The standard list of work history we most commonly see on a CV is a list of absolutely everything that person has ever done, including timelines and the usual tasks and responsibilities. But what exactly is the hiring manager going to read and take the most interest in?
A standard list of everything you’ve ever done is not going to impress the reader, and there are much smarter ways of presenting this important information to grab the employer’s attention.
So when it comes to work history, what is the hiring manager most interested in?
Similar and relevant roles
There may be some roles on your list that don’t bear any relevance to the new job you’re applying for, and if this particular experience and the skills you’ve acquired don’t really provide any similarities to the new employer, then they should stay in the background or be removed altogether.
Of course, you don’t want to create a gap in your CV work history, but you might find that your very first job as a waiter 20 years ago isn’t just worth taking up valuable space.
Most recent roles
What you’ve been up to over the past few years and more specifically, what your current or last job was is typically focused upon by the hiring manager. They will be looking for reasons as to why you are jumping ship at your current place, or why you’ve decided to choose them for your next job.
Was your last job in the same industry or was it in a similar role? Does this person have some relevant recent experience, knowledge and skills that they can instantly bring to the table?
It doesn’t matter whether you spent five hours a week consulting, or fifty hours a week. Either way, you can claim consulting as your professional occupation between 20XX and 20XX, and that is a beautiful thing. ~ Liz Ryan, Forbes
Results, stats and promotions
Stats help illustrate the skills that you are claiming to have.
One of the best ways to make your work history stand out is to think outside the box and provide actual stats and results from your previous endeavours. Simply listing the tasks and responsibilities like everybody else is not going to impress, but what is going to make a great impression is by showing the hiring manager what you actually achieved during your time as a Sales Manger, Accountant, Technician or Nurse.
Most hiring managers can guess what tasks you completed during your employment, but what they really want to know is how you performed. Remember that time when you made a change to a process which meant you were able to do your job much quicker? Perfect! That’s the kind of thing the hiring manager is looking for.
Did you ever get promoted within a department? That should also be the focus of your attention, and don’t forget the most important part – why you were promoted! Providing figures is also a great way to impress, and it could be anything from how many cars you sold to the amount of turnover that increased after you made some changes to an internal process.
How your career has progressed and what’s brought you to this point is of huge interest to the hiring manager. Are you someone who has worked their way up the ranks and clearly demonstrates the right path to the new role on offer? Or are you someone who flits around from different job to different job within a few months apart?
This is the kind of information the hiring manager is trying to ascertain from your work history, and ideally they would like to see someone who has a clear direction in what they’ve achieved and what they’re looking to do next.
If you’re in a middle or senior role, your employer-to-be doesn’t need to know that you rolled ice creams after school. Nor do you want to miss an opportunity. They might lose concentration if your CV is more than three pages long and filled with your hokey pokey past life. ~ Penni Hlaca, Stellar Recruitment
Q: But what if I’m short on work experience?
If your problem is that you have very little relevant work experience, have a listen to this video and review our guide on building work experience here.