What experience should you include on your CV (with templates)
Here’s what to include, and what to cut out.
Last updated: 13 March 2023
What you’ll learn:
- What experience to include on your CV, depending on your career stage
- How long a CV should be in NZ
- How to list education on your CV
One of the great challenges when writing a CV is knowing exactly what to include. You need to strike a balance between showcasing both the breadth and depth of your experience, all while ensuring you’re writing well and not including too much detail.
So, what do employers want to see from your CV, how long should it be, and how much do they care about your education? We’ll answer all of these questions and more below.
Note: this article isn’t going to explain what to include in all aspects of your CV. We’ll be focussing on experience – i.e. your education and employment history, so other elements, such as your personal statement, won’t be included here.
How long should a CV be in New Zealand?
New Zealand CVs should be no longer than two pages. However, without sacrificing too much detail, you should be trying to keep your CV as short as you possibly can.
This is because hiring managers and recruiters are incredibly busy people, so if you hand them a short novel in response to their job advert, chances are they aren’t going to read it all. Or, if they’re really under the pump, they might take one look at its length and decide they aren’t going to tackle it at all.
The main trick to keeping your CV on the shorter side is to use bullet points. Unlike your cover letter, where you should write in full sentences, it’s not only acceptable to use bullet points in your CV, it’s very much the norm. While you still need to make a conscious effort to keep your wording concise, you’ll likely find that using bullet points will help you keep to the point. To get an idea of how this works in practice, check out the formatting in our free NZ CV templates.
What experience should you include on your CV?
Below, we’ll look at how the experience you include on your CV will change as you move through your career. Your CV is a living document, and you should aim to keep it up to date at all stages of your professional life.
One element we’d recommend including on your CV regardless of your career stage is a section entitled something like “Certificates and skills”. This can include any additional qualifications or competencies you’ve gained in your own time, so you can showcase them to prospective employers.
1. High school/university student or graduate
At this stage, you’re just starting out in your career, so your CV is probably quite light on employment experience. But don’t stress, you can still make a great CV without heaps of experience under your belt. Here’s what you should be highlighting:
The CVs you write in the earliest stages of your career will include the most detail about your education, which will usually become less important as you progress (except for in specific professions such as academia, medicine and law).
As a high school or college student/recent graduate, in the education section of your CV, you should include:
- Institutions: the name of your university and/or school, and where it is.
- Attendance years: how long you were at each institution for.
- Grades: include the grades you attained at NCEA Level 1, Level 3 and university, depending on how far you went with education.
- Awards or academic recognition: if you received any awards or special recognition, include this along with a few details as to what it was for.
- Subjects: university graduates will, of course, need to list your degree programme. We also recommend including your NCEA subjects, along with their grades.
- Independent projects: if you’ve done something along the lines of a thesis, dissertation or independent research project, this looks great. It shows employers you can meet deadlines, work independently and manage your time. Provide some details about what the project involved, and the outcomes you achieved – for example, a grade or details of an oral presentation.
- Relevant extracurricular info: involved in sports teams, clubs or committees? This is all useful info to include, as it shows you didn’t turn up to school to do the bare minimum.
There are plenty of relevant things to put on your CV, even if you've never had a job before.
Employment or internships (including work experience):
If you have already gotten some real world employment experience – ka pai! This is what your CV will ultimately mostly consist of, so it’s great to have something on there already. The same is true of work experience and internships, even if they were unpaid. From a prospective employer’s perspective, what matters is that you’ve had experience of what it’s like to be in a real working environment, not whether you were paid to be there. The core info to include is:
- The role and the employer: who you were working for, and your specific position.
- The dates: how long you worked there.
- Professional certifications: if you gained professional certifications as part of a specific role, include them under that position.
- Your core responsibilities: what you did in your role. Cherry pick the responsibilities that best match the desired skills and experience the employer has included in their job listing. Bonus tip: if you can, include some specific facts and figures that demonstrate the impact you had. For example, a 10% increase in sales.
This is another element you can include that will help to beef up a CV at a stage where you’re unlikely to have heaps of professional experience.
You should lay out any volunteer experience in the same format as a professional role or internship, but make it clear that it was a voluntary position.
2. Early career stage professionals
So, you’ve got a few jobs under your belt, but you’d still say you’re in the early stages of your career. Already, however, you’ll see the emphasis of your CV start to shift.
Most of the above still applies, and you still need to provide the employer with details of:
- The institutions you attended: names and locations.
- Attendance years: when you were there.
- Grades: we advise cutting these down to just include your highest level of education For example, if you went to university, just provide your university GPA, and lose the details of your NCEA qualifications.
Apart from tertiary level qualifications, you don’t need to include details of the subjects you studied on your CV, your grades will be sufficient.
Similarly, unless you’re going for a job where you think it will be particularly relevant, you can afford to lose information about specific projects, extracurricular activities and academic awards.
Once you've got a few jobs under your belt, the emphasis on your CV will shift towards employment experience.
This won’t change much, except that you’ll have more real work experience to include. You’ll still need to include the same things:
- Role and employer
- Dates of tenure
- Professional certifications (if applicable)
- Core responsibilities
It’s important not only to update your CV with new jobs at new employers, but also to ensure that you include additional responsibilities or experiences you gain within existing roles as you go along. Make sure you also update your Trade Me Jobs profile at the same time so that employers can contact you with roles that match your skills and experience.
Also, ensure your CV really reflects what you want the employer to know about you. For example, if you're keen for your next career move to involve managing others, include details of how you’ve had exposure to this in the past, for example by taking the lead on individual projects or portfolios.
As before, make sure to include tangible examples of how you’ve made an impact in previous roles in helping former employers achieve their objectives.
Volunteer experience is still very relevant at this stage of your career, as it is at all stages. However, rather than including this mixed in with your employment experience, you might want to consider creating a separate section specifically for these positions as your CV gets more crowded.
3. Mid - advanced career stage professionals
You're well-established in your career now, and likely experienced in writing CVs. However, if you’re looking for a quick refresher about what to include on your CV, we advise the following:
Here, unless you’re working in specific professions where education really matters, the education sector of your CV should be really paired back to the basics. Institution, dates and grades are all you need to include.
Indeed, if you went to university, you no longer need to include details of your school level institutes or grades.
Nothing really changes here, except the actual substance. The format (role, employer, tenure dates, core responsibilities) stays the same, but you need to show the prospective employer how you’ve continued to grow as a professional through your achievements and the positive impacts you’ve had in previous workplaces.
Even at advanced stages of your career, voluntary experience is a great thing to include on your CV.
Indeed, the fact that you’ve stuck to giving up your time, even when you don’t need to beef up your CV shows your passion for the cause(s) you’re involved with, which helps the employer get to know you as a person.
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