Choosing the right CV format fit for your level of experience, skill set, and work history will improve your chances of earning an interview.
Below you’ll find simple CV formatting rules and examples for two commonly used CV formats — chronological CVs and skills based CVs.
What’s the biggest difference between a chronological CV and a skills based CV?
The biggest difference between a chronological CV and a skills based CV is the structure of their CV sections.
The chronological CV format focuses more on an applicant’s relevant work history. Typically, the work experience section is the largest section on a chronological CV.
Here’s an overview of how to write a CV using the chronological CV format:
By contrast, the skills section takes up the most space on a skills based CV. Rather than focusing on an applicant’s work experience, the skills based CV format emphasises an applicant’s relevant skills and life experiences.
Have a look at the structure of a skills based CV:
- CV title
- CV personal statement
- Skills section
- Work experience section
- Education section
- Additional sections
We provide more details below to help you decide which CV format is appropriate for you.
Chronological CV format
What is the chronological format?
The chronological CV format emphasises your work experience and career progression. It places your most recent job at the top of your CV, then gives you room to describe your previous roles (from newest to oldest).
Because of this top-to-bottom CV structure, recruiters can read your information easily and decide if they’ll continue reading the rest of your CV.
When should I use the chronological CV format?
You should use the chronological CV format if you already have a few years of work or volunteer experience and want to showcase your career progression. This standard CV format is also effective if you want an employer to see that you’ve consistently worked in a specific position or company.
How to write the work experience section of a chronological CV
A chronological CV uses a simple CV format, so don’t worry if it’s your first time writing one.
Generally, the work experience section is the largest section of a chronological CV because it uses bulleted lists to present your current and previous job positions.
List the following details for each work experience on your CV:
- job title
- company or organisation name
- town you worked in
- dates you worked at the organisation
- 3–5 bullet points detailing your duties and accomplishments
To make your work experience bullet points more impactful, begin each statement with a CV action verb such as ‘Produced’, ‘Spearheaded’, or ‘Managed’ to show employers you’re a leader in your field.
Additionally, include hard numbers in your CV whenever you can. Hard numbers like percentages, revenue earned, and time worked demonstrate the results of your work and draw attention to your strongest achievements.
This applicant’s CV example pairs action verbs with hard numbers on their work experience section:
How to fill out the skills section of a chronological CV
Your skills section goes underneath your work experiences and education history on a chronological CV. Listing skills for your CV communicates to employers you’re a highly qualified candidate with the hard and soft skills they’re looking for.
Hard skills are gained from practical work experience, taking courses, or training.
For instance, knowing how to operate a switchboard or using accounting software like QuickBooks are considered hard skills.
Soft skills are qualities or personality traits showing how you relate to others in a professional setting.
For example, being organised and having good time management skills are soft skills employers seek.
Here’s an example of a chronological CV’s key skills section:
Here are three tips for writing your skills section on a chronological CV:
- Place 4–6 relevant skills for the target job using a bulleted list so your skills section is clear and easy to read.
- Include exact skills and keywords mentioned in the job advert because modern companies use applicant tracking software (ATS) to filter and select CVs with relevant keywords.
Mention a mix of hard and soft skills so prospective employers can see you’re a well rounded applicant and a good cultural fit.
Chronological CV format example
Searching for a well-formatted CV example? Look no further. Here’s a CV that follows traditional CV formatting guidelines:
Skills based CV format
What is the skills based CV format?
The skills based CV format focuses on your transferable skills rather than your employment history and makes your skills section the largest part of your CV.
When should I use the skills based CV format?
You should use a skills based CV if you’d rather emphasise your skills and qualifications instead of your work experience.
Because skills based CVs are more flexible than chronological CVs, they work well for applicants who:
- are recent graduates
- lack formal work experience
- plan to switch industries
- have prominent work gaps on their CV
- work in freelance or creative fields
- have a specific skill set
How to use the skills based CV format
A well-written skills based CV is a modern CV format because you can:
- focus on your key skills
- draw on your life experiences (e.g., travelling, volunteering abroad, learning a language)
- adjust the CV sections to suit your needs
How to write the skills section for a skills based CV
Your CV skills section sits underneath your CV title and personal statement, placed where you’d list work experience on a chronological CV.
Because your skills section is more prominent on a skills based CV, choosing the right skills and grouping them appropriately is essential.
Here are four simple steps on how to include the best skills for your functional CV:
- Think of the greatest, most relevant hard and soft skills you’ve developed throughout your life.
- Read the job advert carefully for your target job, and find the skills employers are searching for that most align with your own skill-set. Use these skills as headings (similar to job titles in a work experience section).
- Write 3–4 bullet points under each skill to showcase how you’ve used that skill professionally. Give examples and specific details.
- Include action verbs and hard numbers with each bullet point to provide more context to your achievements.
Below is an example of a skills based CV for a 16 year old who’s applying for a lifeguard position:
What to include in the work experience section of a skills based CV
Because the majority of space on a skills based CV is taken up by the relevant skills section, keep your work experience short and readable by:
- adding your job title and company name
- including the start and end dates of each job (optional)
- listing your jobs from most to least relevant
Skills based CV format example
This skills based CV format contains a smaller work experience section. However, the skills section includes 3–5 detailed bullet points to represent each of the applicant’s relevant skills:
How to format a CV
The best CV layout depends on your experience and industry.
Here are four guidelines to lay out a CV that gives you the greatest chance of earning an interview:
The number of CV pages depends on your level of experience.
The standard UK CV length is two pages, but if you’re a recent graduate or have little experience, a one-page CV is acceptable.
And if you’re an experienced specialist or applying for executive roles, writing a three-page CV provides more space to highlight your expertise and achievements.
Most industries prefer traditional fonts, so keep your font size at 10–12 points and use a standard CV font such as Arial or Times New Roman.
Using a readable font also makes your CV easy to follow and prevents employers from struggling to read certain CV sections.
The standard UK CV margins are 2.5 cm, but you can reduce your margins to 1.27 cm if you need to fit more text onto the page.
Adjusting your margins keeps your CV from looking either too packed or too empty.
Saving your CV as a PDF ensures your CV design retains its formatting no matter who downloads it.