Employment history and qualifications

Previously, I talked about the Profile and Key Skills sections. Now we need to follow this up with the Employment History and Qualifications sections, which will provide evidence of how our key skills are put into practice.

For each of your jobs, include the company name and address, your job title, and dates of employment. Start with the most recent job first. Then list your responsibilities in bullet point format, making it clear and concise. Employers want to be able to see if you demonstrate the essential criteria for the role on the first page of your CV.

Describe your career history in terms of achievements. For each job, and particularly for your most recent roles, demonstrate what makes you stand out from other applicants. Remember to use the same or similar key words and phrases from the advertisement – but don’t copy sentences/plagiarise direct from job spec – employers will notice!

Most of us have difficulty selling our skills. But you will be up against a lot of other applicants, so it is important to show exactly what the employer is looking for in a clear, concise manner, without overselling. Here are some pointers to note when you are thinking about your achievements.

• What have you done over and above the job description?
• Where have you gone the extra mile?
• Where have you demonstrated flexibility, creative thinking or innovation?
• What projects have you been involved in and what was your contribution to the outcome?
• What problems did you solve?

Examples of these could be “implemented a new filing system, which resulted in correspondence being found more quickly.” Or “worked late for a week to meet a project deadline which had been changed at short notice.” Or “devised a new stock system for the shop, resulting in reduced wastage.”

Also include facts and figures, the more specific detail you can include (and the less waffle) the better. For example:
• Costs, percentage improvements, key performance indicators met, targets met, costs saved, etc. “Increased sales turnover by 42% against a target of 35%, which made us the highest performer out of 7 teams” is much more effective than “excellent sales management skills”.

It is important not to reveal confidential information in your application. If you are mentioning specific projects that are still ongoing, or have not been publicly announced, do not name any company/client names.

And remember to include voluntary work/internships/placements. Just because you don’t get paid for it, doesn’t mean it is not relevant.

So, as you can see, it doesn’t have to be a long rambling statement, filled with numbers and big words. Use plain English and concise bullet points, backed up with examples and achievements of your roles and skills.

The qualification section can come before the employment history or after, it really is a personal preference. I would advise, if you are a recent graduate or school leaver, to put this before employment history as you may have more academic than employment experience. Include your most recent qualifications first, along with any membership of professional bodies and relevant training courses. If you have gained a qualification a while ago, and it is no longer relevant, don’t include it. Employers don’t care if you gained an ‘O’ Grade in Home Economics in 1985, if you are applying for a position as retail manager. Be sensible.

Always include a cover letter, for both postal and email applications. Cover letters will be discussed in a later column.

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