What is a chronological CV and how do you write one?

Most CVs are no more than two pages long, and it's likely that a hard-pressed recruiter, with hundreds to choose from, will do no more than scan the first page before deciding whether to reject or proceed. As a result, the information you share must create maximum impact.

A chronological CV is designed to relay the story of your career life efficiently. This is to allow specific terms and skills to shine, capturing the attention of whoever is reading it. 

Creating a chronological CV is a bit easier than putting together a functional CV. Perhaps, to practice, it would be a great idea first to form your chronological CV. From there, you can then create your functional one.

Be smart about ATS.

First, there are a few points to keep in mind when preparing your CV, so it can easily be picked up by an ATS (applicant tracking system).

  • Use standard heading sections, which are easily understood: 'Professional Experience,' 'Academic Qualifications,' etc.
  • Use keywords from the job posting, so the ATS (or human reader) connects your skills with the position's requirements.
  • Use simple, standard fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana, or Calibri.
  • Don't rely on the spell checker - double check all of your spellings. An ATS won't recognise misspelled words, and a human reader won't be impressed either.

The format of a chronological CV.

Generally, a chronological CV will be laid out in a standard format:

  • Personal Details.
  • Personal Statement.
  • Professional Experience.
  • Qualifications and Training.
  • Other information.

Heading and personal details.

  • Your full name should be written in a slightly larger font than the rest of the text. There is no need to write 'Curriculum Vitae' or 'CV': the recruiter will be able to guess what it is.
  • Below your name, provide the mobile number you can be reached on the easiest, your email address, and possibly your LinkedIn profile. Ensure you have a professional-sounding email address. (Once, someone received an application for a Corporate Finance Director position, with the contact email: piggylovesfroggy@***.com)
  • No need to include your full home address, unless it's vital that you live close to your potential workplace.
  • It’s unnecessary to include your date of birth, as it's unlikely to be relevant to how well you can perform a role. However, the dates of your education and depth of your experience will give the recruiter an idea of your age.

These days including a photo with a CV, is becoming less common. In some countries, such as the U.S., the UK, and Ireland, this may contravene anti-discrimination laws and could result in your CV being rejected.

Personal Statement.

It's a matter of choice whether you add a personal statement. At best, it can be an overview of who you are, a chance to market yourself, and a statement of what value you can bring. At worst, it can turn into a tedious boast and a list of meaningless buzzwords.

So, if you choose to add a personal statement:

  • Keep it short and to the point. Your experience and skills will be described in more detail in the main body of your CV. Make sure to give examples that backup your claims. 
  • Link your CV clearly to the job posting, so the recruiter can see how your application is relevant. If you have an impressive qualification related to the position, this is an excellent opportunity to highlight it.
  • Read it aloud before finalising it. Does it sound like you talking? Or does it sound a bit pompous? Cut down on the waffle, and get straight to the point.

Professional Experience.

Chances are, this is the first part of the CV that a recruiter will scan. Therefore it has to be straightforward and easy to read. If you have extensive work experience, there's no need to go back more than ten years. Start with your most recent work experience and work your way backward.

  • Provide the employer’s name, position title, and dates you worked for them (month and year). The 2 or 3 most recent positions should include the most detail. These are the ones recruiters focus on.
  • Incorporate keywords from the job posting and highlight your matching skills. Never cut and paste your job description – it's an instant turn-off for jaded recruiters. For example, if your title was Salesperson, don't say: "Responsible for B2B sales ".  
  • List your achievements in each position. Do say: "Achieved all KPIs by Q3 and exceeded stretch B2B revenue target by 22%.' Also, include special projects that you were involved in as these may evidence additional skills.
  • If any positions are not relevant for this application, simply add the employer, position, and dates, with a one-line summary of the experience you gained.

Education and Qualifications.

In this section, directly under 'Professional Experience,' list your academic achievements, starting with the most recent and working backward.

  • How far back you go depends on the extent of your work experience. Nevertheless, ensure you include grades and the name of the institution you attended.
  • After five to ten years of working, there is no need to list your school exam results. However, vocational training and relevant courses provided by your employer should be listed, with dates.

Other Information.

Most recruiters will have taken everything they need to know at this stage, from the CV's main body. However, there are a few additional points which you can include if they may be relevant to the application:

  • Driver's licence: if the job requires to travel.
  • Languages: if these are relevant or may be an asset in the future.
  • Hobbies/other interests: if these help to paint a picture of who you are. List hobbies that are easily relatable and help to illustrate how you'll fit in. 

When it comes to mentioning hobbies, going to the cinema and socialising are too bland and not worth mentioning. However, if you prefer dressing as a vampire and sleeping in a coffin: maybe better to wait until you've got the job before sharing.

Something to remember.

A CV in a chronological format should be an easy read. It is meant to tell the story of your career logically and easily, and give an insight into who you are. By tailoring each CV, you send to show how you can add value; you increase your chances of gaining that coveted interview invitation.

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