CV writing tips - chronological and functional CVs

  | James Innes

Broadly speaking, there are two types of a CV - a chronological CV and a functional CV. By far the most common is the chronological CV which lists your employment (and academic) history, usually beginning with the most recent position and working backwards, with a brief summary of the key responsibilities for each position. A functional CV lists your experience under different functional areas, such as Customer Services or Marketing, and focuses on specific skills rather than a full career history. It will include a Key Skills section and Career Summary, rather than a full Career history.

Whilst for most people a chronological CV is the most suitable format, there are specific cases where a functional CV could be appropriate. These include individuals with little practical experience, those with career gaps and also people who have held a variety of short-term jobs.

Research has shown, however, that employers do not like functional CVs. There are a variety of reasons for this.

·       Achievements are not highlighted easily. It is difficult for a reader to identify when and where achievements happened.  A reviewer has to cross-check with the work summary; if they are busy, they simply won’t bother.

·       The candidate is hiding something. Employers are not stupid. They know a functional CV is often used when a candidate has a less than perfect work history.

·       They are not compatible with Applicant Tracking Systems.  Many larger companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to scan CVs, based on keywords. The functional CV does not easily lend itself to ATS logarithms because dates and accomplishments do not add up.

·       They are unconventional. Employers tend, on the whole, to prefer the tried and tested. They are likely just to prefer a chronological $ {cv} because that is what they are expecting and know.

There are cases where a functional CV could still be used – in the creative industries, for example. And some senior roles might want both a chronological CV and a functional CV.

However, unless you have an incomplete or chequered work history, your safest bet is the chronological CV, as this will increase your chance of getting an interview. This is the point of the whole process in the first place.

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