Two main CV formats: which should I choose?

We have established that the objective of your CV is to capture the recruiter's interest and get you that elusive interview invitation.

It is clear that a single, one-size-fits-all CV can be easily spotted and is unlikely to impress. However, the question remains: what is the most appropriate way to present the information you want to share with your target employer?

There are two main ways you can format your CV:

  1. Chronologically
  2. Functionally

Chronological CVs.

Most people choose a chronological CV format, which focuses on work experience and academic achievements. Using this format has many advantages:

  • Recruiters are most familiar with it, so find it easiest to scan when they're pressed for time.
  • Chronological formats contain all the relevant details about your career path.
  • Your employment story is told in a clear, logical flow.
  • It makes it easier for readers to compare the contents of your CV with others.
  • Neat and professional layout.
  • It's easier for you to edit and update so that it's tailored for each application.
  • It's also the format most easily recognised by applicant tracking systems (ATS).

Chronological CVs are the safe and obvious choice if you:

  • Want to demonstrate a steady career progression.
  • Have no unexplained gaps in your timeline.
  • Are applying via an ATS, rather than directly via email or personal contact.

Functional CVs.

A functional CV is designed to let a potential employer know that you have the skills they are looking for in a given role. 

It may start with a summary of your relevant qualifications, followed by a list of your skills. Details of your employment history are not emphasised and tend to be placed nearer the end.

Given that this format is not typically chosen, why should you consider it?

  • If you have gaps in your employment history, a functional CV removes the focus from how long it's been since you last had a job and firmly places it on the value you can add.
  • It can be helpful when changing careers or breaking into a different work sector. You are presenting yourself as a candidate who can transition successfully into a different professional context.
  • When you have all the skills that the job posting states are required, but haven't held the specific job title or been in the exact role.  
  • When you can highlight skills gained outside the workplace, as a volunteer, life-long learner, team-builder or problem solver.

Disadvantages of a functional CV:

  • They are not commonly used. Recruiters like comparing 'apples with apples,' so you may lose out among a group of chronological CVs.
  • It is harder for the reader to extract your career story's logical flow, and gaps may not be clearly explained.
  • ATSs may find it harder to extract keywords, so your application could be rejected before being viewed.

To summarise, each of these formats has pros and cons. Whichever one you select, the key to success is ensuring that you tailor the contents for each position for which you are applying.

Supercharge your job search.

Create your CV for free on Webumo.