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Which CV Format is Best?

When you've research into the best CV format like Bradley CVs has, you'll notice that there's a wide variety of different formats you can use. 'Format' here means the overall organisation of the information in your CV, rather than the font and visual styling used.

How you organise your career information is extremely important, as you'll have less than 30 seconds in which to catch the eye of an employer reading your CV. It's critical that the most compelling information is immediately visible. As different CV formats position different information at the top of your CV, the format you use will drastically affect whether you get a job interview or not.

Not sure what CV format you should use or need to really improve your CV? Our professional CV writing company can ensure your CV wins the attention and the interviews that you desire.

The time to consider the format is before you start writing. You may need to look at some examples first, and list the information you're going to include in your document. The different formats suit a range of career situations, so your work history will make a huge difference as to which works best for you.

The formats typically used stem from two basic formats: the Chronological and the Functional CV formats. Here, we provide an introduction to these formats and their variations, so you can start to think about which will work best for you.

Chronological CV Format

When you initially think about CV formats, you probably visualise the Chronological CV. It's very likely that you have had a Chronological CV at some point. It's the most traditional format, being based on the presentation of your work history in reverse date order, with your current or most recent job listed first.

The Chronological CV format contains the following sections:

The advantage of this CV format is that your work history is very clear indeed. It's easy to see the point you're at in your career, as well as how you reached this point. From the employer's point of view, they can see at a glance what you've been doing in your working life. It's clear and easy to navigate.

It's also clear and straightforward for you to write, and this is one of the reasons it's so popular. You can list your career history along with employers, dates and your duties. It highlights your most relevant skills and experience, as well as any high profile employers you've had.

The disadvantages are that this CV format doesn't work so well if you've changed jobs quite a few times, or have switched careers or taken time out for some reason. It highlights the fact that your career progression has been non-linear.

If your most relevant experience was gained in a job you held before your current position, then it's possible that it could get a bit lost further down your CV. The employer may not notice it, or may think it too long ago, although you can highlight it in your statement at the top.

Generally, the problem with the Chronological CV format is that it's pedestrian and does little to really sell you as a candidate in a highly competitive jobs market.

Performance CV Format

The Performance CV format is a variation on the traditional Chronological CV, which allows you to market yourself more effectively, through the addition of an Achievements section high up on the CV, after the Profile.

An achievement is an example of how you made a difference to your employer, through your contribution to a team or on your own.

On your CV, it shows how you went above and beyond your basic job description to make things better.

The Performance CV format is used by our CV writers in our professional CV service and contains the following sections, in this order:

As you can see, the Achievements section is high on the CV, meaning you can list achievements from several jobs and stand a better chance of having them read by the employer. It is up to you to make the achievement well written enough to create an impact.

A strong achievement is quantifiable, so includes a number or figure as evidence of the difference you made. So this might be profit increased, a percentage difference, higher sales, time saved, losses avoided, etc. An achievement may also be an award or other recognition, for instance from a staff assessment.

This CV format is, however, longer and harder for you to write. If you have worked solidly in jobs that don't allow you to shine as an individual, then you may find it difficult to produce effective achievements. If you've had an irregular career, this CV format does little to help.

CV Format for a Graduate or Student

If you've just left college or university, then you obviously have less information to include on a CV, meaning the Performance CV is a challenge to write. Instead, there is a shorter version of the Performance format that suits your career situation better.

The Graduate CV format contains the following sections:

The difference here is your Achievements can be drawn from your educational experience, as well as other experience and interests. Vocational placements or secondments can be highlighted, outstanding sporting achievements, voluntary or community work, etc.

Your Work History or, if you've little to include, a section titled Experience is placed beneath Education. The employers you're approaching will presumably be advertising for forthcoming and recent graduates, so they will not be expecting to see extensive work histories.

The Starter CV format is for those who are writing their first CV after leaving school. This is shorter than the Graduate CV format and contains the following sections:

Functional CV Format

The Functional CV format is radically different to the Chronological and Performance CVs. Instead of focusing on the Career History, it isolates your skills and abilities and brings them to the top of your CV. The Career History is relegated to the end of the CV and is only there in its barest form, with dates and employers.

The Functional CV contains the following sections:

The advantage of the Functional CV format is that you can highlight your skills, regardless of the job in which you gained them.

The Skills section is quite large, with skills being grouped under subheadings.

This CV format also downplays an irregular work history, so if you've had career breaks for any reason, these aren't immediately drawn to the employer's attention.

It works well if you're seeking a change in career direction, as your relevant skills are highly visible, rather than your career history that's in a different industry or sector. If you're returning to employment from self-employment, it can also work well for you.

Unfortunately, what works for you doesn't necessarily work for the employer. Many dislike this CV format, precisely because it obscures your work history and makes it harder to gain an overview of your background. Promotions won't be noticed. A Functional CV, therefore, can put you at a disadvantage amongst other candidates.

Targeted CV Format

As with the Functional CV, the Targeted CV format focuses on your skills, abilities and experiences that are relevant to the vacancy, rather than your career progression.

The Targeted CV contains the following sections:

Unlike the Functional CV, the Targeted CV format does allow you to introduce an Achievements section if you wish. It also enables you to include voluntary or unpaid experience, or focus on information relevant to a career change. You can highlight information from throughout your career history, rather than just recently.

The obvious advantage of the Targeted CV is that you can angle it towards different jobs or work areas. You should do this with any CV, of course, but the Targeted CV takes this a lot further through its relegation of the work history to the end.

The Targeted CV format can be very effective for IT and technical positions, many of which are broadly similar. This is because it is useful to list technical skills on the front page of the CV, as well as directly relevant experience or achievements. However, it crosses over with the Hybrid/Skills-based format (see below) in this respect.

As with the Functional CV format, the disadvantage is that too much is obscured to the employer. Your control over the information they can see is very obvious, so they will know from the format that they may not be seeing the full picture.

The disadvantages are that your career development may not be as obvious. Employers' names are downplayed, meaning that this CV format isn't liked by all recruiters.

Hybrid or Skills-based CV Format

This format is essentially a cross between the Performance and the Functional CV format.

It leans more towards the Performance format - unlike the Targeted format, which leans more towards the Functional format.

The Skills-based CV format contains the following sections:

This CV format is excellent for IT, technical and contract jobs, as you can include your list of proficiencies in the table-format Skills section, rather than having to list them repeatedly under different positions.

The Career History is presented in the standard reverse date order, which is popular with employers. Retaining the optional Achievements section enables you to truly sell yourself through the inclusion of relevant accomplishments.

To Sum Up

Choice of CV format depends not just on your career background, but on where you want to go. The preparatory stage of evaluating your goals, experience, skills and knowledge feed into your selection. While all formats have their strengths and weaknesses, the strongest one will always be the one that best suits your situation.

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