When hiring managers spend increasingly less time reading CVs, you need to join up the dots for them and quickly demonstrate that you’re a strong candidate. This isn’t too difficult if you’re applying for a similar role or in the same sector, but it’s more challenging if you’ve had a number of different jobs, if you’re changing career, or if you’re going back to a role or sector you previously worked in.
Here are some ways you can make sense of diverse experience:
Tailor your CV to the role
Your CV should not be a list of everything you’ve done. It’s purpose is to position you for the role, so decide what’s most important and delete unimportant details.
You might need to refocus your history to make it more appropriate. For example, if your previous job was in administration, with additional sales responsibilities, and you now want to move into sales, you can write in your experience section “administrative assistant with special responsibility for sales” and highlight your sales work and related achievements over the administration duties.
Focus on the wider themes of your career history
Go beyond the job titles and think about what you have consistently done well throughout your career. Have you always excelled at leading teams, helping people, increasing customer satisfaction, promoting a product or cause, for example? You can use this information to help build your brand and to strengthen your skills section.
By looking back over your career, you can probably find patterns of achievements or types of roles where you’ve made the strongest impact. These patterns help you clarify your brand — the qualities and career strengths that differentiate you and bring value to an organisation. Focus on these strengths when you write your CV and include career achievements that illustrate them.
A one-sentence branding statement under your CV heading (the job title that you’re applying for) and a three to five-sentence career summary or professional profile also help to communicate your brand and immediately appeal to an employer.
Some skills (such as communication, organisation and leadership skills) are useful in all roles. Highlight these, especially if you need to compensate for a sketchy experience section.
This example is a reply to a question on the forums where the poster was asking how someone with a varied career can identify a specialism:
“Separate your skills into different categories; financial and budgetary, marketing and customer service, project management, technical and so on. For each skill area, think of one example to illustrate. What programs are you an expert at in web design? What sort of marketing have you been able to do on a restricted budget? And so on. The job description will give you a good indication of what skills and abilities they most want to see.”
Reorganise your work history
Rather than sticking to a strict reverse chronological sequence listing every job from the most recent to the last, group your experience under different headings. You can divide your career history by functions (marketing or sales, for example), or by industry (publishing or advertising, for example) depending on what’s most important from the job description, or what your strongest selling points are.
If you’ve had a series of short-term jobs — like this person in the forum — you can also group by time-frame.
Here’s a snippet of the advice:
“It’s a good idea to group together related short-term work experience. You can do it by time-frame (grouping together your nine months’ experience) or you could do it by theme. For example, all your copywriting/editing/journalism experience in one section (the first section in your work history, if you’re now applying for communications roles) and all your TV production experience in a different, second section.
“How you slice and dice your work experience is going to depend on what the job you apply for requires, so you can be flexible in how you present this information. Have a look at the job advert and work out what’s most important, then make sure this is prominent on your CV.
“Given that the length of time you spent in these most recent roles has been short, try and focus on what you achieved. Do you have any samples of your work you can point to — such as links to articles and content online? Can you beef up your CV with a couple of testimonials?”
Employers generally want to see reverse chronology, but if you’re returning to a sector you worked in previously, select a couple of achievements from this period and put them in a key achievements or career highlights section before your experience section — without including the dates. It doesn’t hide the fact that your most recent experience isn’t the most relevant, but it does show a successful track record in your targeted industry.
Originally published here: https://jobs.theguardian.com/article/dealing-with-a-diverse-work-history-on-your-cv/