A functional CV: a blessing and a curse. A skills-based CV, as it’s often referred to, can do more damage than good unless you know exactly when to use it, and what for.
Well-written job descriptions in your CV work experience section is what recruiters crave—
This is critical: employers ask for CVs to review your work history.
Maybe you’re the most qualified candidate for this position. But—
You still might fail to land the job if your CV work experience section isn’t top-notch.
Here’s how to make sure they like what they see.
This guide will show you:
- Sample job descriptions for a CV that you can copy, adjust, and use today.
- Research-backed strategies to dramatically improve the performance of your CV work experience section.
- How to describe your work experience better than 9 out of 10 other candidates even if you barely have professional experience at all.
What does a perfect CV job description look like? See below—
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To begin with, meet Amelia—
She’s applying for the position of Head of Digital Marketing at a major financial institution, XYZ Company. Below, you’ll see her sample CV work experience section.
Sample CV Job Description—Work Experience
Digital Marketing Manager
Acme Corp, NYC, NY
- Supervised a team of 9 employees in all technical and creative aspects of digital advertising campaigns with budgets over £300,000.
- Enhanced open rates of transactional email campaigns by 38%. Boosted the click-through rate by 44%.
- Trained 3 online marketing interns to reach permanent, full-time junior positions.
- Devised a new system of internal feedback and quarterly reviews to raise employee satisfaction by 30%.
Most relevant accomplishment: Grew the company blog from 0 to 700,000 organic users per year in 14 months.
Pfitzer, Newark, NJ
- Spearheaded all stages of collaboration with external digital marketing agencies.
- Received the company-wide Annual Innovation Award for integrating Virtual Reality technology with sales representatives’ promotional materials in
- Led sales team of 42 regional sales reps to exceed sales targets by over 10% each year.
Most relevant accomplishment: Supervised the design of 2 flagship product websites increasing online sales by 231% in 6 months.
Freelance Online Marketing Consultant
Self-employed, NYC, NY
- Consulted and assisted 9 clients with their online marketing challenges.
- Grew a Facebook fan page for a local tech startup from 0 to 25,000 fans in 4 months.
- Designed graphics and contents for social media posts: 20 per week on Facebook, 30 per week on Instagram, 1 per week on LinkedIn.
Wow, right? Amelia can sit back, relax, and wait for her interview invitation.
Don’t have work experience at all and feel at a loss as to what you should write? Fret not. See: Complete Guide to Writing the First CV with No Work Experience
Think it’s hard to write an equally professional work experience section for on your CV?
Nope. It’s easy. All boils down to three key strategies. Here they are:
1. Use the Proper Template and Format for the CV Work History
This study by The Ladders found that recruiters spend, on average, just 7 seconds on each CV they get.
Here’s the twist: it applies mostly to CVs that have poor formatting and are difficult to follow.
Legible formatting of your CV work history is key to earning more eye-time.
Here’s what you need to do to present the work experience on a CV the way recruiters expect:
Work Experience on a CV: Layout
1. Name the section “Work Experience,” “Work History,” or “Professional Experience.” Write the section heading in bold and make it slightly larger than the rest of the contents.
2. Use reverse-chronological order. Start with your current or most recent job, follow it with the one before it, and so on.
3. In each entry heading, list, in the following order: your job title, the name of the company, and dates worked.
4. Underneath each job add up to 6 bullet points describing your duties and achievements.
5. At the bottom of each entry add a subsection named “Most relevant accomplishment” or “Key achievement.” Present your proudest professional win.
6. Focus on your most recent work experience. Make your job descriptions briefer and briefer as you go back in time.
2. Make Your CV Job Descriptions Relevant to the Opening
Recruiters don’t care how successful you’ve been so far, in general.
They want to know if you’re familiar with the duties and responsibilities that come with the advertised position.
If there’s just one takeaway I want you to get out of reading this guide, it’s this:
Personalise every work experience entry on your CV to the position you’re trying to land.
Remember Amelia, the candidate from our sample CV job description?
She’s eyeing the Head of Digital Marketing position. Her most recent job has been a managerial role in digital marketing, but—
Before that, she worked as a Product Manager. So, what did she do? In her CV work history, she described responsibilities that were relevant to digital marketing.
Have a look:
Work Experience on a CV: Sample
Don’t get me wrong. The bad example isn’t “bad” as such. It’s just not right for this particular post.
How to make your professional experience CV section relevant?
- Read the job description carefully. Jot down all responsibilities described.
- Ask yourself: how many of these duties and tasks have I performed?
- Quite a few, right? Focus on these when describing your work history.
- For bonus points, pick exact phrases from the job ad and use them on your CV: it will help you outsmart the Applicant Tracking Software (ATS).
Need more in-depth guidance on personalising or tailoring your CV to the job description? Go here: How to Tailor Your CV to the Job Description to Get More Offers
Making a major career change but having actually no relevant experience? See: Career Change CV: How to Make Sure It Land You the Job
Being relevant in your CV job description isn’t just about what you write. It’s also about how far back your CV work experience should go and what you choose to omit.
How many years on a CV work experience section?
- No more than 15 years of relevant work history for senior-level candidates.
- Junior to mid-level candidates? All relevant paid positions and internships you’ve had.
- Entry-level candidates and applicants with no experience whatsoever should list all paid and unpaid work including volunteering, part-time jobs, and practicums.
Expert Hint: If you’re not a seasoned pro yet, make sure to include internships in your CV work experience. Research has shown that internship experience increases the interview rate by 14%.
And is there any sort of work experience you should leave out no matter what?
Yes—and, again, there’s science behind it.
Unless you’re fresh out of university, don’t put low-level interim jobs on your CV. They can hurt your callback rate by as much as 15%.
And, yes, according to the same data, it’s better to leave employment gaps on a CV (no variation in callback rates by the duration of unemployment!) than list interim blue-collar gigs.
You know how to lay out your experience for greatest impact and you’ve learned how to personalise every job description.
Now, for the final part: time to learn how to showcase your strengths, not just everyday responsibilities—
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3. Show How Well You Did Your Job Instead of Just Describing Duties
Some food for thought:
People don’t drink diet Coke because of low calorie. They do it to look better than that coworker they hate at the end-of-year party.
The same goes for employers: they won’t hire, say, an “experienced customer service rep,” a “project manager skilled in Agile and Scrum,” or a “developer with extensive knowledge of PHP and R.”
They’ll go with someone who’ll raise their revenue, cut costs, or optimise processes. In your CV work experience, show them you’re that person.
Provide proof of your achievements, don’t just list your responsibilities and “features.” Focus on benefits for your future employer.
There are three steps:
1. Start each bullet point in your job description with an action verb.
No more “responsible for the development of … .” Go with “developed.”
Use action verbs that highlight your initiative. See the examples below.
CV Action Words for a CV Job Description: Examples
2. Use the Problem-Action-Result (PAR) formula to highlight your achievements.
CV Job Description Sample: PAR Formula
- Designed new phone survey scenarios to enhance customer retention by 32%.
Problem? Phone surveys were bad for customer retention.
Action? So I designed new survey scenarios.
Result? Customer retention raised by 32%.
3. Quantify whenever possible.
Forget about “significantly boosting sales.” Say how much exactly. Demonstrating results with numbers in the work experience on your CV enhances your hireability by 40%.
I know, I know.
Not everyone works with hard numbers and sometimes it’s difficult to measure your results.
But still—there are other ways to back up your performance with quantified data. Here are some useful questions to ask yourself:
- How many people were on your team?
- How many people from other teams did you collaborate with?
- How big were your budgets?
- How often did you perform certain tasks?
- How much work were you able to get done in a week or a month?
- Which kind of skills make you truly stand out from the crowd (for example, you could include outstanding computer and software skills relevant to the position)?
That’s right: answers to these should appear in the job descriptions on your CV.
Expert Hint: “Does a CV need a cover letter?” It certainly does. Just like 83% of hiring managers who admit that a candidate’s cover letter is an important factor when making a hiring decision.
Double your impact with a matching CV and cover letter combo. Use our cover letter builder and make your application documents pop out.
Want to try a different look? There’s 18 more. A single click will give your document a total makeover. Pick a cover letter template here.
Here’s how to write your CV work experience section right:
- Use the proper CV format. List your past jobs in reverse-chronological order. (Reading from outside the US? Check out how to format an American CV).
- Personalise every CV you send.
- Be selective with what you include in the CV and mention only work experience relevant to the job you’re targeting.
- Focus on your achievements instead of responsibilities.
- Use action verbs at the beginning of each bullet point.
- Don't list responsibilities and skills for the job, show it with examples and quantify your key results whenever possible.
All check? Keep your phone charged and ready. You’re in for some job interviews!
Questions? Concerns? I’m here to listen and answer. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll get back to you right away.