On Wannabe Hacks: Can you ever have too much work experience on your CV?

If you ever feel like you haven’t got enough to worry about when trying to cram as much experience on to your CV as you can, here’s a gift: apparently TOO MUCH EXPERIENCE is yet another thing which can consign you to the jobless heap. Adam Shookhye poses the question on Wannabe Hacks…can you ever have too much on your CV?

“Adam, you have a lot of work experience on your CV but no paid work. Is that because you are shit?”

I’ll be frank with you readers; I wasn’t expecting a prospective employer to be so blunt in a face-to-face interview. Especially because I was wearing my ‘I-mean-business’ blazer. And yet there was something extremely refreshing about this question.

Companies tend to be polite but non-committal about future jobs. I am sure you have a couple of these responses in your inbox:

“We have nothing at the moment but I will let you when something comes up.” A popular response amongst employers. It reminds of me that hot girl/guy at school who would never date you in a million years but just keep you hanging. And if they do get back you, you literally explode.

“Check our website for our vacancies.” Good place to start but lots of jobs are advertised internally first so I like to try my luck by emailing employers directly.

“…” No response at all. And yet they seem to be so active on Twitter…

And so to be asked if I was shit was a first. Direct but honest. Granted it was slightly tongue-in-cheek and I was asked back but it did make me wonder:  Can you ever have too much work experience on your CV?

SELECT YOUR BEST

Andy Thomson, News Editor at ITV Anglia, recognises the difficulty job-seeking journalists face. “Having too much work experience on a CV can work against you,” he says. “Put in two or three of the best and be ready to talk about what you did and what you learnt.

“A long list will, at best, blur the impact and could give the impression of someone who can’t land a job, most certainly unfair though that is.”

To me, it makes sense that paid work and freelance shifts can be looked upon more favourably than work experience. It shows employers acknowledge your skills and are willing to pay you for it. If you don’t have paid shifts, always play to your strengths by picking your most impressive placements where you actually did things and weren’t on tea duty for the week.

KEEP IT RELEVANT

Tim Humphrey, News Editor at Heart Radio in Sussex, Surrey and Kent says that relevancy is key, “I don’t think you can have too much work experience in itself but if there is a long list with NO paid work it may send out a warning signal (Hmm, this candidate has been to a lot of places but none have thought enough of them to give them some paid work.)”

“If you are applying for a broadcast journalist job at Heart, then there’s no point telling me about your three weeks at Flower Arrangement Monthly!” He says. “Just stick to what’s relevant to the job you are applying for”.

This perspective is also echoed by Jonathan RichardsDuty Editor at BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat, ”Writing down every single day you’ve spent with every single organisation will soon turn your CV into a mess, and a long one at that,” Jonathan says. “It may be important to you but it’s not vital to include everything so be selective. A good CV is a concise one”

The skills you learn on placements can be useful. But that doesn’t mean they are relevant to every job out there. I have done placements at both print and broadcasting companies. And so when I have applied for broadcasting jobs, I tend to put my best broadcasting placements and minimal print placements – but only if the skills at the print placements are directly transferable to the job.

ALL EMPLOYERS ARE DIFFERENT BUT LOOK FOR THE SAME THINGS

Whilst paid work does appear to be more appealing to a lot of employers, that doesn’t meant that is true for all.

“Personally, I don’t care whether the work experience is paid or unpaid,” Andy CollinsonProgramme and Digital Editor at ITV News Cymru Wales says. “What I want to see is that the job applicant has tried to get as much exposure to journalism as possible – paid or unpaid.  I want to see a real enthusiasm and determination to work as a journalist.

“Job applications are sorted on a wide range of criteria. But any good employer wants to see professionalism, determination, resilience, creativity and flair – however it is demonstrated”

Overall, if you don’t have paid shifts, don’t be disheartened. Go hard on your placements and if paid shifts do come up, snap them up quickly. If not, select work placements that would make the employers think that it would be foolish not to give you a go! And ALWAYS remember to wear your ‘I-mean-business’ blazer.

Do you think it’s possible to have too much experience on your CV? Have you ever been asked about the amount of experience you have? How would you have responded to my interview question?

Image courtesy of David Sim

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