CV format

Information about the main formats of a CV - the chronological, functional, targeted and performance formats, as well as advice on how students and new graduates should format their CV.

Keys C and V on a computer keyboard CVs tend to fall into one of several presentation formats. It is essential to consider which format most effectively illustrates your key competences and abilities, so take a look at the options available to find which best suits you at this moment in time.

The chronological format CV

The chronological format CV lists your employment history to date and should incorporate the following:

  • Your most recent job;
  • Details of the company's name and location;
  • Dates of employment;
  • Job title;
  • Main responsibilities;
  • Key achievements.

To keep the document short and concise, you should place more emphasis on your most recent role. This also helps to demonstrate a progression in responsibility.

The chronological CV is the simplest and quickest of the formats and historically has been the standard format used.

If you have been with one company for a reasonable period of time, it can also show stability, but there are disadvantages to this format. For example:

  • If you have changed employers frequently, it can leave an impression of instability;
  • If you have changed direction or focus too often, it may give the impression that you do not have a clear sense of purpose or direction;
  • If your latest position does not support your current direction, or is not your most significant role, it may leave a negative impression.

Gaps in employment are very visible. A further disadvantage is that your core skills, attitudes and attributes may be difficult to identify.

The functional format CV

The functional format CV lists achievements and relevant experience by function or areas of responsibility such as management, training or project delivery. Less emphasis can be put on chronological order or specifics of when and in what role achievements and experience were gained.

The functional CV should include:

  • Experience applicable to the vacancy applied for;
  • Achievements applicable to the vacancy applied for;
  • Skills applicable to the vacancy applied for.

The functional format addresses the disadvantages of the chronological format and enables potential employers to focus your abilities and experience in light of what they are looking for.

For this format to work effectively, you need to have a good sense of what the potential employer is looking for to ensure your CV shows how you meet their requirements. You may also need to adapt and adjust the CV for each job application.

Lack of chronological detail may raise suspicion so you should be prepared to talk through any gaps in your career, or explain precisely where and when certain skills were developed, or achievements accomplished.

The targeted format CV

The targeted format CV is similar to the functional format but focuses of skills rather than roles. It can be a great option if you’re looking at a career change, want to emphasis skills you may not have used in a while or have got gaps in your career history. It’s also best used to target a specific type of job.

With this format you should provide:

  • Only information relevant to the role you’re applying for;
  • List this information under two headings: abilities and achievements. This allows your strengths to really stand out.

One of the downsides to this format is that it’s more unusual and this may make employers more likely to wonder if there’s a negative reason for this. The format may mean that sometimes important roles or promotions may be overlooked as they won’t appear on the front page.

The performance format CV

The performance format CV combines the best of all the other formats and is arguably the most suited to today’s employment market which comprises increasing competition and where employers spend just 20 to 30 seconds on average reviewing a CV.

With this format you should provide:

  • A summary front page. This is designed to catch the reader's attention immediately and highlight your strengths while you still have their attention
  • On the page/s behind this you can either have your employment history in reverse chronological order along with your educational background OR;
  • You could follow the functional format, providing achievements by function or area of responsibility first, followed by positions held.
  • A possible format for the front page is:
  • Name, address and contact details;
  • A short personal description;
  • Your key skills and achievements;
  • A brief statement of what you are looking for;
  • Other points of interest.

CVs for students and new graduates

As students or new graduates you’ve not got a lot of hands-on experience to highlight so it’s important to focus on your qualifications first as these are likely to be some of your most important achievements to date.

Always highlight work experience and internships - giving examples of useful work skills you’ve gained. Also show how skills you’ve learnt during your education are actually great transferable soft skills you’ll be able to bring to the workplace, such as report writing, public speaking, research and time management.