What you should (and should not) include in your CV

15 August 2019

If, like me, you have had a long career, spanning very different professions, each with their own career progression markers, it can be a daunting prospect writing a CV. Many people struggle knowing what to include and what to leave out. As a rule of thumb, the last 15 years are likely to be the most relevant to your current situation and even then tailoring your CV is absolutely key.

Why only including the last 15 years in your CV could be a good idea

In my experience, when readers (recruiters or hiring managers) start learning about roles that happened more than 15 years ago, and they look at the dates associated with them, their face crumples into a wry ponder and unwittingly they ask themselves questions like “Is this person really relevant to this role?”, “I wonder how old this person is?” or “I wonder how old their children are?” Rather than an intentional age discrimination issue, it is likely to be a question that is a result of an unconscious bias taking place. But whether we like it or not, older experienced workers may be victims of this sort of bias. Given that people are working well into their 60s and beyond, and are likely to have changed career at least once, limiting the detail on your CV to the last 15 years is a good move. You should look to remove barriers to being hired from the outset by making your CV relevant.

If you need to show more than 15 years on your CV because earlier roles show a range of experience that is transferable, or because it adds additional credibility to who you are and how you have risen up the ranks in more than one career, or you want to showcase some skills that otherwise would not be shown, then including a section called ‘Other Professional Experience’ or ‘Earlier Experience’ works really well.  This shows continuity of employment without detracting from the main thrust of your CV. This can also work really well if you have some big names on your CV but older or shorter experience.

You may choose to include dates for the ‘Other Professional Experience’ section or simply remove them to let the roles and experience speak for itself. Algorithms in the Applicant Tracking System may however not pick up on you if dates are missed, so you may choose to use a date that is from and to in terms of years.

5 tips to make your CV stand out

  1. When deciding what to include in your CV, my advice is to think about the story you are trying to tell, and which roles and experience will tell that story best for the job you are applying for.
  2. Don’t list your role outline, or just your responsibilities. Your title should speak for itself and one major achievement in ‘Other Professional Experience’ is enough to get your skills across in this section.
  3. Does each achievement punch its weight? Are you repeating yourself and stating the same experience between your different roles?
  4. If a point is really relevant from the ‘Other Professional Experience’ section, make sure you mention it in your personal profile. For example: A Consultant with 15 years’ experience in building a successful client portfolio across the energy sector and with earlier experience in FTSE 20 companies at Director level, responsible for leading a business unit.
  5.  LinkedIn should be focused on your current situation and you can leave individual dates out for your earlier professional experience and group roles.

Remember that recruiters typically spend 8 seconds glancing at your CV before taking a further look. You need to make sure your CV is the one that is top of the pile for the role you want.

If your CV secures you an interview, make sure you read our top ten tips to help you stand out and secure the job.

For more support with any career-related issue, please don't hesitate to contact the WBS CareersPlus team via careersplus@wbs.ac.uk or alumnicareers@wbs.ac.uk for alumni.