CV Writing Formats

No hard and fast rules

Contrary to what many people believe, there are no hard and fast rules for writing a CV.   However, that being the case when writing a CV it is essential to bear in mind what you are trying to achieve.   The aim of the CV is to ’sell’ your services to a prospective employer.

The first hurdle

The first, and therefore in many ways the most important thing to do is to make sure that the prospective employer actually reads the CV.   The page needs to look inviting and uncluttered.   Remember when writing a CV that it will probably be one among many that the prospective employer will be reading.   If there is too much detail, with long paragraphs of prose, it may not even be read at all.

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GENERALLY ACCEPTED FORMATS

It is usual to stick to one of the above formats for writing a CV, with the most usual being the Performance CV or Functional CV.   It is also becoming increasingly popular to use a combination of styles.  Thus the so-called Chrono-Functional or hybrid CV has come into being, and this is becoming increasingly popular. There is nothing wrong with using any style that suits you, provided you do not lose sight of the main aim of writing a CV.   Always present your information in a clear, easy to read format so that the reader can obtain the maximum information about you with the minimum effort.

Performance CV

When writing a CV in this style you should organise information under the following headings:

  • Profile This should be your introduction.   It should clearly demonstrate to the prospective employer what you have to offer.  It is important that the claims made in the profile should be borne out by information in the body of the CV.
  • Achievements If you do not have many achievements you could consider including a summary of your skills.  This section should take the form of a bulleted list.
  • Career History Include details of your career to date, usually in reverse chronoligical order, so that your most recent experience is shown first.  Achievements can also be included under each individual job.  It is not always necessary to go back beyond about ten years.  However if you only include recent information, then be sure to change the title to reflect this. 
  • Education and Qualifications depending upon the stage of your career this may come before the CAREER HISTORY but as you gain more experience then experience will become of more relevance than education.   It is not necessary to include details of early schooling, but it is a good idea to include any vocational training or qualifications
  • Other information personal information which may include date of birth and marital status can all be included here.   The inclusion of personal information is purely optional.  Some even advise against its inclusion, in the light of new employment discrimination legislation.   However even though the employer has no right to demand personal information from you, it is entirely up to you whether you choose to supply it or not
  • References names and addresses of references should never go on a CV.  It is considered to be very bad form to include other people’s names and addresses when writing a CV.  The best thing is to put ‘available upon request’ which has the additional advantage of enabling you to monitor progress.   If reference details are requested, then you know you are making some progress!

Chronological CV

Is a variation on the Performance CV without the inclusion of the profile. Details of your career should still be in reverse chronoligical order.

Functional CV

  • Profile similar rules apply to those for the Performance CV
  • Functional Headings your skills and achievements should be listed under four to six functional headings which will be relevant to your job sector and experience.   It could be a good idea to check the job specification so that you can try to broadly match these headings to the skills required for the job.
  • Career History This needs only to include brief details of the names of your employers and your job descriptions.   You should also include any relevant voluntary work.
  • Education and Qualifications, Personal Details and References are all similar to the Performance CV

Targeted CV

As the name implies, this type of CV is targeted to a specific job application.   It is particularly useful for people who have a number of different skill sets which they would like to use to target different job sectors.   It should consist of

  • Profile as Performance CV
  • Key Skills a bulleted list of skills appropriate to the position you are applying for
  • Achievements include here anything which may be relevant, including educational achievements and voluntary work
  • Career History This should be in summary form showing dates, name of employment and job description
  • Education all relevant educational qualifications and training courses
  • Personal Details Date of birth, status, driving, interests can all be included under this section
  • References the most usual thing to put here is ‘available upon request’

Alternative CV

There is no hard and fast rule about the format which should be used for your CV.   If you feel that you would like to present yourself in a less traditional way than any of the above, you have every right to do so.   However, be warned, this type of approach to writing a CV is only really suitable for artistic people, or people in very unusual careers.


 

see also Writing a CV 
Things to do when writing a CV
Things not to do when Writing a CV