Writing your CV and not sure where to start? Read our CV guide for expert tips, templates & advice on choosing the best CV format for your skills.
When looking for a job, a great CV has the power to create the right first impression and help win you an interview. Your CV is how you sell yourself to prospective employers and should summarise the skills and experience that set you apart from other candidates, and with employers only spending an average of six seconds reading a CV, you haven’t got long to grab their attention. So it’s important to get the format, layout, and of course the content just right.
From the different types of CV to the essential dos and don’ts, read our expert tips on how to write or update your CV. You can also download our free CV template here.
Which is the best CV format to use?
How you structure your CV and the amount of space you devote to each section will depend on your level of experience, the role requirements, and what you feel are your strongest selling points.
There are two main types of CV: chronological and skills based. Let’s take a look at each one.
Chronological CV format
The chronological CV – also sometimes known as a graduate or traditional CV – is probably the CV format you’re most familiar with. Chronological CVs work in reverse chronological order, meaning that your most recent qualifications and experience are listed first. Chronological CVs make it easy for employers to identify and shortlist potential candidates, as you can closely match your work history and qualifications with the requirements of the job role. The reverse chronological structure allows you to highlight the skills and experience you’ve gained throughout your career.
When should | use a chronological CV?
A chronological CV is great when you have recent, relevant work experience for the job you’re applying for. Most chronological CVs include six main sections:
1. Contact details
Include your full name, address, telephone number, email address and the link for your LinkedIn profile if you have one. Read our blog on maximising your LinkedIn profile.
Keep it concise - not more than 2-3 sentences long. Summarise relevant experience and qualifications, along with your career objective.
Start with your most recent qualification first and work backwards. Provide the title of your qualification, the grade you were awarded, where you studied, and the date you achieved it.
4. Work experience
Consider splitting this into two sections: ‘Relevant Work Experience’ and ‘Other Work Experience’, to really highlight the industry experience you would bring to the role. If you’re going for a customer service role for example, you could have a ‘Customer Service Experience’ section, which quickly signposts recruiters to your most relevant experience. Including an ‘Other Work Experience’ section will also help to explain any gaps in your work history without distracting the recruiter from your suitability for the role.
5. Interests (optional)
Keep this section brief and consider the impression your hobbies will create. Include any hobbies or activities particularly relevant to your chosen job sector, as it helps to demonstrate your interest in the industry and any additional knowledge you’d be bringing to the role. If in doubt, miss this section out.
Simply writing ‘available on request’ will do here unless the job advert specifically asks you to include them.
Skill-based CV format
This dynamic CV format works by highlighting the most relevant skills and experiences that you have gathered throughout your career. A skills-based CV, also sometimes knows as a functional CV, aims to demonstrate the achievements and abilities that you feel make you the ideal candidate for the role. This CV format allows you to evidence your relevant key skills, usually through a series of bullet-pointed statements under each heading.
When should I use a skill-based CV?
Skills-based CVs are often used by job seekers looking to change careers, as the lack of chronology focuses more on transferrable skills than work history. A skills-based approach to writing your CV can also be handy in cases where you’ve had periods of inactivity, as the emphasis is on your skills and accomplishments rather than a timeline of previous employment.
What does a skills-based CV look like?
Start with your contact details at the top, followed by your profile – this is a concise summary of your relevant qualifications and experience, and also sets out your career objective. Include the most relevant skills to the role you’re applying for and use each key skill as a heading, with supporting examples and evidence of that skill. Here’s an example:
Managerial and leadership
- Managed a team of four
- Carried out inductions and ongoing training
- Evaluated individual work performance
- Advised on career development
- Led the implementation of a new customer service approach
Combination CV format
Another increasingly popular format is the combination CV. Also known as a hybrid CV, this format highlights your professional experience and your skills at the start of your CV, allowing you to combine the best of both worlds as potential employers can see your relevant skills and work experience within seconds of picking up your CV. As hybrid CVs are less common than chronological or skills-based CVs, this format also has the added benefit of helping your CV stand out from the crowd.
When should I use a combination CV?
This CV format work best when you want to show skills you have developed from multiple jobs over the years as well as relevant work experience, especially when you feel that a chronological work history doesn’t show this. It can be ideal to use a combination CV if you:
- Have had a varied or multitrack employment history
- Are changing careers
- Have been out of the workforce for some time
What does a combination CV look like?
Just like a traditional CV, you should include your name and contact details right at the top, along with a concise profile. Including your social media links like LinkedIn can help boost your chances of landing an interview – read our blog post on how a strong social media profile can help get you hired.
In addition to your contact details and profile, your CV should also include these five sections:
1. Key skills
List your skills relevant to the job you are applying for. Go back through the job advert to narrow down which skills you should highlight. You could list your key skills as bullet points with a concise description for each, or simply list your skills as keywords, grouped by category, like this:
This is where you list out your past work experience along with your achievements in those roles. If you have had multiple jobs or a varied career path, it’s usually a good idea to trim this section down to only relevant work experience and label it to reflect this.
This section should list your educational achievements. As per the other CV formats, provide the title of your qualification, the grade you achieved, where you studied, and the date you achieved it.
4. Interests/Additional experience (optional)
This section is optional but can be used to list out other skills or to talk about any charity work, volunteering experience etc. that you have been involved in.
As per the other CV formats, writing ‘available on request’ should do here - unless the job advert specifically asks you to include references.
How to fill in COVID-19 employment gaps
COVID-19 caused many career plans to get disrupted – whether it was due to being unable to work, the lack of internship or volunteering opportunities during lockdowns, or taking the time to rethink your career options. But there’s no need to let that white space daunt you.
Show employers how you spent that time wisely - explain that you used this time away from formal employment to develop your skills. Update your CV with any online courses you enrolled in, as well as webinars, digital conferences, or voluntary work.
Adding keywords to your CV
Now you’ve chosen the CV format to best sell yourself to potential new employers, there’s a few more things to consider – like the actual words you use. Many companies now use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) or AI-based software in their CV screening process, which help recruiters to filter out unsuitable applications. One of the ways ATS software sorts through CVs is by scanning them for keywords, so using relevant keywords in your CV can help get it to the top of the pile.
“It’s a good idea to use the most important keywords at the top of your CV to grab the recruiter’s attention straightaway. ”
It’s important to tailor your CV with the right keywords for each job. Check the job description carefully for skills and other relevant buzzwords and incorporate them into your CV. Include soft and hard skills as well as certifications. Scan the company’s website for additional role-related keywords as well, and if you have skills in experience in those areas, add it in. You should include relevant keywords throughout your CV, but it’s a good idea to use the most important keywords at the top of your CV to grab the recruiter’s attention straightaway.
Ready to get started on your CV? We’ve done the hard work for you – click here to download our free CV template.
If you need help updating your CV or to find out about our latest roles, contact your local Adecco branch and connect with a recruiter today!
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