Everything you need to know about this crucial part of your CV

When you're writing a CV, it's likely that you'll dedicate most space to your work experience. After all, that's the main message of the document! But why is it important, what should you include, and how should you present it? There's a lot to consider, so read on to find out how to write your professional experience on your CV – and importantly, what to avoid. 

What is professional experience?

What exactly is considered professional experience? For the purposes of a CV, you can include any experience that has enabled you to acquire work-related skills. If you've been employed for years, you'll probably have several jobs that you can include in this section. But for those just starting out in their careers, it may be necessary to add unpaid work, work experience, and internships to show that you have the skills, attitude, and experience necessary to thrive in a new role.

Why is professional experience important on a CV?

Work experience is key on a CV because it enables employers to understand what you've done, where your skills lie, and whether you're likely to be a good fit for their role. After all, if you've excelled in similar roles, or demonstrated some in-demand skills, then you're more likely to succeed than someone who hasn't.

Therefore, when you list professional experience on your CV, it's vital that you align your experience with the requirements of the vacancy and show how you've excelled, so that it's immediately obvious that you're the right person for the job.

How do you write professional experience on your CV?

As professional experience is such an important component of your CV, you need to list it in a way that makes it easy for employers to understand your career trajectory at a glance. It's generally advised that you write in reverse-chronological order, with your most recent experience first. You should also bear the following guidelines in mind when you list professional experience on your CV:

1. Write a section heading and outline your roles

Start the section with a clear heading, in the same style as the other headers on your CV. You can call this section “Professional Experience,” “Professional Summary,” “Career Summary,” or similar. Then, every role should have its own subheading, including:

  • Job title

  • Name of employer

  • Dates of employment (just the month and year is sufficient – or even just year only)

You may also like to add whether the job was a temporary or short term-contract, and the country you were based in, if you've relocated.  

2. Describe each role

Identify the main remit and scope of each listed role, and lead with that. For example, a warehouse manager might start with “Leading a team of 20 staff and controlling an annual budget of £1million to achieve efficient, cost-effective operations across 2 warehouses.”

Expert tip: Quantifywhatever you can – this makes it much easier for a potential employer to understand the scope, level, and output of your roles. 

Then, have a think about the main responsibilities of your role and briefly explain them. If you're finding that you're writing too much, focus on the elements that you particularly enjoy and that you'd want to take forward into a new role, as well as keywords from the advert for your target role.

If you're struggling for something to write, take a look at your original job description and relevant LinkedIn profiles, for inspiration.

As a very general guideline, 4-6 sentences or bullet points should be plenty to give the employer a flavour of your role. Remember that there's no need to include every little detail!

3. List your achievements 

Next, you'll need to add some achievements. Achievements are a very important part of your professional experience and it's vital that you list them on your CV. Ideally, you should add a list of achievements to every role in the Professional Experience section to show a strong record of success throughout your career.

4. Ensure use of well-considered wording

For your current role, write in the present tense, and for all other roles write in the past tense. It's standard practice for CVs to be written in the silent third person – for example “Selling high-end cars,” rather than “I sell high-end cars.”

Try to echo the keywords used in the job advert wherever possible, particularly with regards to hard and soft skills, and use dynamic vocabulary such as “delivered,” “increased,” “reduced,” and so on. By starting each sentence or bullet with a verb, you'll immediately be showing your contribution and your value. 

Obviously, you'll make the effort to avoid typos and mistakesby using a spellcheck and asking a trusted friend or colleague to read it through when you're done. 

5. Format for first-class presentation

The professional experience on your CV should be easy for the hiring manager to read. Like the rest of your CV, that means a sensibly-sized, sans serif font, well-spaced text, and consistency. You may choose to present your experience as several bullet points, or alternatively make your achievements pop by writing your experience as a short paragraph and bulleting only your achievements.

What to avoid

So now you know what you should do, what should you avoid when you list professional experience on your CV?

  • Repetition: Don't repeat the same word over and over, such as “responsible for this, responsible for that” or “managed this, managed that.” Use a variety of vocabulary to make your CV more interesting to read and to show off your excellent writing skills.

  • Irrelevance: Don't get bogged down in so much detail that your main selling points get drowned out!

  • Wordiness: Recruiters don't have unlimited time, so if you can say something in fewer words, then do so. Concise and punchy wins out over waffles every time.

  • Ancient history: Recruiters are most interested in what you've done recently; that's likely to be where your most developed skills and high-level experience are to be found. If your professional experience extends over more than 10 years, you can save yourself and the hiring manager some time by simply summarising your earlier career

  • Reason for leaving: It's not necessary to include a reason for leaving on your CV any more, simply because it doesn't sell you – especially if you were fired! It's a normal part of life to move on from jobs and, if the hiring manager desperately needs to know, they'll ask in the interview. 

Is volunteering professional experience?

You can definitely count volunteering as professional experience on your CV; a role doesn't need to be paid for you to acquire valuable skills. Depending on where you're at in your career, you may choose to give your voluntary experience more or less prominence. For example, a teenager may need to write a CV where volunteering comprises the bulk of their experience, but a senior executive may give it just one line – or even not mention it at all. The weight you give to volunteering depends on how relevant it is to your next steps, so it will vary from CV to CV.

Professional experience on your CV: examples

Take a look at our work experience examples, to inspire your own CV.

Example 1

Firstly, here's an example of how an experienced professional could present a role:

Operations Manager                                                                                      

Public Transport Co Ltd

Feb 2024 - date

  • Leading and training a team of 550 staff across 2 garages and controlling a budget of £10million

  • Steering operational and financial performance to achieve customer and contractual requirements

  • Developing operational strategy, implementation plans and risk management controls

  • Facilitating regular KPI reviews to identify areas for improvement

Key achievements

  • Influenced the team to improve their efficiency by 45% by providing constructive feedback, sharing information, setting objectives, and conducting reviews

  • Challenged standard processes during a national driver shortage, developing innovative ideas including open days, job centre outreach, and social media promotion to recruit 80 new staff

  • Resolved disputes in a unionised environment, including overcoming objections to contract changes and enabling flexible working to support staff retention

  • Secured five-star results following a recent audit and implemented further improvements based on feedback

Example 2

Next, a recent graduate might present their voluntary work like this:

Student Ambassador (voluntary)                                                     

London University

Sep 2022 – Jun 2023

Acted as the first point of contact for guests. Responded to visitor enquiries regarding university life and entry requirements. Proactively welcomed and engaged with every visitor and delivered tours and presentations. Contributed as a key member of the team.

Key achievements

  • Positively represented the university during open days and influenced visitors to apply for courses

  • Supported and reassured students having trouble settling in and signposted them to further help

  • Successfully located missing international students, remaining calm under pressure

Of course, if you're looking for your first-ever role, you may feel like you have nothing to add in the Professional Experience section of your CV. In that case, you could use your work experience in a CV – hopefully you did a week or two as a student in year 10 or year 12. 

Example 3

Office Assistant (work experience placement)


April 2022

Completed work experience in the offices of a healthcare company. Shadowed a Helpdesk Engineer and also carried out troubleshooting independently. Acquired valuable insight into helpdesk operations and customer service. 

  • Maintained a perfect record of attendance and punctuality 

  • Resolved several technical problems without supervision

  • Received positive feedback for contributing as a helpful and willing member of the team

You could also use informal jobs, such as washing cars, babysitting, or sharing your technical expertise to help others. When you're light on professional experience on your CV, it's important that you show your skills and proficiencies in other ways – such as by including personal projects, hobbies and interests, or courses and qualifications. 

Time to make a strong impression!

Now you know how to present your professional experience on your CV, you'll be able to craft an impactful, memorable document and your dream job is much closer to becoming a reality.

Of course, if you'd rather spend your time job hunting, honing your interview technique, or simply binge-watching that new series, you can outsource your CV to the experts! Submit your CV now for a free review – or even get our professional team to write it for you!

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