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CV Layout: Getting started

5 minute read

If you’re looking to change your job or get your first role, you’ll need to think about getting your CV in order.  Your CV is often your first and best chance at getting noticed, and crucially getting your foot in the door – so you want to make a good impression. 

On average a recruiter spends roughly 5-7 seconds assessing a CV so you need to make that good impression fast.  This is where a clear and impactful CV layout can help.  Your CV needs to be easy to read, well structured and also have your most impressive achievements and skills stand out so people can pick up key information at a glance. 

CV Layout: Choosing a format

It’s helpful to start by thinking about what format you want to go with, in other words how you would like to arrange and order your content in a way that best suits your career journey and showcases your skills in the best and most impactful way possible.

You’ll hear people refer to different CV formats, types or layouts and it’s hard when you’re starting out to know which type of CV might be best for you. We’re going to break down some of the main types of CVs to try and help you.  Once you understand the different types and their differences, you’ll be able to see which might be best for your story.

Chronological CV

The most common CV type people use, and the one you’re most likely used to seeing, is the ‘Chronological CV’.  It starts with a profile before listing your career history, breaking down key duties and achievements for each job.  Education and other information such as additional interests and hobbies might follow under that.

Those with quite a straightforward career history and progression across a variety of roles might find this format best to showcase their career to date in a CV.  It’s also a good option for those that are looking for roles in a similar industry or field as it shows all your relevant experience in a very clear and orderly way.  It’s also a good option to show relevant skills and experience next to specific jobs so roles are clearly demonstrated.

A ‘Reverse Chronological CV’ is a term you might hear as it’s the most common type of CV. This just means that you list your work experience in reverse chronological order, so starting with your most recent or current position at the top and working your way back.

Generally for each job you want to provide the name and location of your employer alongside employment dates, and a brief summary of key responsibilities and achievements.

Skills-based CV (or Functional CV)

This ‘Skills-based CV’ generally consists of a profile, followed by a section detailing your skills and how they’ve been used, and then finally a section which lists your jobs without breaking down duties for each of them. Qualifications and extra information can follow at the end.

This type of CV, also known as a ‘Functional CV’ is generally good if you don’t have much experience in the sector you’re applying for, or if you’re looking for a change – it showcases the useful, transferable skills you have to a possible new employer, rather than your past experience.

It’s also a good option for those that have worked in multiple roles which required the same skills or duties and can help limit repetition. Similarly it’s a great option if you want to focus on your skills and maybe detract from gaps in your career progress. 

The Combined CV

The ‘Combined CV’ takes some of the best elements from both the chronological and functional formats to make a slightly longer CV, but one which is becoming more popular. 

People generally like this CV as it allows you to sell both your skills in a dedicated section, as well as your work experience and is perfect for those with a strong career progression and multiple achievements to date.  It’s also really good for those with careers in tech or engineering where you might have a series of specific technical skills that you want to highlight before going into past roles.

If you’re still unsure which format is best for you, there are so many articles online to help you weigh up the pros and cons of each format so have a search and deep dive into them a little more. And example of a good article for further exploring is ‘The ultimate guide to CV formats and layout‘ on My Perfect CV.

CV Layout: Bringing your CV to life

Whatever choice you make on format, once you’ve made that decision next up is thinking about how you present it to the world.

How you do this and how creative you want to be is your choice, but it can be helpful to think about the skills you’re trying to showcase and how best to bring these to life through the layout. For example, are you you trying to sell in your design skills or creativity, or perhaps you’re a writer and want to showcase your storytelling. Whatever the case, thinking about your CV layout and whether to go down a traditional route, or try something a bit more innovative to stand out is worth putting some time into.

CV Layout: A more traditional approach

There is a lot to be said for keeping things simple and professional when it comes to CVs and sites like StandOut CV advocate this simplicity amongst other things – for one thing it definitely means that your CV won’t confuse any CV scanning software. To keep it simple and for more ideas on traditional layout formats, head to our blog post ‘Basic CV Template: Finding the right one‘ where you can find some great places to source a range of CV templates and inspiration.

CV Layout: Getting creative

For certain roles or companies though, it can sometimes be good to try and stand out from the crowd. Reed.co.uk has some excellent examples here of how creative you can get with your CV based on various roles; from interesting ways of demonstrating graphic design skills, to more creative ways to think about showing skills as a strategist. You can see just by looking at them why they might help make you stand out from the crowd for certain roles or industries compared to a traditional layout approach.

Doing a quick search online can uncover endless ways to get creative with your CV layout, for example Canva has some great ideas and downloadable templates, whereas Guru has some great examples to ignite some inspiration.

Once you have your format decided and have a layout in mind, you’re half way there! Now just to add the content…

Feeling inspired? Take the THIS IS HOW Quiz to find out more about what you’re good at and possible job roles that could be a match for you!