CVs and Resumes: The Professional CV Writer's Viewpoint: Structuring your Employment History for Efficient Spacing
Strategically Managing Your Employment History on Your CV
Copyright © 2005-2012. Margit Selvey, MSc
Are you worried that your CV may be too long or unfocused?
Here is a strategy I use in my work with clients to create greater efficiency of space on the CV.
Why is efficiency of space important? Because, unless you have one employer and one job title, listing your employment history strictly by dates, employers and description of responsibilities can result with a CV that:
- may be boring
- is too repetitive
- is too long
- does not reflect your current goals
All of the above factors could work against you in the paper screening.
Doing the following exercise should help clarify how to apply my strategy for structuring your information.
First, have a few pieces of paper and pencil handy.
Now write down your employment history. Start with your most recent employer and go backwards in time. Write the dates, names of the companies, job titles, and a brief summary of what you did for each of those jobs that you held with each of those employers within those time periods.
June 2005 to Present
ABC Company. Title: Account Manager
Responsibilities include: Liaising between customers and product delivery team, keeping records on company database to track customer orders and renewal dates for subscriptions, solving customer satisfaction issues, presenting and selling new products and service contracts to existing customers.
After you have finished writing out your employment history, set this aside for the moment.
General CV writing reminder: It is important that the information on your CV is strategically ordered to immediately capture the interest of the prospective employer(s). To be strategically ordered means that the information flows in such a way that it creates a match between what both you and your prospective employer are looking for. It is vital to ensure that the majority of the information you include is relevant to the job in question. Non-relevant information can distract from the focus and water down the impact of your true, relevant experience for the company or the particular position.
When working with a client, I find that the only way to know how to strategically order the information on the CV is to get a picture of the client’s experience over time paired with their current goals. Even if I know their current goals, I would never try to guess how the CV should be structured until I have their total employment history in front of me.
CATEGORIES OF EMPLOYMENT HISTORY
To help me in this process, I have broken down the information that goes into employment history into four categories based on number of employers and job or job type. Understanding the following breakdown is the first step toward helping you know which format to apply to your employment history.
The History Category breakdown is based on the following;
NUMBER OF EMPLOYERS AND JOB OR JOB TYPE
A job type can be the same job title or different title as long as the activities and responsibilities are basically the same.
History Category 1 (One employer / One Job Type): This is having the same job with only one employer throughout the time you have been employed. For example, this could be a student whose first and only job has been working in a retail store as a sales associate.
History Category 2 (One Employer / Multiple Job Types): This is having one employer but having more than one job with that employer. For example, similar to the above, it could be someone whose first job was being employed as a sales associate in a retail store but then the person was promoted to be an assistant manager or manager for the same retail store or chain.
History Category 3 (Multiple Employers / One Job Type): This is doing the same job for different employers. For example, this could be someone who was employed as a sales associate for one retail store and then left that job to become employed as a sales assistant for another retail store. The position title changed to assistant rather than associate but it is still doing basically the same type of work.
History Category 4 (Multiple Employers / Multiple Job Types): This is where a person has sequentially worked for different employers doing different jobs. An example is someone for whom their first job was as a sales associate in a retail store while in college. They are then hired as a sales representative for a software company after graduation. They were then later hired as a business development manager for a communications company, etc.
Now, go back to your employment history and determine which employment history category the majority of your history represents.
Then, under the job descriptions you have listed for each of the jobs, highlight where the job descriptions are the same or similar to others.
Again, set this aside, we will come back to this in a moment.
EMPLOYMENT HISTORY CATEGORY 1
An employment history falling into Category 1 may seem to be a pretty straightforward listing. To ensure that you are selling yourself to your next employer as effectively as possible, it might be useful to not just list the employer and your responsibilities but also highlight training you received, any recognition you were awarded, any additional responsibilities you were given and aspects of your work that were notable such as your ability to work with your team members and provide exceptional customer service, etc.
EMPLOYMENT HISTORY CATEGORY 2
To save repetition, you would list the employer once and the dates of your entire time with your employer followed by a brief summary of your experience with the company. You should list the job titles you held and dates in parentheses below the summary and indented. See the example below:
A Retail Store, London. 1999-Present
Hired in 1999 as a part-time Sales Assistant while completing degree at university. Achieved continuous recognition and promotions due to proven reliability, perfect attendance record, top sales and delivery of excellent customer service.
Area Manager (2006 to Present)
Here you would list responsibilities and achievements
Store Manager (2004 to 2006)
Again, list responsibilities and achievements
Assistant Manager (2001 to 2004)
Again, list responsibilities and achievements
Sales Assistant (1999 to 2001)
Again, list responsibilities and achievements
EMPLOYMENT HISTORY CATEGORY 3
This is one of the categories which I often find my clients, in writing their own CVs, have unnecessarily lengthened their CVs with repetition. The way I manage this situation is to use the Job Type as the header followed by a bullet point job description which would be made up of the tasks that were similar in each of the positions (these are the ones you would have highlighted if your employment history falls into this category).
Under this, you would list the employers where you did this job type, along with any recognition (employee of the month, sales volume, etc) you achieved at those employers.
See the example below:
Retail Sales. 1999-Present
- Serving as product expert, assisting customers with their selections.
- Managing customer accounts, contacting customers to advise of special events and offers.
- Keeping track of inventory and merchandise preferences, suggesting new merchandise based on trends.
- Processing customer payments and balancing cash drawer at closing.
Retail Store 4, London (2006 to Present)
Awarded Employee of the Month for January 2007 and March 2009
Retail Store 3, Milton Keynes (2004 to 2006)
Promoted to Head Assistant in May 2005, responsible for training new assistants
Retail Store 2,Luton (2001 to 2004)
Selected as member of the opening team for new store
Retail Store 1, Milton Keynes (1999 to 2001)
Worked part-time while attending college
EMPLOYMENT HISTORY CATEGORY 4
This can be the trickiest category of all because with completely different job types and different employers, it is very difficult to do anything but list them all. However, there is a strategy that I use which may not apply in all cases but hopefully, it will give you some ideas for what to do with your information if this is the situation you are in.
Keep in mind that CVs generally should not go back more than 10 years. Your prospective employers are most interested in what you have been doing in the last five years.
Next, it is important to recognise which job in your employment history has the most in common with the job that you are applying for. This is the one on which you want to put the most emphasis.
There are two headings which I sometimes use in this situation that help to keep the length down and the focus on your relevant experience.
“RELEVANT EXPERIENCE” and “OTHER EMPLOYMENT HISTORY”
Under “Relevant Experience”, you would replace the word “Relevant” with the relevant job type that you have done and then list the jobs with descriptions (responsibilities and achievements) which are most relevant to the job to which you are applying.
Under “Other Employment History”, you would list only the date, employer, and job title to show that you were working but the experience is not relevant to the job in question.
See the example below of someone who is going for a job in account management but had only one job as an account manager. The heading for this section is "Account Management Experience". Below that is the "Other Employment History" listing the part-time retail jobs held while going to college.
ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT EXPERIENCE
Account Manager. ABC COMPANY, London. 2008 to Present
- Liaising between customers and product delivery team, expediting orders as required.
- Keeping records on company database to track customer orders and renewal dates for subscriptions.
- Solving customer satisfaction issues
- Presenting and selling new products and service contracts to existing customers.
OTHER EMPLOYMENT HISTORY
Part-time Sales Associate. Retail Store 4, London (2006 to 2008)
Part-time Sales Assistant. Retail Store 3, Milton Keynes (2004 to 2006)
Part-time Sales Associate. Retail Store 2,Luton (2001 to 2004)
Part-time Sales Associate. Retail Store 1, Milton Keynes (1999 to 2001)
These are just rough guidelines which will hopefully provide a context for how to list your employment history. It may even inspire some ideas of your own for how to manage your unique information. Please feel free to ask a question or contact me for clarification on any of the above.
For more advice on writing your resume/CV, please see the links below:
Is your CV the right length? How do you know? Click here to find out:
Are you looking to change careers?
If so, Click here for advice on how to reflect your new goals on your resume/CV without losing its impact with prospective employers.
When is it Okay to Revise and Resubmit?
Sometimes you realise afterwards that the CV you sent may not have said what it needed to.Click here for guidelines as to when it is adviseable to revise and resubmit.
How do you know how long your Resume/CV should be?
Ensuring your resume/CV is the right length is an important part of successfully getting through the selection process.Click here for some guidelines to determine how long your resume/CV should be.
Should your Resume/CV be chronological or functional or both?
Click here for advice on determining whether your CV should be chronological, functional or a combination of both.
Is your Resume/CV not getting the responses you would like?
Click here for advice on how to diagnose an ineffective resume/CV.