEs, A-Levels or equivalent qualifications. Many employers at this level won’t be expecting a lot of experience, so you can put more of an emphasis on your education.
You should highlight subjects like Maths, English and Science, and include the results you achieved if they’re particularly strong. Aside from that, you can list the subjects you took and, optionally, the grades you achieved. You can also highlight any other accomplishments from your time at school.
Recent university graduates
If you have a degree, this should be the focal point of your CV’s education section. You don’t have to include details of specific modules, although it may help if you’re applying for jobs where this information is relevant.
After your university education, you can briefly highlight your secondary education below. Rather than focusing on specific subjects, you can simply list out the number of qualifications and the range of grades. For example, ’11 GCSEs grade A-C/9-4’.
Once you have some industry experience behind you, your education and qualifications are sometimes less relevant (depending on your field, of course). If you have recent professional certificates, these are likely to be of more interest to employers than your GCSE results from 10 years ago.
In the same way that you don’t have to write at length about your unrelated work experience, you can keep your education as a relatively short list. Outline the dates you achieved your results and a brief summary of what they were.
As you can tell, your CV’s education section is largely dependent on your circumstances. As such, you need to tailor it accordingly. However, there are some things to bear in mind no matter what stage you’re at:
- Keep it clear. This section should be easy for potential employers to scan. Make sure to include the dates and institution name, and only give as much detail as is necessary.
- Start with the most recent. As with your employment history, add the most relevant/current qualifications first and work your way back.
- Only include the grades you’re proud of. This point is particularly true if you finished your education a while ago. You don’t need to highlight every single score, so pick out the impressive ones.
- Give more details if needed. If you’re applying for an education-based role, your grades and qualifications may be more relevant. If so, make sure to cover everything the employer needs at a glance.
These two sections play an important role in your overall CV. However, they’re going to be quite different depending on the stage of your career and the types of jobs you’re applying to. Perhaps the best advice is to think about how relevant an employer is going to find your employment history and education. You can then make each section as detailed of brief as it needs to be.
Once you’re done with these sections, you can move on to start thinking about your key skills and interests sections.