How to Choose the Best Format
Writing a CV can seem difficult, but once you start it gets a lot easier. The challenging part is deciding which format to use. While this is something that you get to learn with experience and – lots of research into what employers look for there are generally some rules that apply regarding the use of each type.
The following three questions can help you make the right choice:
- Why do you need it?
- What are you hoping to get out of it?
- What do you want it to tell employers?
For example, are you after a career change, applying for a job for the first time, are you hoping to advance in your career, get a raise or apply for a management role? If you are just starting out, your CV should be relatively straightforward, but for mid-career or late-career professionals it can get a bit more complex.
As you go through the list of CV formats, make sure you take a look into the advantages/disadvantages to decide which one is the best depending on each situation and find out what purpose you need it to serve. Also, take a look at the different samples for each one to give you some useful examples you need to follow. Here it goes…
1. Chronological CV
The chronological CV is the most common format, and it’s the one employers prefer. The reason why it’s so popular is because it presents information in an organised way and provides an easy read to employers. Information is listed in reverse chronological order which presents your qualifications in a chronological order, beginning from the newest and moving to the oldest. This helps employers to identify your most recent experiences that are most related and applicable to the position.
Use it when:
- you are a recent graduate with experience in the field through paid jobs or internships
- you are a mid-career professional with a long employment history
- you have a work history that shows progress along a narrow career path
Don’t use it if:
- you have had frequent job changes
- you have gaps in employment history
- you are changing careers
- you are overqualified for the role
- you are a recent graduate with no relevant experience
- Demonstrates consistent employment
- Presents an upward career trajectory
- Allows candidates to talk about key roles and accomplishments
- Focuses on employment history rather than skills
- Gaps in the employment history are easily visible with this format
2. Functional/Skills-Based CV
The functional or skills-based CV focuses on abilities and achievements, rather work experience and shows employers what you have done rather what you can do. This CV format was quite popular in the past though today is used only in certain circumstances e.g. when you are changing careers, have gaps in your work history or applying for your first job. In contrast to the chronological, the focus goes on the skills instead of work experience.
Use it when:
- You have significant gaps in work history
- You need to emphasise skills over job titles or companies you worked for
- You are changing jobs frequently
- You are re-entering the workforce
- It can hide gaps in employment history
- It’s idea for candidates who feel confident with their skills
- Employers don’t like this format because it’s misleading and view it as a way to obscure a candidate’s work history
3. Combined/Hybrid CV
This format is a combination of the chronological and skills-based CVs. Even though the chronological is the most popular, the hybrid is the most marketable CV as it never fails to catch the recruiter’s attention. This is because it can make your skills stand out focusing on your biggest accomplishments and it is often used to highlight your most relevant work experience in a semi-chronological format.
Use it when:
- You have skills that are directly relevant to the position
- You are applying for technical, scientific, or IT positions that require specific skill sets
- You are looking to change industries and who need to push their universal skills over previous employers
Don’t use it if:
- You are a student or a recent graduate without significant or relevant skills
- Your work experience is limited
- You have several or unexplained employment gaps
- You changed jobs frequently
- It makes employment gaps less apparent without hiding anything
- It’s ideal for technical positions and candidates who have relevant skills
- It can be lengthy
- It can be confusing for employers who are used to seeing the chronological format
4. Mini CV
A mini CV is a brief summary of your qualifications. Since it is supposed to be small, it needs to be brief and straight to the point. It should contain only the necessary information an employer is interested in. This format could take the form of a business card and the best thing is you can carry it with you at all times to use it easily in impromptu situations. For this one you need to be careful so that you pick the most impressive details or skills that are essential to the role you are after.
This format provides you with the perfect opportunity to advertise yourself. So you could refer to your job title, key skills and create a career objective specifically for this purpose.
- It provides a quick and easy solution and can be used at networking events
- It allows employers to keep it for future reference
- It may be incomplete in some parts and fail to provide the information employers need
- Because of its size, it can be easily forgotten or lost