Choose the right CV format for your job application
If you’re here because you’re confused, don’t worry - we’re here to take the complexity out of CV format and layout! These are probably two words you’ve heard of while looking to create your CV, but what do they actually mean?
‘CV format’ is kind of like the blueprint for your CV. There are two commonly used ones in the UK, they are the reverse chronological, or classic CV; and the skills-based, or functional CV.
‘CV layout’ is how you group information and present it within that CV format. Don’t panic though, myPerfectCV has a range of expertly designed, creative, and exciting templates that take the guesswork out of CV formatting AND layout. Hurrah!
In this ultimate guide, we’ll be taking a deep-dive on all the different CV formats, looking at a few different styles and CV layouts so by the end, you’ll feel super-confident to get started on your own CV.
If you’re all good with format and are looking for more general tips and tricks on how to write your CV check out our writing resources.
Ready to rock your CV?
Take a deep-dive into CV formats
Around the world, there are many different CV formats, depending on cultural norms and hiring practices. You’re probably familiar with a bunch of them. Here in the UK, there are only a few that we would recommend using, and even then carefully choose as they can have different effects.
We’re going to outline 4 CV formats and why they are great and why they might not be so great, so you can make an informed decision.
Reverse chronological CV format: Our most recommended CV format
Our favourite format! A reverse chronological CV is one of the most common CV formats worldwide, because it’s easy for recruiters to quickly scan and absorb information.
Even if you’ve never written a CV before, you’re likely to know a reverse chronological CV format or have seen some of our CV examples. In the UK, recruiters accept this format as standard, and it’s easy to create, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t consider others — as they could be more suitable for your situation and experience level.
Key features of a reverse chronological CV
A reverse chronological CV lists your work experience in order of date, with the most recent position at the top, on your front page. Typically your CV layout also includes a personal statement or a profile summary before your list of work experiences.
Following your work experience are education, training, skills, and hobbies.
Benefits of a reverse chronological CV
The reverse chronological CV layout is well known and almost expected by employers and recruiters, because of this, it’s well understood and easily read. Recruiters will not have trouble scanning this type of CV, as sections will vary minimally from CV to CV.
Another benefit is showing off an impressive career trajectory. If you’ve excelled and risen through the ranks, this type of CV layout highlights your progression. Additionally, as the most recent experience is presented at the top, employers get a sense of who you are today, not who you were 15 years ago. It’s a current snapshot of you as a working professional.
Is a reverse chronological CV right for you?
Best for: Everyone! We would recommend that you consider a reverse chronological CV format as your first choice, as it suits the majority of candidates.
Tips for specific situations
- Entry level candidates: this format can work for you, as long as you make the most of any volunteer positions or internships you’ve had. We recommend beefing up your skills section, and also adding a little more length to your personal statement to give the hiring manager a better insight into who you are.
- Career-changers: focus on tailoring the content of your CV so what you showcase is relevant to your new career path. Remove roles that don’t include transferable skills or experience. Use keywords from your new career field to help you new skills stand out, and explain why you’re the right person for the job in your personal statement and cover letter.
Skills-based CV format
The skills-based CV, also known as a functional CV, highlights your skills in a list-style format. This CV is less common in the UK than the reverse chronological CV.
The skills-based CV format can work for candidates who are very new to the workforce with minimal work experience. If you are a school leaver or if you have been out of work for many years. Although, use it wisely, as this type of CV can also send a message that you don’t have any experience at all, when that may not be the case.
Key features of a skills-based CV
The top portion of this CV contains your name and contact details, underneath a personal summary, then your skills making up the section where work experience would typically sit.
The format focuses on the skill groups and then 4-5 tasks you can perform within each of those skill groups.
For example, under ‘communication’, you could say that you excelled in answering the phone and taking messages, that you are trained in the use of Windows 365, and that you love meeting new people and building rapport.
Is a skills-based CV right for you?
- Best for: Entry level candidates, or people who are rejoining the workforce after a long absence.
- Why most candidates should avoid this CV format: Experienced recruiters advise not to use a skill-based CV layout unless you have no other choice, because it’s much harder for an employer to get a sense of who you are, and what you’ve achieved. It leaves a lot of questions, which the recruiter may not have time to ask.
Here is an example of a skills-based CV created using myPerfectCV. In this example, there is no work experience section, and the skills do all the talking.
Europass CV format
If you live in the UK or European Union, you may have heard of the Europass CV format.
The Europass CV is a Europe-wide standardised CV template in 29 languages. The Europass CV makes your education, work experience and skills transparent internationally.
Key features of a Europass CV
The Europass CV is advantageous due to its flexible and structured format and allows systematic documentation of formal degrees, informally acquired competences, and soft skills.
Students and professional workers can create an online profile and CV that is universally understood in European countries. This makes it easier for nationals of one country looking for job opportunities to apply for jobs.
Is a Europass CV right for you?
- Best for: Students applying for internships in European countries, as well as academics looking for positions at universities and schools where they need to send a CV in another language.
- Why most candidates should avoid this CV format: UK recruiters strongly prefer the standard UK reverse chronological CV format.
American-style CV (resume)
Our transatlantic friends refer to the CV as a resume; our guess is you already knew that. However, contrary to popular belief, these are the same thing. In some English-speaking countries like Singapore and Australia, they use CV and resume interchangeably.
Key features of the American-style resume
The American-style of CV or resume format is shorter and more packed than UK CV formats like reverse chronological. In the UK, we allow up to 2 pages in length, but in the US there’s a strict 1-page CV rule.
Due to the competition for roles and a desire to get the job done, fast and efficiently, US CV formats tend to be brief.
American CVs lead with skills, then list experience as tight bullet points, describing the actions and impacts with quantification wherever possible. The focus on action and impact is something we do recommend - it’s much more valuable than just listing out responsibilities.
Is an American-style resume right for you?
- Best for: People applying for job in the US.
- Why most candidates should avoid this CV format: UK recruiters strongly prefer the UK reverse chronological format, and want more detail on each of your roles. Enjoy the extra space that the UK CV layout affords you!
Inspiring CV formats
This CV example offers a clear and classic template. The light brown colour choice shows personality; the font is clear and easy to read. White space is used making the CV easy to scan.
This CV using the reverse chronological format is an excellent example of simple linear CV. There is an excellent use of white space, which makes this CV a great choice for someone who is an accountant and needs to be clear.
This carpenter CV clearly illustrates this candidate's experience. The font chosen is clear and easy to read—a great CV format and template. This simple CV template lets the candidates experience do the talking, and makes it easy for recruiters to read.
This CV format uses two columns which adds an exciting change from the usual linear designs. Contact and skills are placed to the right, which means the eye is naturally drawn straight to the personal summary and then work history. This is a practical and aesthetically pleasing CV suited to a medical professional.
This classic CV format screams elegance with a hint of personality. With a light use of colour in the headers, this CV is clear, concise, and tidy - all skills that you would hope a babysitter would bring to a role. It’s no surprise that this is one of our most popular templates.
How to format your CV
Use a CV template
One sure-fire way to take the stress out of choosing a format is to use a template, like one of ours. This will automatically give you the best experience. You don’t need to think about where to lay things out, because we will guide you through step by steps and automatically format your experience, skills, and education.
Keep it simple
The best CVs are those that are concise and well-designed. If you are in a creative industry it can be tempting to include flourishes of colour and change the layout, but trust us - busy recruiters want their jobs to be easy and to see how you might fit the job quickly. If you include too many colours, font, or design features, you can overwhelm the reader and distract them from your essential experience.
Save your CV in PDF format
Most job postings will request your application in a particular file format. In our experience PDF is usually the safest bet and that’s because, a PDF file is somewhere between an image and text document, locking in your design so it will look the same for anyone who opens it.
Use white space
White space is vital as it helps to guide the reader’s eyes to each section. It also helps to break up your CV and give it a pleasing aesthetic - so it looks professional. A lack of white space can overwhelm hiring managers and make it difficult to read your CV. Our CV tool will automatically set margins, but also gives you the freedom to move sections and increase space between paragraphs and sections.
Divide your CV into clear sections.
Clear sections will help to draw the eye to important detail. Without clear headers and bullet points, your CV can look like an essay. Clear sections are part of all CV formats - make sure you use them.
Tips on editing your CV format using our CV builder
Easily move sections around to create different formats
In the myPerfectCV builder, you can move the skills section, and delete the experience section, to create a skills based CV:
Use our text formatting and bullets to make lists
Here, you can see how we are using the editing tool, within the skills section to add more information to this section. The tool gives you the power to edit each section while remaining correctly formatted - and looking great!
If you wish you can edit the section headers - we would advise not changing the section headers too wildly as the consistent titles make it easy to find your experience, education, or skills. Here you might like to change ‘education’ to ‘training’ if that more suitably covers the section’s contents.
myPerfectCV - giving you the power to make your best CV!
Whatever CV format you choose, myPerfectCV is the easy and fast way to build a perfectly formatted CV - using our templates and our simple editing tools - you are the master of your destiny. Check out our pre-formatted templates which help you start quickly, see our range of CV examples and check out our general help & tips for more guidance on how to build the perfect CV in a format that suits you.