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How Far Back Should Your CV Go?

Written by Andrew Arkley

Your curriculum vitae aka “CV” is a document that provides an extensive summary of your experience and skills including your academic background, awards, degrees, research, publications, among other achievements. Typically, this is much lengthier than a resume.

How far back should a CV go?

When you apply for a job, your CV will be one of the first things a recruiter looks at, so it’s important to sell yourself in it as much as you can.

However, knowing what to include and how far back to go can be difficult. While you need to include enough information to convince the employer to hire you, overloading your CV with absolutely everything isn’t necessary.

Your CV should be kept to two pages long at most, and if you have a wealth of work experience or extracurricular activities to squeeze in, you might be wondering whether recruiters really need to know about the first job you ever had.

We’ve come up with some tips to help you decide how far back your CV should go, and which experiences are worth covering.

Listing everything

The traditional CV lists everything from the previous ten years. But as a student, your employment history probably doesn’t extend that far back.

If you’re worried you don’t have enough experience to fill a CV, you may want to list them as headlines. Then provide more detail on your most recent/relative, achievements.

While a Saturday job you held during your studies might not feel relevant, it absolutely is. Think about the skills you gain and highlight them on your CV. Skills such as leadership and management are always important and can be invaluable on a CV. If there’s a position a few years back that demonstrates these abilities, don’t be afraid to include them and briefly explain how you put these skills into action on the job.

Listing relevant experiences 

As a student, you may be concerned that you don’t have direct work experience in the field you’re interested in. However, that shouldn’t deter you from including periods of employment that demonstrate a passion for a particular industry. They likely helped you gain the skills that this specific role demands.

Not sure how to approach your CV?

Make a list of everywhere you worked, including student work placements, voluntary positions and extra-curricular societies you have been part of. Go through and consider how relevant each one is to the job you’re applying for. Think about what the employer is looking for and expand on the positions/experiences in your CV that showcase those skills.  To prevent any gaps, list the rest as headlines without having to go into detail.

Are the qualifications relevant?  

Employers that are looking to recruit people straight from university will want to know about the course you studied and the grades you earned. But what about your other qualifications?

If you’re applying for a job in a specific field, highlight any qualifications over the years that demonstrate your passion for the subject. Find ways to integrate your education’s reflection of that passion through consistently strong grades. Other, less relevant periods of education may be included as succinct headlines.

If the job requires you to know certain software, then list the most recent experience that demonstrates this understanding of technology.

What do your other commitments say about you as a person?

As a student, you might find your extracurricular achievements are more relevant to the role you’re applying for than part-time jobs you’ve held down for years.

Participation in clubs and/or projects can highlight you as serious a serious candidate. It tells the recruiter more about you as a person and potential employee.

Committing to clubs and societies outside of your studies will demonstrate dedication to, and passion for, a certain field. So, compare how important those jobs to your more recent activities.  

Don’t forget LinkedIn

If you’re worried that your CV doesn’t cover every one of your experiences, create or update your LinkedIn page. Eliminate any irrelevant periods of employment from your CV. LinkedIn will show potential employers how you’ve progressed over the years.

In summary…

Think about the job you’re applying for and don’t be afraid to tailor your CV for each different role. While it’s important to avoid any glaring gaps, emphasize the experiences that the recruiter will find most relevant. Looking for more advice while job hunting? Check out these 8 Tools and Resources.


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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.