Writing a standout CV isn’t just about including the right information. It’s also about how you present that information.
Unfortunately, though, this is where many jobseekers slip up.
A lot of people just aren’t aware that there are different CV formats that apply to different career situations. As a result, they often end up using the wrong format entirely or, worse, randomly throwing bits of information together without following a clear, logical layout.
And in highly competitive job market, this can seriously hinder their chances of landing an interview – never mind a job!
That’s where this helpful guide comes in.
Here we’ll explore the best CV formats around – from the traditional to the unconventional. We’ll show you when you should use one format (and when you shouldn’t), and we’ll provide you with real-life examples for inspiration.
Hopefully, by the end of this article, we’ll have helped you choose the right format that best suits your experience, industry and career path.
There are three standard – or traditional, if you prefer – CV formats: the chronological CV, the skills-based CV and the combination CV. Although similar to one another in terms of formatting (they all use basic text and a simple design to showcase a candidate’s professional background), they each serve a very different purpose.
Let’s take a closer look at them.
1. Chronological CV
First up is the chronological CV.
Also – and perhaps more appropriately – known as the reverse chronological CV, it provides potential employers with a detailed history of your work experience, organised sequentially starting with the most recent position you held and working backwards.
It typically consists of the following sections in this order:
- Header (your name and contact information)
- Profile (a career summary or objective)
- Employment history
- Educational history (if you’re a student, move this above your employment history)
- Optional additional sections (languages, certifications, awards, etc)
The chronological CV is the most common format of them all – and for good reason, too. Out of the three main traditional styles, it is the only one that can be easily adapted to virtually any profession, industry or career situation. That said, because it’s so commonly used, it can be all the more difficult to attract the reader’s attention – as such, you’ll need to make an extra effort to stand out from the crowd.
Here’s a great example of a chronological CV (based on one of our many professionally designed CV templates).
2. Skills-based CV
Whereas a chronological CV showcases your experience and qualifications, a skills-based CV (or functional CV) showcases your professional skills, especially those which are most transferable to the job you’re applying for.
Of course, you’ll still include your employment history in your CV, but you’ll move this to the bottom of the page, and you don’t really have to expand on each individual position other than listing job titles, employment dates and company names. The focus should, instead, be placed on five or six of your most relevant skills, providing tangible evidence of each skill with a few bullet points.
Sections in a skills-based CV should typically follow this order:
- Skills summary
- Additional skills
- Employment history
- Optional additional sections
Unlike their chronological cousins, skills-based CVs aren’t for everyone. They are, however, a particularly good CV format choice if you have large gaps in your employment history, you’re in the middle of a career change, or you’re looking to promote a specific skillset.
Here’s a skills-based CV in action:
3. Combination CV
The combination CV is, quite simply, a combination of the chronological and the skills-based CVs. Also known as a hybrid CV, it gives equal weight to both your experience and your skills, unlike the other two formats listed above which typically focus on one or the other.
Structurally, it should follow this order:
- Skills summary
- Additional skills
- Employment history
- Educational history
- Optional additional sections
The two main sections here are your skills summary (which should be formatted the way you would organise this section on a skills-based CV) and your employment history (which should be as detailed as a chronological CV’s experience section).
Combination CVs are ideal for jobseekers applying for jobs that require a technical skillset or who are looking to change industries.
Let’s take a look at a combination CV example:
As the global job market is becoming an increasingly competitive place, many jobseekers are ditching the traditional curriculum vitae and instead employing non-traditional, more modern methods to communicate their skills and qualifications to prospective employers.
We’ll explore some of the most common non-traditional CV formats below.
4. Infographic CV
Infographic CVs are closely related to the three traditional formats we examined above.
Indeed, they present the same information you’ll normally find in, say, a chronological CV. But unlike a chronological CV or any of its cousins, which all use plain old text to highlight a candidate’s educational and professional background, an infographic CV relies on design elements like graphics, charts, icons, colours and fonts to convey that information.
Meanwhile, there is no one-size-fits-all structure for infographic CVs. This is what makes them so popular among designers, especially, as they’re afforded a unique level of creative freedom to showcase their design skills.
In theory, anyone can use an infographic CV, but if you’re applying for a more conservative job – such as in banking, for example – then you should stick to a more traditional format if you want to be taken seriously. We should also point out here that, unless you’re an experienced designer or at least willing to purchase a professionally designed template, you should stay clear of this option.
The template below, designed by ResumUP, is a wonderful example of an infographic CV. Note how very little text it uses – in comparison, a traditional CV would use a lot more text (usually in paragraph, bulleted list and note form).
5. Mini CV
A mini CV is exactly what it sounds like: a highly condensed version of your full CV, both in terms of size and length. It typically takes the form of a business card, listing your name, job title and contact details on one side and a snapshot of your biggest selling points and prominent achievements on the other.
Mini CVs are great for when attending networking events, industry conferences or career fairs, as you’re able to leave potential employers with something less bulky than a comprehensive two-page CV but something more valuable than your average business card.
Its compact size (typically 3.5 x 2 inches, just like a business card) also makes it easy to carry – perfect for handing out to new contacts you meet unexpectedly!
Here’s a mini CV sample we quickly put together:
6. Video CV
Also - though less frequently - known as a visumé (a portmanteau of the words ‘video’ and ‘résumé’), a video CV is essentially an on-camera job application. It’s a filmed presentation of your candidacy, designed to showcase not only your skills and experience but also your personality – something a traditional CV isn’t quite capable of.
Take Mark Leruste’s take on a video CV, for example, which combines humour, creativity and professionalism to demonstrate why a company should take a chance on him (spoiler: the Movember Foundation offered him a job two weeks after he uploaded his video CV onto YouTube):
Meanwhile, you don’t necessarily need to appear in the video itself – which is good news if you’re camera-shy! Indeed, you could create your own animated video CV, like Maria Rodriguez did:
Although virtually anyone can use a video CV, they tend to be a lot more fun and vibrant in nature and, as such, shouldn’t be used for applications to more conservative employers. Also, and perhaps more importantly, if you have little to no filmmaking experience, then we strongly advise against creating a video CV – unless, of course, you’re happy to hire the services of a professional to help you.
7. CV Website
A CV website is essentially the online version of your CV but affords you with a lot more flexibility in terms of structure, content and length.
Whether it’s a one-page website or a multi-page one, it should cover the basics, including who you are, what you do, and how visitors can contact you. If you’re a creative professional, meanwhile – like a writer or web developer, for example – you should also include a portfolio section showcasing your best work. You can even demonstrate your industry expertise to potential employers and clients alike with a regularly updated – and SEO-driven – blog.
One of the great things about CV websites is that you don’t have to be a design superstar to create one. Indeed, there are many website builders out there (both free and paid-for) that offer ready-built customisable templates. Take this gorgeous Wix.com CV website template, for example:
If you are an expert, though, it’s probably best that you create a website from scratch, as this will effectively vouch for your skills. Consider Verena Michelitsch’s website below:
8. LinkedIn Profile
Although technically not a CV, a well-written LinkedIn profile is the next best thing. And considering how big of a role LinkedIn plays in today’s digital job search, you simply can’t afford to not have a profile of your own.
Your LinkedIn profile will feature the same sections as your CV – including a professional summary, your employment history, education and skills – but, unlike your CV, you’re not limited to two A4 pages to convey all the important information. In fact, career experts recommend adding as many (relevant) details as possible to your profile, including links, videos, presentations and publications. Of course, your LinkedIn profile shouldn’t replace your CV, and neither should it replicate it.
One of the great things about LinkedIn profiles is that anyone can create one – whatever their experience, qualifications, profession or industry.
And you don’t have to adopt the same formal tone you’ll normally use on a more traditional CV. Consider Katrina Ortiz’s profile, which is both personable and conversational and which uses storytelling to captivate readers:
When choosing which CV format to use, you need to consider your specific career situation. Indeed, what might work for someone else – even in the same profession and industry as you – doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you too.
To help you decide which format is the best for you, ask yourself some simple questions:
- What will I be using my CV for (networking, job applications, etc.)?
- Am I looking to change careers or industries?
- Am I looking for work in a creative field?
- Do I have any employment gaps?
- Do I have the right skills needed for the job I’m applying for?
If, after answering these questions, you’re still having trouble choosing the right format, or if you find CV writing too consuming and stressful, know that our professional CV writers are just a click away!
Do you have anything you’d like to add? Are you worried you’re using the wrong CV format? Leave a comment below!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 25 July 2017.