The manner in which you choose to organise the information on your CV makes a significant difference in how well your unique blend of abilities and experience are communicated to the employer. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll be taking a closer look at the three most common formats in order to help you paint a clearer picture of what may, or may not, be the best choice for you.
The most widely viewed and accepted curriculum vitae is written in chronological format while, depending on the job seeker and job target, the combined and functional formats follow. Here are the pros and cons of the chronological approach:
- Easy to prepare and add on to
- Widely used and understood
- Emphasises steady work history
- Highlights gaps in employment
- Highlights lack of experience
- Does not allow for life experience
- Difficult to organise skills into clusters
- May highlight lack of training
Because this is the most traditional and easily understood format, it is a great choice for those job seekers with a stable work history and those applying to positions in conservative fields, such as law or academics. If you have had large gaps in employment or lack direct experience doing the job, you may wish to reconsider this format and opt for another.
The focus of the functional CV is on the abilities and accomplishments of the job seeker, allowing for discussion of abilities, interest, and motivation relevant to the targeted job.
- Can showcase personal selection of skills
- Reduces impact of no work history
- Permits less emphasis on areas you’d rather not mention
- Raises the question of potential poor employment history
- May prompt other questions or suspicion
- May not meet expectations of employer
- Requires more time from the employer to review and consider
The functional format is great for those returning to the job market after a length of inactivity or for those that lack experience in the job and have a desire to enter new frontiers of employment.
The combined CV format includes elements of both the chronological and functional formats, the pros and cons of which follow:
- Reduces impact of spotty work history
- Showcases steady work history
- Can customise a CV specific to a position
- Easily changed and adapted
- Increasingly common
- Employers are less familiar with this type of CV
- Lengthier, probably 2 full pages
- Requires more time of employer and job seeker
The real advantage of a combined approach is in its ability to highlight skills and accomplishments specific to each of your past positions, while still providing the familiar structure and detail of a chronological resume.
Before choosing your CV format, carefully examine your accomplishment, skills, and work experience, and decide how they do or do not fit with the targeted job. Understanding how these elements fit together to enhance or detract from the overall impression you want to give the employer will help you determine the best format to use when writing your CV.