There is no perfect CV format. What matters to employers is that you have a strong, clear layout. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a CV format just because it looks easy or is close to a format you’ve already got. Find out what your potential employer hopes to see and put this on the first page. You can get ideas from recruitment consultants, colleagues and contacts or jobs boards.
If a CV isn’t working, it’s probably because it emphasises the wrong information on the first page. Watch out for:
• Wasting your opening lines on irrelevant personal details; a biographical approach distracts readers.
• An ego trip, focusing more on personal qualities than experience.
• Just making a list of job descriptions; your CV should say what the job required and how you added value.
• Too much attention to your qualifications and study history, rather than work experience.
• A functional CV, listing skills and competencies without providing a clear job history.
If you have spent three or four years achieving a degree, you naturally want to mention it. But avoid focusing too heavily on it; you don’t want to give your potential employer the impression that you might be happy remaining in academic life (unless you’re applying for an academic job, of course).
Draw out aspects of your studies that will be interesting to an employer, such as why you chose your course, what you got out of it and how you believe it would enhance your career.
The functional CV
If you want to switch work sectors, it can be difficult to persuade a new employer that your skills are transferable. Listing your job history might actually work against you; in a tight market employers often look for candidates who have done a similar job in a similar organisation.
If you have faced this problem you may have been recommended to write a functional CV. This avoids listing a job history, and instead sets out skills and competencies that closely match target jobs. Avoiding your work history altogether, however, can be problematic: recruitment agencies and employers often dislike functional CVs because it’s difficult to establish where and when you worked. So use this format with caution.
The profile-led CV
This style of CV presents a good compromise between getting your message across and writing something acceptable to most employers. It kicks off with a short summary paragraph – your profile. If you were giving a CV in person, it would only need to be a work history because you could tell them a bit about yourself before they read it. But usually when your CV is read you will be absent, so having a short profile at the start acts as an introduction.
If it’s perfectly clear what kind of role you’ll be going for next, based on your work history, then a profile-free CV may work just as well for you. While a profile can summarise who you are and what you have to offer, they’re not always popular with recruitment consultants and it will set a negative tone for the whole CV if it’s poorly written.