As you can imagine, we review a lot of CVs at The Works and candidates often ask us how best to structure theirs to really showcase their talents. There are a number of styles you can choose from, but what are the most popular and are there times when one style works better than another?
Top CV Styles
There are two styles of CVs we see most often. The first, and by far the most popular, is the chronological CV. As the name sounds, this document lists a person’s work history in chronological order, usually working backwards from their current (or most recent) job to their first, as below:
2008-2012: Associate director, Company GHI
2006-2008: Account manager, Company DEF
2004-2008: Senior Account Executive, Company ABC
Each job listing features a brief summary of the person’s role in the company, their responsibilities and – if their CV is a good one - some key achievements. (Note to all job seekers - prospective employers don’t just want to read about your day-to-day responsibilities, they also want to know about the results you have generated. So please make sure you include some achievements on your CV as this will give your next employer an idea of the difference you could make to their business if they hired you.) For those interested in what we think makes a good chronological CV, please see our CV template for tips.
The second most popular style of CV we receive is the skills-based CV. As the name suggests, this document focuses on a person’s skills-base. It will still have a list of the roles the person has held (usually at the top of the document) but this will be followed by a breakdown of their skills – and this is where the detail will be. So, for example:
2008-2012: Head of media relations, Company XYZ
2006-2008: Associate director, Consultancy GHI
2004-2006: Account manager, Company DEF
2001-2004: Senior Account Executive, Company ABC
1. Strategic development
Developed media strategy for Company XYZ which was signed off by the board and has achieved a 30% uplift in coverage for the business with a 90% positive rating for key messages
Was responsible for strategic development for all my clients at Consultancy GHI. Key clients included XXX, for whom I developed a strategic campaign that independent evaluation suggested changed perceptions of the brand and won a PR Week Excellence Award
2. Senior management liaison
Able to build trust at senior level. Regularly counsel the board of Company XZY on media strategy and am responsible for briefing the CEO for all media interviews.
While in consultancy, I was responsible for providing counsel to senior management teams of my clients, with the result that I was considered the ‘go to’ person to discuss the strategic direction of all campaigns
3. Media handling
Maintain high level relationships with key broadcast media and national titles (online and offline) as well as regionals and key verticals. These relationships enabled me to secure coverage in the FT to allow a key client to tell their side of the story during a major crisis
So there you have it, the top two CV styles summed up.
But is one type of CV better than the other?
Ultimately, the style of CV you use should be the one you feel most comfortable with. The key thing is that you use the document to communicate your skills and experience in a way that is easy for your next employer to read and understand. That means neat, uncluttered pages - and, ideally, a CV no more than two pages long. And it’s this very last point that can sometimes be tricky to achieve – and is one reason why you may want to consider changing the style of your CV.
When you are fairly early in your career and have worked at only a few companies, the chronological style might work for you because you’ll probably be able to chart your experience and achievements in one or two pages.
By the time you get to a senior position, such as our head of communications above, you may well have worked at a number of different companies. Listing these chronologically and having skills and achievements for each one could amount to a pretty long document. Given that there may well be some overlap of responsibilities between your roles you also run the risk of repeating yourself.
This might therefore be the time to switch from the chronological version to the skills-based version. This version will allow you to communicate the breadth of your experience without the need to resort to a lengthy tome.
Therefore it’s not a case of one type of CV being better than the other, rather a case of one type perhaps becoming more appropriate as you move on up through your career.
As we all know, the PR jobs market remains as competitive as ever. Regardless of whether you use the chronological or skills-based style, increase your chances of standing out from the crowd by using your CV to demonstrate why your experience and skill set makes you the perfect person for their business.