There are many possible layouts and formats when creating your curriculum vitae. On this page we discuss the format of a CV generally before looking at the CV format that is expected by employers in the UK. Our step-by-step guide walks you through each section, explaining what information is required to write a CV and how it should be laid out.
The different CV formats
There are three main types of C V format:
- Reverse chronological
- Functional (or ‘skills based)
The most common format for CV writing used in the UK is reverse chronological.
1. Reverse Chronological
Here is an example of the Reverse Chronological CV format:
The only deviation from the standard format here is that the contact information appears down the side of the CV. This example CV format is free and can be downloaded here.
2. Functional (skills based)
This format of CV places a lot of focus on the skills that are most relevant to the role applied for. The skills section appears after the personal statement rather than towards the end of the CV. It is typically much longer than would be included in a reverse chronological CV.
A functional C.V format is mainly used by two types of candidate:
- Candidates with little formal work experience (in this case, the skills section may even be larger than the work experience section).
- Candidates applying to roles where skills are more important than work experience (in this case, the candidate will want to draw the skills to the attention of the employer first)
Here is an example of a functional CV format:
This example CV format is free and can be downloaded here.
A combination CV is as it sounds: it combines the reverse chronological and functional CV formats, placing equal emphasis on both skills and experience. The layout for this type of CV is more flexible and can be adapted to the job position. So, if you want to put your work experience first, that’s fine. If you’d rather put skills first, that’s fine too.
The difference between this format and the reverse chronological format is that with this format, the skills and work experience section could be the same size. With the reverse chronological format, the skills section would be much smaller.
As the combination format puts emphasis on both work experience and skills, there may be less room for other sections such as interests.
Here is an example of a combination CV format:
This example CV format is free and can be downloaded here.
CV format: length
The length of a CV depends on what role you are applying for.
The industry standard is two pages, which is what you should certainly be aiming for if you want to attract the attention of an employer. Any more than two pages tends to lose the attention of the reader.
Keep in mind most hiring managers like to be able to quickly scan through a CV to ascertain whether or not the candidate is right for the role. With literally hundreds of applications to read, the hiring manager has to make a quick judgement call on which CV to add to the ‘shortlist’ pile for a potential interview. Having three or more pages CV could mean that yours is overlooked!
If you’re struggling for room, edit your content for relevancy. Don’t decrease the font size to cram in more info – you want the CV to be easy to read.
For further information on the correct length of a CV, read our article ‘How long should a CV be?‘
CV format: core sections
Each of the core sections mentioned above will be considered in turn.
Personal statement (3 – 4 lines)
Sometimes the personal statement is known by other names such as ‘objective’, ‘profile’, ‘career goal’ or ‘introduction’.
This is one of the most important parts of your CV as it’s essentially the crux of your job application. A good statement can increase your chances of the employer noticing your CV. On the flipside, a poorly written statement will lower the chances of them wanting to know more.
It should set out:
(a) who you are;
(b) how you meet the job spec; and
(c) what you are looking for.
Here is an example of a personal statement (note the three elements above that are used):
Here is another example, again with the 3 elements present:
Qualifications (highest level to lowest level)
This section is quite self explanatory, but it’s worth noting that you can again consider what is the most important and relevant to the role you are applying for. You may wish to exclude lower level or irrelevant qualifications.
Don’t forget to also show what grade you achieved IF this would enhance the qualification.
The typical format for higher level qualifications is to give the qualification and institution where you studied – for example:
BSc Computer Science (Upper second class honours) – Jan 2013 – March 2016
University of Liverpool
For lower level qualifications, such as GCSEs and A Levels, it isn’t absolutely necessary to name your school or college. You certainly do not need to name earlier schools.
Interests and hobbies
Listing sports or fitness activities amongst your interests tells your employer that you take an interest in your health = fewer sick days!
When writing your hobbies and interests section:
- List 3 – 5 hobbies
- Emphasise any health-enhancing activity (sports, fitness etc)
- Choose hobbies that put you in a good light from an employer’s perspective
- Avoid overly quirky hobbies – save these for when your new colleagues have got to know you better!
Although this section may seem quite insignificant, you’d be surprised at how often a recruiter looks at this section with a keen eye. This is one of the best areas of a CV for an employer to get an idea of your personality.
If you enjoy volunteering at the local woodland park at the weekend, then instantly you get a sense that you are someone who is helpful and generous, and likes to work hard without expecting a huge reward other than job satisfaction.
If you are a keen reader and like to read serial killer novels, then clearly you are a nutcase and the police should be notified instantly… (just kidding of course – I love a good crime book!)
But you can see what we mean when we say how important this section could be when the employer is trying to build up a picture of what you are like in their mind. Of course, this shouldn’t make or break your chances of an interview, but you can of course highlight some great hobbies and interests which sum you up as a person.
What to avoid:
You must avoid stating these kinds of hobbies:
I like socialising on the weekend
This basically means you like to get drunk on Saturday night!
I like hanging out with my friends
It might be true, but it doesn’t sound very interesting!
For more on preparing the interests and hobbies section, read our article ‘Does the hobbies and interests section of my CV really matter?‘
CV format: additional sections
Other sections you might want to include in your CV (depending on relevance) are:
- Awards (relevant to the role)
- Memberships (relevant to the role)
- Publications that you’ve contributed to (relevant to the role)
Include achievements either within your work history, in a separate section or a combination of both. They can also be dotted around your CV where there is space (although take care not to clutter the layout). In this example two-page template, you can see how achievements work well in their own section:
Now you know the best CV format, why not choose from our CV templates free collection?