Think getting a job as a student with no experience is impossible? Think again. You just need a great CV. Follow our expert advice & you'll be hired in a flash.
Your CV format is the structure that your CV is built on. CV formatting provides a template for you to arrange your experience, skills and achievements, so they’re easily readable by ATS software and humans alike.
A properly formatted CV is a recruiter’s best friend. It makes their job easier and lets them see your expertise at a glance. But format it badly and your CV won’t even get read.
Don’t worry. In five minutes you’re going to learn how to write a CV in a format that suits your circumstances and best shows off your strengths as a candidate. You’ll be hired in a flash.
Here’s what you’ll get:
- Simple CV formatting rules that apply to everyone.
- Examples of each type of UK CV format.
- An explanation of the two main types of CV format and how to write them.
- Advice on which CV format is best for your needs.
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1. CV Format and Structure
Whether you’ve got no experience at all or you’re a senior exec with decades of experience, you need to get your basic CV layout right in order to be taken seriously. For a professional CV make sure you follow these rules. So fire up your word processor and get yourself ready.
How to Format a CV
- Use one-inch margins on all four sides of the page.
- Set your spacing to 1 or 1.15.
- Choose a readable and professional CV font.
- Use 11–12 point font for your section content and 4–6 points larger for section titles.
- Left align only, no justification.
- Get your CV length right, no more than 2 pages.
- Use bullet points to talk about skills and past positions.
- Keep your CV formatting consistent (e.g., if you use 14 point font for your first heading, then use 14 point font for headings throughout).
- Save your CV in PDF to keep your formatting intact.
Remember these and you’ll have a CV that’ll make a great first impression with recruiters. You’re about to find out about the different types of UK CV format but these rules stay the same, regardless of which template you choose.
Read more: Complete Guide to Professional CV Layout
2. The Two Types of CV and Which Is the Best CV Format for You
Ant and Dec, French and Saunders, Morecambe and Wise, Sooty and Sweep, good things come in pairs and the same goes for CV formats. Depending on your circumstances there are two standard types of UK CV format.
There are two main types of CV:
- A chronological (or traditional) CV.
- A skills-based (or functional) CV.
This is what each type of CV does:
- The chronological format focuses on your work experience.
- The skills-based CV format focuses on your skillset.
Now let’s take a look at samples of both of them, and see how they’re written and for who they’ll work best.
For some great CV tips that work regardless of your format, see this guide: 20+ Job Winning CV Tips and Advice
3. Chronological CV Format
Here’s how a chronological CV should look.
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Office Manager with 8+ years experience looking to take on new challenges at Techtron Solutions. Proven wins including achieving 40% reduction in annual office supply costs through targeted procurement re-negotiation and contract management skills. Also skilled in working in partnership with HR, and negotiated an outsourced payroll system, which saved 10 man-hours per month. Seeking to leverage my professional skills to achieve similar efficiencies and savings at Techtron as it continues to provide class-leading CRM solutions.
Semaphore Accounting, London
- Oversaw office operations in a large accounting firm. Line managed 3 office assistants to ensure maximum operational efficiency.
- Responsible for cost savings for office supplies of 40% per annum over a two year period, achieved through efficient contract negotiation and procurement skills.
- Led on negotiating an outsourced payroll system that replaced two in-house systems, saving 15 man-hours monthly.
- Introduced a 360-degree appraisal and feedback system for office assistants, helping to decrease turnover by 30%.
- Led on procurement of new travel booking contractor and created a simplified approval process leading to cost saving of 20% on business travel expenses.
Patel & Smythe, London
July 2012–August 2017
- Organised and recorded appointments for executive team.
- Created reports for Office Manager to present to senior management. Made changes to report templates that received positive feedback and reduced size of reports by 30%.
- Answered phones and dealt with email enquiries. Efficient working led to 20% reduction in call waiting times.
- Took minutes of meetings and distributed summaries to attendees.
A levels: English, Maths, German, September 2010–June 2012
Forest Hill Comprehensive, London, UK
9 GCSEs including Maths and English, September 2008–June 2010
Forest Hill Comprehensive, London, UK
- Written communication skills: Prepared monthly company newsletter based on briefings from senior managers.
- Adaptability: Maintained high standard of service delivery during emergency office move and unexpected long term absence of team members.
- Contract management: Kept supply and service costs within budget through effective negotiation with contractors.
- Analytical skills: Researched blockages in team processes to improve efficiency.
- Performance management: Maintained regular schedule of 1-1 meetings and introduced new annual performance review process.
What is Chronological CV Format?
Chronological CV format focuses on your work experience. It’s also known as reverse-chronological format, because it lists your most recent role first and then moves back through your previous jobs.
Chronological format is a great choice if you’ve had several years or more of steady career progression. But it’s versatile and can work equally well for a graduate CV or student CV. All you’d need to do is rearrange your CV sections, put your education section first, and ensure that everything is in reverse-chronological order.
What’s more, recruiters love it. It’s the format they’re most familiar with and they scan in in seconds, picking out all the info they need with ease. Computers love it too, it’s easily read by the ATS software that’s used to scan incoming job applications. On the minus side, it really exposes any gaps in employment. If that sounds like you then you should consider the skills-based format.
Section Order for a Chronological CV
1. CV Header
This is where you put your name and contact information. Here’s how to get it right.
- For emphasis, put your name in a font 4–6 points larger than your body text.
- Immediately after your name, include your job title and any professional certifications you have.
- Use a sensible email address based on your name. Make a new one if you need to.
- Include a clickable link to your LinkedIn profile.
- Don’t include personal info like marital status, your photo or your date of birth.
2. Personal Statement
A personal statement is also known as a personal profile, professional profile or career objective. It’s a short paragraph designed to grab the recruiter’s eye and show that you’re the best candidate for the job.
It’s incredibly important because it’s the first place a recruiter looks when they read your CV. Here’s how to get the most out of your personal statement.
- Tailor your personal statement for each new job application. Read the job description and craft a personal statement that’s specific to that job.
- Use keywords. Read the job description again and look for keywords in the form of responsibilities and skills. E.g. “computer skills,” and “people management.” Then put these in your profile, making sure it sounds natural. You should always include the name of the company you’re applying for and the job title too.
- Mention your motivation: Explain why you want to work in this job for this company.
- Skills and experience: Highlight the skills and experience you have that make you the best candidate for this role. Include an impressive quantified achievement
- Career goal: Describe where you plan to go in your career with this company.
3. Work Experience
Just as it says on the tin, this is where you list your professional experience. In a chronological CV, this section has the starring role so give it the attention it deserves. Here’s how to make the most of your work experience.
- Put your current or most recent job first. Then follow up with previous roles. That’s why this CV format is known as reverse-chronological.
- For every position you list, include your job title, the name and location of the company, and the dates you worked there.
- Use bullet points. No more than six for each entry, and start each bullet point off with a punchy action word like accomplished, execute, negotiated and produced.
- Focus on experience that’s relevant to the job, read that all-important job description again for a laser targeted CV.
- Showcase your achievements. It’s not just what you can do but how well you can do it. And use numbers in your achievements for powerful evidence of your abilities.
- Structure those achievements using the PAR formula. Problem—Action—Result. This is also known as an accomplishment statement.
If you’re writing a student CV, or you’ve just graduated then your education would go before your work experience, immediately after your personal statement. Whatever you do, don’t think you can skimp on this section. Employers expect to find certain essential information. This is what to include in your CV education section.
- If you’ve just left school, then include your GCSEs and A-Levels. Always specifically mention obtaining Maths and English as for many jobs these are considered essential. Other subjects can be included if they’re relevant.
- If you’re a university graduate then list your degree, with honours if you achieved them. Also, mention the name and location of your uni. If you’re still studying then include your expected graduation date.
- If you have more than one degree, or post-grad qualifications then use reverse-chronological order.
- If you’ve just graduated, then list specific modules if they’re relevant. But if you’ve got more experience then just list your education without additional details.
Skills demonstrate how well you can perform tasks at work, your effectiveness in workplace scenarios and your expertise related to your profession. Here’s how to write your skills section in a chronological CV.
- Read the job description and make a list of skills that are relevant to the role. Then list your own skills, compare them, and be sure to include any that match.
- Include a mix of soft and hard skills.
- Don’t just list the skill. Write a brief sentence demonstrating you’ve mastered it too. E.g. Adaptability: Maintained a high standard of service delivery during emergency office move and unexpected long term absence of team members.
6. Additional Sections
The sections you’ve just seen are must-haves. You can’t write a chronological CV without them. But if you want to beat the 250 applicants clamouring for every job, you’ll need a little something extra. Think of it as the sweet rainbow swirl of icing that makes a delicious cupcake even better.
Examples of additional CV sections:
- Languages: foreign language skills are highly sought after, so if you’ve got them, include them.
- Volunteering: volunteer work is highly regarded by employers and it’s a valuable form of work experience in itself.
- Hobbies and interests: just make sure they’re relevant and help to sell you as a candidate. E.g. team sports demonstrate teamwork and leadership, art demonstrates creative thinking.
- Professional certifications: always include professional certifications, especially for professions where this is a requirement. Don’t expect the recruiter to make assumptions.
- Awards: recognition of your talents is an easy win for your CV.
- Conferences: show you’re keen to stay on the cutting edge by listing conference attendance.
And that’s your template for creating a chronological CV. Now let’s take a look at a skills-based CV.
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4. Skills-Based CV Format
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UX designer with 5+ years experience and specialization in complex web application design. Specialise in improving user satisfaction and sales conversions through the creation of interactively tested, data-driven, and user-centered design. Looking to leverage my skills to bring monetized improvements to Eastonic as UX Team Lead.
- Created simple and intuitive user interfaces that contributed to annual profit growth of up to 100%.
- Created iterative improvements by leveraging user data with analytics reporting, task analysis, and participatory design techniques.
- Carried out UX research by interactively testing designs using high and low fidelity prototypes.
- Worked regularly on the overall graphical themes and production of app and website visual content.
- Created unique infographics for pieces produced by content team.
- Contributed graphic design to a customer website that won a 2017 Design Week Award.
- Used Pidoco to create page/user flow diagrams, site maps, and interactive wireframes.
- Facilitated design implementation via CSS and HTML coding.
Freelance UX Designer
London & Amsterdam
BA (Hons) User Experience Design
London College of Communication, September 2012–June 2015
- Dutch: Advanced
What is Skills-Based CV Format?
Skills-based CV format, also known as a functional CV, focuses on your core set of skills and abilities rather than your work experience.
Skills-based CVs are a good choice for:
- Career changers.
- People whose work consists mainly of gigs and projects.
- Ex-military personnel transitioning to life on civvy street.
A word of warning, caution is needed when using this format. Recruiters don’t tend to like it, because it’s missing the neatly laid out work history they’re used to. Plus, it may not be readable by older ATS systems. That said, a well-written functional CV can be a great help for some candidates. Here’s the basic structure.
Order of Sections for a Skills-Based CV
- Header with contact info.
- Personal statement.
- Skills summary.
- Work experience.
- Additional sections.
Your header and personal statement should be written in exactly the same way as with a chronological CV. But in a functional CV, your skills section is the beating heart of your job application. It needs to be written in more detail and with great care to ensure you focus on relevant examples that emphasize your strongest abilities. Here’s how to do it.
- First, compile a comprehensive list of all the skills you have. Include soft skills, hard skills and technical skills.
- Read the job description and make a list of what skills are needed for the role.
- Compare your lists and see what matches up.
- Select 3–4 of the skills that match and include them in this section as sub-headings, e.g. “Graphic Design.”
- Under each sub-heading write 3–4 bullet points that give evidence of this skill. Start each bullet point off with an action word and make sure at least one of them quantifies that skill.
In a skills-based CV this section plays second fiddle to your skills. But it still needs to be formatted with due care and attention.
- Put your work experience in reverse chronological order
- Include your job title, the name and location of the company, and the dates you worked there.
- Write one or two brief, one-line bullet points that list your relevant duties.
As for the remaining sections, write your education section in the same way as you would for a chronological CV. And don’t forget to include relevant additional sections. They’re a powerful addition to your CV, regardless of the format you choose.
And that’s it. You’re all set to format your CV like a pro.
If you’d like a more detailed guide to CV writing then read more here: How to Write a Professional CV
And to format your cover letter perfectly, read more here: How to Format a Cover Letter [Examples & Step-by-Step Guide]
To be sure of a job-winning CV format remember the following:
- When formatting your CV always follow the basic rules of CV layout.
- There are two main types of CV format, chronological and skills-based. Choose the format that’s best for your needs, but be aware of the pitfalls of a skills-based CV.
- Each format needs to contain the correct sections in the correct order. Follow the CV templates in this guide to make sure you get it right.
- Regardless of the format you choose, always make sure your CV is tailored to the job description for each application you make.
Got any questions about how to format a CV? Still not sure what the best CV format for you is? Let’s have a chat in the comments section. I’d love to help.