Choose the Right CV Format

With regards to CV writing, formatting isn’t the same as CV layout. A CV format is a structure or framework to build your CV on. You still need to stick to the same layout rules, but different formats communicate your employment history, qualifications and education in different ways.

In the UK, there are two types of CV format, reverse-chronological and skills-based.

Reverse-Chronological CV Format:

Also known simply as the chronological CV, this is the format most of us are familiar with. It’s the traditional format that most employers are familiar with too. For the majority of jobs, this is the CV format to use. 

It’s also easily readable by the ATS software that most larger employers use to scan job applications. ATS automates the first step in filtering out unsuitable applicants. You could be an excellent candidate but if the ATS can’t read your CV then you’re finished before you’ve even started.

Reverse-Chronological CV Format focuses on your employment history and experience. You start with your most recent job and move back through time, listing your past jobs in order. Hence reverse-chronological.

Order of sections for a reverse chronological CV:

  1. Header with contact info.
  2. Personal statement.
  3. Work experience.
  4. Education.
  5. Skills.
  6. Additional sections (optional).

This is what we’ll focus on for our CV examples, we’ll set it out step-by-step, but there’s one more format that can be useful for some job seekers.

Skills Based CV Format

Also called functional format, this format does what it says on the tin. It concentrates on your transferable skills, your core set of skills and abilities, rather than your employment history.

A skills based CV can work for people with gaps in their employment history, career changers, or to write a curriculum vitae for a job with no experience such as a student CV.

But, it’s a very risky format to use. Recruiters tend to be suspicious of skills-based CV format and often assume you’re trying to pull a fast one. They hate them because the neatly laid out job history they’re used to is missing.

Order of sections for a skills based (functional) CV:

  1. Header with contact info.
  2. Personal statement.
  3. Skills summary.
  4. Education.
  5. Work experience.
  6. Additional sections (optional)