CV format and CV layout are both terms you’ll come across while looking to write your UK CV. If you haven’t heard of them before, or are unsure what they mean, there’s no need to worry. We’re here to take the complexity out of CV format and layout!
‘CV format’ is kind of like the blueprint for your CV. There are two commonly used formats in the UK. One of them is the reverse chronological, or classic CV; and the other is skills-based, or functional CV.
‘CV layout’ is how you group information and present it within that CV format. How to write a CV, in other words. That could be a modern layout using a coloured margin for your details and key skills, a professional layout with a bold header for your contact details, or a simple layout with everything presented in one column.
Although is all may sound complicated, or even confusing, we got your back. Here, on myPerfectCV you can find a range of expertly designed, creative, and exciting, yet professional templates that are in compliance with current trends in CV formatting and CV layout for UK jobs. In this ultimate guide, we’ll be taking a deep-dive through all the different CV layouts and formats, looking at a few different styles and the best options for you. By the end, you’ll feel super-confident to get started on your own CV.
If you’re all good with format and layout, and are looking for more general tips and tricks on how to write your CV check out our writing resources.
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Table Of Content
UK CV formats
Around the world, there are many different CV formats, depending on cultural norms and hiring practises. You’re probably familiar with some of them, while other layouts will be a bit alien.
Here in the UK, there are only a couple of CV formats that we would recommend using. Even then, it’s important to choose carefully as they can have different effects. What works for a qualified engineer or business development manager, for example, might not be the best choice for a graduate or student.
We’re going to outline two UK CV formats, with pros and cons for each choice, so you can make an informed decision.
- Reverse chronological CV format
- Skills-based CV format
Reverse chronological 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 be familiar with a reverse chronological CV format or even have seen it in 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 Format
A reverse chronological CV format uses a layout that lists your work experience in order of date, with the most recent position at the top. That should be on your front page if your CV is more than one page in length. 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 UK employers and recruiters. Because of this, it’s well understood and easily read. Recruiters will not have trouble scanning this type of CV layout, 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 a reverse chronological CV format as your first choice in most cases, as it suits the majority of candidates.
CV Layout tips for specific situations
- Entry level candidates: reverse chronological is a good CV format, 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 your 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 and have minimal work experience. It might work for you 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 layout of skills-based CV is a bit different to the reverse chronological one. The top portion of this CV contains your name and contact details. Underneath you put a personal summary, and then your skills go to the section where work experience would typically sit.
- The format focuses on key skill groups with 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 Office 365, and that you love meeting new people and building rapport.
Is a skills-based CV right for you?
- Best for: Entry level candidates, those who are changing their career or people who are rejoining the workforce after a long absence.
- Why this CV format is not the best choice for many candidates: 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.
CV format for jobs: Examples
This example offers a clear and classic CV layout template. The light brown colour shows personality with a font that’s clear and easy to read. White space is used making the CV easy to scan.
Using the reverse chronological format, this CV sample is an excellent example of a simple, linear CV. There is a good use of white space, which makes this layout a great choice for someone who is an accountant and needs to be well-organised.
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 candidate’s 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 of the layout, which means the eye is naturally drawn straight to the personal summary and then work history. This is a practical and aesthetically pleasing CV layout suited to a medical professional.
This classic British CV format screams elegance with a hint of personality. With a light use of colour in the headers, this simple CV layout is clear, concise, and well-organised - all skills that a good babysitter would bring to a role. It’s no surprise that this is one of our most popular CV layout templates.
How to format your CV
Use a CV template
One sure-fire way to take the stress out of choosing the right format and perfect layout 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, fancy fonts, 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 give 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.