Which CV format is right for me?

Finding a job whilst unemployed can be difficult. What makes the process harder is not having the proper knowledge required to write a CV to apply for these jobs. As a result, individuals that are job hunting must know the different CV formats they can use to land the jobs they want. There are four basic types of CV formats to use. They include: 

  1. Reverse Chronological Format
  2. Functional Format
  3. Combination (or hybrid) Format
  4. Targeted CV Format


Below is what you need to know about these different formats, and how to decide which is right for you. 

Format 1 – Reverse-Chronological

The reverse-chronological CV format is the most common. It usually includes:

  • Contact details such as your name, location, phone number, and email address. In some cases, you can enter helpful links, such as a LinkedIn profile. 
  • Mission statement – A short and straightforward two to four-sentence rundown of your work experience and your intent to apply for a given position.
  • Work history – In the reverse chronological order format,  you should talk about all your achievements, responsibilities, roles you could act in, and other duties you took on.
  • Skills Section – You should include the skills you have that can be used in this new job you applied for. For instance, if you have good negotiation skills and are looking for work as a sales representative, that is definitely something to add.
  • Education – Your educational background, including a degree if you have one, secondary education, and any professional qualifications you have completed.
  • Optional extras – Sections like volunteering, leisure pursuits, and many more. While they are not necessary, they can help give a hiring manager a better of idea of you as a candidate.


Advantages of the reverse chronological CV format

  • Very easy to flick through.
  • Offers a simple-to-read linear history of your work experience.
  • The most widely used CV format today.

Disadvantages of the reverse chronological CV format

  • It is not easy to fill in for a fresh graduate with no significant work experience.
  • It reveals the spaces in a career. If you go from one job to the other, you might want to opt for other formats. 


Format 2 – Functional

This format has also been described as a skills-based CV format. A functional CV format, as the name suggests, is more concentrated on skills rather than work experience. It is beneficial for fresh graduates or people who are changing careers since their work experience shouldn’t be the primary focus of their CV. 

What to include in a functional CV:

  1. Contact Report
  2. CV Summary or Goal
  3. Work history
  4. Skills Summary
  5. Other Skills
  6. Educational history 


As shown above, the major disparity from the reverse chronological format is that the emphasis is on the skills you have. There are many different skills you could add. For example: 

  • Over ten years of experience in the service industry as a social media manager and online business consultant
  • In-depth knowledge of the use of social media and online tools to market a business. 
  • Experience managing a team of social media consultants and online business consultants. 
  • Ensuring that online businesses are always at the top of their marketing game. 

The crux of a skill summary is to display your skill-set instead of your work experience. The above brief, for example, could be that of a social media and business consultant looking to get hired by another business owner. While it is evident that this person has not actively been the manager of a business, the skill brief shows that the candidate will make a good employee. 

The advantages of this format are:

  • Great for underlining certain skills.
  • Productive if you’re changing jobs since you can talk about how your skills transfer to the new job.
  • Also productive if you are a fresh graduate with great skills but not much work experience.


  • The functional CV format is not very common, and many employers and HR managers are not familiar with it.
  • Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have problems analyzing functional CV’s.


Format 3 – Combination/Hybrid

The combination CV format, also known as the hybrid, is a blend of the functional and reverse chronological CV formats.

It also comes with a skill summary section, but there is a greater emphasis on work experience.

The classic segments you will find on a hybrid CV format are similar to a functional CV, the main difference being the focus on work experience:

  1. Contact information 
  2. Skills overview
  3. Other Skills
  4. Work Experience

A functional CV can have little or no work history, whilst a hybrid CV gives equal attention to both skills and experience. More than often not, the hybrid CV is for applicants with significant work experience who need a way to stress what they can do and where they have done it.

Advantages of the hybrid format:

  • Allows you to discuss more of your know-how and skills simultaneously.
  • Productive for very senior specialists or senior managers who need to showcase more than just their work experience.

Disadvantages of the hybrid format:

  • As with the functional CV format, applicant tracking systems (ATS) have difficulty reading hybrid CV’s.
  • If you are a fresh graduate or do not have much work experience, it isn’t great to use.

Format 4: Targeted

The ultimate CV format you might want to consider is a targeted CV. This primary CV type is designed explicitly for the position you are applying for. Your CV should contain your work history, skills, education, and your ability to fit the job specifications. For instance, if you were applying for a position as an editor in a publishing company, you could talk about your English Language qualifications and your placement with an editor. 

You should also mention all the awards/achievements you have received during your career. Go over the job description of the position you want to find what skills and proficiencies a possible employer is looking for, and make sure you can demonstrate these within the CV. Check the company’s site to understand their objectives and goals too. This will help you showcase your skills and talents in a way that aligns with the company’s values. 

Tips For Choosing The Best CV Format

Now that we have discussed the major CV formats, you need to decide which is right for you. Here is what I propose:

  • If you are unsure of what is best for you, I would advise you to go with the reverse chronological format as it is the most common and productive format used in recent times. 
  • The only case in which I would propose going with a functional or hybrid format is if you are changing your career path. 

Other Essential CV Formatting Tips

  • Want to avoid all the troubles of formatting your CV? Use an online CV builder. The software will help organize your CV, and all you have to think about is what you will write it (make sure of course to check everything before you send it off).
  • Try to keep it brief. Your CV should be a summary of your work experience, not your enitre life story.
  • Use orthodox section headers. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) look for these headers to pull a report from, so it may disadvantage you to change them.
  • When speaking about responsibilities and achievements, use bullet points to write concisely. Give precedence to achievements over responsibilities, and avoid using more than 6-8 bullets per position.
  • Save your CV as a PDF or a Word Document. Applicant tracking systems can read both formats. Whatever you do, do not use a JPEG of your CV!

For more CV tips and advice on searching for a job, download my latest book, ‘Get The Job You Really Want’ for free from my website here.