CV Examples: How to find the right CV type

Written by Coursera • Updated on

An introduction to different CV examples and when you should and shouldn’t use them. You will also find general tips on how to write a great CV, include ideas on layout, ATS compliance and what to include.

[Featured Image]:  Job applicant working on a CV.

When writing a CV, it’s important that you choose one that suits you and the role you’re applying for.

When writing a CV, time needs to be given to consider the type of CV to use, so that it does your experience and qualifications justice, matches the industry you’re applying to and your level. Not every position is going to require the same type of CV, so if you are applying for multiple roles, it’s possible you will need more than one CV.

Let’s go through some CV examples, so that you can decide which is best for you and your job search:

Chronological CV

A chronological CV is the most commonly used CV and can be perfect for a variety of jobs, regardless of your level. The chronological CV allows you to list your experience and qualifications in reverse chronological order, so an employer can scan through and see what you do, your highest qualification and your career history.

When to use: This is a great CV to use if you want to show career progression. If your experience is very industry specific and you’ve worked your way up from an entry level position to a higher level, this will show your steps very well. 

When not to use: If your experience is diverse and doesn’t show an obvious progression, or if you have very limited experience, this CV type won’t do you justice. You need to choose one that focuses more heavily on your skills, like a skills based CV.

Skills-based CV

A skills based CV is less commonly used than a chronological CV but it is so versatile and allows for more tailoring, so it really is a strong option. Experience and education are still listed in reverse chronological order, but above that, comes a detailed skills section, where you can list and provide examples of your most relevant skills and achievements. Look at the job description for the role you’re applying for and make sure you have examples of all the essential skills. 

When to use: If you are changing career and your experience doesn’t seem related to what you’re moving into, a skills based CV allows you to focus on your transferable skills from your past positions. This CV format is also excellent if you are lacking experience but you have lots of transferable skills from studying, personal projects or volunteer work. 

When not to use: This CV type is excellent for most positions, regardless of experience, but if your career follows a very linear progression, you might be better suited to a chronological CV.

Technical CV

A technical CV format is similar in style to both of the above. Experience and qualifications are listed chronologically but at the top of the CV is a skills section. This skills section is specifically to highlight your technical skills. This part of the CV can be highly tailored to the job description of the role you’re applying for. Make sure all the relevant technical skills are in this section. 

When to use: This CV is great for any type of technical position. It is the perfect blend between chronological and skills based for a technical role. 

When not to use: If you do not have a great deal of technical skills, highlighting them in a section will draw attention to that fact. In this case, you’re better off including a more general skills section to which you can add your technical skills, alongside others. 

Academic CV

An Academic CV is slightly different to a CV for a non-academic job seeker. For a start, it is acceptable for it to be longer as there are often publications, grants and research interests to include. A standard UK CV is 2 pages, but often an academic CV will be longer.

This type of CV is really a chronological CV, except it has additional sections including, but not limited to, publications, teaching experience, research activities and conferences and presentations. The sections to include will depend on what you have achieved throughout your career. 

When to use: This is a great option if you are applying for an academic role and will be assessed on your academic experience including publications, teaching and research.

When not to use: If you are applying for a role in industry, even if you have an academic background, this CV isn’t a good match. Some sections on an academic CV will not be relevant for a non-academic position and a CV must always be tailored to what you are applying for, rather than including anything and everything. 

Creative CV

If you are applying for a role in a creative industry, you might want to think outside the box a bit. Obviously do your research on the company, but if you think they will value some innovation, you might want to consider something a bit more quirky. Video CVs are becoming more popular, and some have gone to extreme lengths to make sure they get eyes on their CV, including a man who put his CV on a doughnut box and had it delivered by a courier.

Tips for writing a great CV

Use these tops tips to help write a CV that will be appealing to prospective employers. A well-written and formatted CV can help you stand out and increase your chances of getting an interview.

CV design

Whichever CV example you choose, next comes the task of designing a professional-looking document. You can find all sorts of templates and it’s tempting to make your CV look flashy, but unless you are working in the creative industry, as mentioned above, the best option is really to keep it simple and professional.

White space: Don’t overcrowd your CV. A recruiter needs to be able to scan your CV quickly so don’t make it too text heavy. Leave plenty of white space so it is easy to read and easy on the eye.

Headings and bullets: In the interest of making your CV easy to read, make sure it’s laid out with clear headings and use bullet points to break up the text. 

Avoid columns and boxes: Too much going on can distract the reader from the information they are trying to find. Make it easy for them by having a clear progression to follow, rather than boxes all over the place. 

ATS compliance

Most companies these days use Applicant Tracking Software, which means that before your CV even reaches a person, it will be screened by a software program to see if you are a viable candidate. To pass this screening, there are several things you can do.

Use keywords: Scan the job description and person spec for keywords and make sure these are included in your CV.

Avoid colour and diagrams: Blocks of colour don’t comply with the ATS system and neither do diagrams or use of symbols like logos, so avoid these.

Tailor your CV

Whichever CV example you choose, everything you write needs to be highly tailored to the role you’re applying for. It’s tempting to include everything you’ve ever done, but the key is making yourself sound perfect for the particular position you’re going for. With this in mind, it’s likely you’ll need to adapt your CV for each position you apply for. 

Get started

If you have a position in mind, get started on your CV as soon as you can. If you don’t have anything specific you want to apply for, it’s still a good idea to have the basis of a CV ready to go, that you can adapt and tailor.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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