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 it won’t even get read. That’s why selecting the right CV format and figuring out how to boost your document’s readability is a must.
Don’t worry. In five minutes, you’re going to learn how to format a CV so that it suits your needs and best shows off your strengths as a candidate. You’ll be hired in a flash.
Want to save time and have your CV ready in 5 minutes? Try our CV builder. It’s fast and easy to use. Plus, you’ll get ready-made content to add with one click. See 20+ CV templates and create your CV here.
Sample CV made with our builder—See more CV examples here.
This guide will show you:
- What is a CV format
- UK CV format: 2 main choices
- How to format a CV
- Best CV format templates
- Key takeaways
What is a CV Format?
CV format is the structure that your CV is built on. It’s both the way your document looks and how all the necessary information is presented in it. CV formatting is needed to arrange your experience, skills, and achievements properly, so they’re easily readable by ATS software and humans alike.
UK CV format: 2 main choices
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.
- A chronological CV format focused on your work experience.
- A skills-based CV format focused on your skills.
Now let’s have a look at their samples and see how they’re written, for whom they’ll work best, and what are their pros and cons.
Acing your CV format is great, but don’t forget about nailing its layout. Read more: Professional CV Layout
1. Chronological CV format
The chronological CV, also known as a reverse-chronological format is the best CV format for most candidates. It lists your most recent role first and then moves back through your previous jobs. It’s the format recruiters are most familiar with and are able to scan it in seconds, picking out all the info they need with ease.
Computers also love it because it’s easily read by the ATS software used to scan incoming job applications. However, with this format, every gap in your employment history will be visible.
To follow this CV format, you should start with a personal statement and then list your work experience. These two sections are the most important, as you will see in our template below. While your personal statement and experience section are the most significant, let’s not forget about your education section (listed in a reverse chronology), key skills, and additional sections, such as language skills.
Let’s see what it looks like:
CV format template [chronological CV]
0734 934 8374
Office Manager with 8+ years of experience looking to take on new challenges at Techtron Solutions. Proven wins, including achieving a 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 a new travel booking contractor and created a simplified approval process, leading to a cost saving of 20% on business travel expenses.
Patel & Smythe, London
July 2012–August 2017
- Organised and recorded appointments for the executive team.
- Created reports for Office Manager to present to senior management. Made changes to report templates that received positive feedback and reduced the size of reports by 30%.
- Answered phones and dealt with email inquiries. Efficient working led to a 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 a high standard of service delivery during emergency office moves 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 a regular schedule of 1:1 meetings and introduced a new annual performance review process.
This candidate has listed their achievements using the PAR formula (Problem—Action—Result), creating impressive accomplishment statements. A personal statement perfectly summarizes all her qualifications. It’s important to do it right because your recruiters will look at your CV in an F-shaped pattern. If you want to impress them, these sections should really shine.
Is a chronological CV the best CV format for you?
This CV format works perfectly for almost everyone. Whether you’re writing a finance CV with a work experience section that goes on for years or a graduate CV to land the first job, the chronological is your go-to CV format.
However, if you're a career-changer or have significant gaps in your employment, you might want to highlight your skills more than your experience. In that case, have a look at the skill-based CV format.
CV format pros [chronological CV]
- It’s a format preferred by recruiters.
- It’s most likely to pass an Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) CV test.
- It highlights the peak of your career and your accomplishments.
CV format cons [chronological CV]
- It requires some extra effort to catch the recruiter’s eye.
- It’s not great if you have some gaps in your employment history.
- It’s not a good CV format if you’re changing careers.
Now, let’s have a look at the second UK CV format type: a skill-based CV.
Learn how to create an impressive CV summary that will make your recruiter want to call you ASAP. Read our guide: CV Summary
2. 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. Recruiters don’t tend to like it because it’s missing the neatly laid out work history they’re used to seeking first. Plus, it may not be readable by older ATS systems. That said, a well-written functional CV can be a great help only for some candidates.
This format starts with a personal statement followed by a key skills summary section. Both your soft skills and your hard skills should be explained further. Beneath that main section, you briefly include your work experience, education, and other sections, such as language skills.
Let’s have a look at how this CV format looks in practice.
CV format template [skills-based CV]
0348 628 9283
UX designer with 5+ years of 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 app and website visual content production.
- Created unique infographics for pieces produced by the 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
As you can see, the candidate above has listed performed tasks and achievements within each of the three skill groups, containing soft, hard, and technical skills. Placing the skills summary section in the centre of this CV made it stand out the most. Following that with work history, education, and additional sections provided the recruiter with all the necessary information.
Is a skill-based CV the best CV format for you?
Since this CV format emphasizes skills and not your work experience, and it’s not really ATS-friendly, you might want to avoid choosing it. However, it’s a format that will work perfectly for you in some scenarios:
- Writing a career change CV.
- Writing a freelance CV.
- Transitioning from military work to civilian one.
CV format pros [chronological CV]
- It focuses on your skills and not on your work history.
- It’s a good CV format for freelancers, veterans, and career changers.
- It’s perfect for showing your skills, regardless of when or where you acquired them.
CV format cons [Chronological CV]
- It’s difficult to scan quickly. That’s why busy recruiters prefer the chronological format.
- It might not work if the job you’re after requires experience.
- It will probably fail the ATS CV scan.
Now that you know everything about both UK CV formats, let’s summarize what we’ve learned.
If you’d like a more detailed guide to CV writing, then read more here: How to Write a Professional CV
When making a CV in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building a professional CV template here for free.
When you’re done, Zety’s CV builder will score your CV and tell you exactly how to make it better.
How to format a CV
Here’s a selection of the best formatting tips. You’ve learned the difference between the two types of CV formats, but the following rules stay the same, regardless of which template you choose.
CV formatting tips
- Use one-inch margins on all four sides of the page, set your spacing to 1 or 1.15, and select 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. It should never be longer 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 create a CV that’ll make a great first impression with recruiters.
What’s a great CV format without a perfect template? Read on and see my selection of the best templates for both formats.
Having a perfectly formatted CV is great, but you must also remember about your second application document. Learn how to work on it to impress your recruiters: How to Format a Cover Letter
Best CV format templates
There are some free CV templates online that help you win the job you’re after. However, I firmly believe it’s better to find a professional CV-building website with professional ATS-friendly templates that will pass every initial selection made by an algorithm.
Below, you will see some templates from Zety. They are all good for both formats mentioned above. They are also editable CV templates, and you can adjust them as you go. Choose the best CV template and start working on your document.
This creative CV template highlights your key sections with diamonds—and that’s eye-catching! A big header allows you to add all your contact info, including your social media profiles, online portfolios, and websites, while keeping the CV format intact.
A full-width header for your name, title, and CV profile makes Muse one of my favourite choices from our builder. Those spectacular icons help your recruiter quickly locate each section on this visual CV template.
Elegance and professionalism—that’s our Influx template. With a bold CV header and a single-column CV format, your document will be impossible to miss on your recruiter’s desk. And there’s plenty of room to talk about your experience and skills, which is great for both UK CV format types.
Here’s a perfect CV design example. Two-column CV format with a right-hand sidebar to include all your relevant additional information. Enfold is a perfect, classic CV template with an elegant hint of modernity.
The unique string of round icons shines on this modern CV template. The usage of a timeline on the left-hand side of your document makes it easier to track your experience and education dates. And the sidebar on the right allows you to include a lot of relevant information.
Now, you know both CV formats and how to format each, and you’ve seen some great templates to choose from. Let’s head up to the summary of it all.
Want to learn more about creating a job-winning CV? Read our guide: Best CV Tips
Plus, a great cover letter that matches your CV will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our cover letter builder here. Here's what it may look like:
To create a job-winning CV format, remember the following:
- There are two main types of CV format: chronological and skills-based. Choose the best format for your needs.
- To format your CV correctly, divide it into sections. The most important CV sections include contact information, personal statement, work experience, educational background, and skills.
- Follow the basic rules of CV layout, such as using one-inch margins, setting spacing to 1 or 1.15, selecting a readable and 11–12 point font, avoiding justification, using bullet points, etc.
- Regardless of the format you choose, always make sure your CV is tailored to the job description for each application you make.
- Avoid using a poorly formatted free CV template. Use one from a professional CV builder to secure greater results.
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.
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