Choosing the Right CV Format

Choosing the right CV format is important.

A CV or resume, is a vital marketing tool in your job search toolbox. The aim of your CV is to provide an overview of your qualifications, skills and experience to entice an employer or recruiter to want to learn more about you. By choosing the right CV format and writing your CV well, you will be well on your way to landing yourself an interview.

There are three main CV styles to consider when choosing the right CV format:


In a chronological CV, your employment history is listed in reverse chronological order, beginning with your current or most recent position. Your education/qualifications along with any other information will follow, also in reverse chronological order.


  • Traditional format which many employers favour because it’s easy for them to see your career progression
  • Easy for the reader to find their way around


  • Can be difficult to highlight your relevant key skills especially if they have been gained outside of your work history
  • If your most relevant experience is dated it’s difficult to hide this


In contrast to a chronological CV, a functional or skills-based CV is arranged to highlight your skills, experience and attributes by listing these along with your achievements. It might also highlight specific projects you have worked on. This format works best if you’re a freelancer or contractor, have gaps in your employment history or are changing careers. Bullet-points work best making it easy for the reader to see key information.


  • Enables you to highlight your key skills, attributes and relevant experience
  • Great for those with a wide range of skills to break them down into skills areas to provide more detail

Perfect for those who have haven’t followed a linear career path


  • Traditionalists might find it difficult to follow
  • Can be seen as an attempt to hide details such as employment gaps and lack of experience


Bringing together the elements of a functional and chronological CV is has become the most popular format as it enables you to highlight your key skills before following a more traditional, reverse chronological pattern. Since CVs are typically skimmed for just a matter of seconds by employers, using this format is a good way to ensure they see all the most relevant information on the first page. Creative or visual style CVs also fall under this category but are not recommended unless you are applying for a creative role such as a graphic designer for example. 


  • Enables you to highlight key skills while maintaining a traditional, reverse chronological format
  • Makes it easy for an employer to see what you have to offer as a potential employee
  • Shows you are able to convey complex information in a simplified way


  • If not laid out correctly, there’s a risk of creating a CV that is difficult to read and understand
  • Can annoy traditionalists who expect to see a traditional (ie. chronological) layout


Choosing the right CV or resume format can make a difference to how the reader perceives you, your skills and experience. While the content might be the same, the way in which you present that information has an impact on how your application is received. Take the time to consider which CV format is right for you and your circumstances. If you have any questions or comments please share below. 

Picture of Lisa LaRue, MCareerDev,  RCDP, MAC

Lisa LaRue, MCareerDev, RCDP, MAC

Career Coach, EMCC-Accredited Master Practitioner Coach and CDI-Registered Career Development Professional with more than 20 years’ experience helping achieve successful and fulfilling careers.



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