Cv Breakdown - Writing up Your Past Work Experience - Part 2 - Responsibilities
In part 2 of our CV work experience advice series we're looking at responsibilities. Your first proper chance to sell yourself and see if you can get a recruiter to take note.
Your responsibilities on the job and what the recruiter is looking for.
Employers aren't looking for a long list of every single responsibility you held in your previous roles, they're usually very busy people and potentially have hundreds of other applicants to sift through and don't have time to read the potentially dozens of responsibilities you had (even if you are incredibly proud of the fact that you can make an excellent cup of tea).
Nor do they want a boring list of "I did X for 10 years then Y for 5 years", or a list of responsibilities they could just guess from your job description. For example, it's going to be obvious that if you've been a teacher for 10 years you're going to have lesson planning as a responsibility.
Recruiters want to know exactly what you learned from these responsibilities, what abilities you have gained as a result and exactly how you're going to help them with those skills.
What to write
First, keep it relevant to the job you're applying to. This is going to take a little bit of extra work as (much like a good personal statement) it's going to require you to tailor your CV work experience to each specific role. While this might be time consuming at first, it can pay dividends in the long run as it shows employers you've read the job description and have taken the time to specifically show how your responsibilities relate directly to what they're looking for.
Document those specific activities that you undertook each day that made you successful in your position and match it back to something in the employers job description. If you can, try and mirror some of the key words they've used too.
How you should write them
The easiest way to document your responsibilities is to bullet point them. Its helps the recruiter scan quickly through a list and see if they're relevant. You should also try to quantify your responsibilities and achievements where possible, if you've got the numbers to back up a claim then add these in. So rather than "lesson planning" as we noted above, write how many different types of lessons you've planned across the number of year groups and finish with the abilities you have gained as a result.
If you also have a lot of prior work experience try not to repeat the same responsibilities in each job you list too. Try to spread as wide a range of responsibilities across all of your different roles as you can. However, if an employer has really highlighted one specific skill or responsibility as being of critical importance to them, then feel free to highlight how you've been able to meet this across your whole career and include it in with each job.
Most importantly though, keep them short. Each bullet point should provide a quick but useful insight into the abilities gained through your responsibilities.
How long should this section be?
This can be a balancing act and can really depend on how many jobs you've had in the past. If you go too short, say just one or two bullet points per role, and an employer is going to think you've not put in the effort in or didn't really learn anything in your previous roles. Too long though, anything more than 10, and you might put the employer off reading on.
We'd say anywhere between 3 to 7 responsibilities per job is a good number to initially aim for, but it can be very tough to judge. Some jobs you apply for might have a whole host of responsibilities they want you to evidence while others are looking to keep it simple.
Another good general guideline to follow is the more jobs you've had, the fewer responsibilities you need to list. If you've only had one or two roles in your career though, go ahead and bump up your responsibilities.
Always ask a friend to read over your CV first. Not only is this great for help with proofreading but they'll be able to tell you if it feels too long or short. Remember, you can always experiment across different job applications and try out longer and shorter versions to see what works for you too.