CV structure – a guide

Man and woman in a job interview with a CV

Having collected, sorted and compiled your life history it is time to prepare the CV (curriculum vitae) or resume structure itself.

This information is normally structured with the following elements.

  • Contact information
  • Summary
  • Education
  • Experience
  • Interests
  • Personal Information

Your CV will be scanned for just a few seconds, one of dozens, or even hundreds.  At this point the reader is often looking for reasons to reject your CV rather than accept; it is imperative that you analyse his needs and meet them, that you analyse both your strong and weak points and structure your CV accordingly.

For example, if you are a recently qualified graduate it is likely that your specific qualifications are most important to a potential employer; if you have a twenty year career history, it is likely to be your accomplishments that are most important.

We can take all your information and create the CV most suitable for your career history and particular circumstances.

Chronological CV

The chronological CV(curriculum vitae) or resume is the most common form of presentation, illustrating the progression of your career from conception to present and is presented in reverse chronological order.

It is easy to read, allowing the reader to easily follow your career history.  The chronological CV focuses on dates of employment, places of employment and job titles.

The chronological CV is advised when:

  • You have a continuous career history within the same discipline and where there are no major gaps.
  • Your responsibilities have increased with job changes.
  • Your most recent jobs are the most important in your career history.


  • Enables the reader to easily see where and when you worked, together with your accomplishments at each job.
  • This is the most common and widely accepted format.
  • Provides a clear sense of your career progress.


  • Any employment gaps or limited work experience is immediately obvious.
  • Equally obvious is tendency to frequently change jobs.
  • Conversely, this format could illustrate that you have been in job too long.
  • Highlights work history, rather than accomplishments.

A range of chronological CV examples can be found here.

Functional CV structure


Skills based CV

A skills-based CV. Source:

The functional CV (curriculum vitae) or resume concentrates only on your skills and accomplishments, either under one heading or, perhaps, subdivided into, say, Management, Engineering, Commercial etc, dependent upon the individual concerned

This type of CV concentrates on what you have done, rather than when or where.

Whilst the functional CV or resume is ideal for ensuring that all relevant experience is demonstrated, and that all possible keywords are utilised, some employers do not like this form of presentation, believing that the applicant is using a functional CV in order to hide a gap or some other defect in their employment history.

Those who should consider a functional CV or resume are:

  • Those who are looking for first jobs
  • Individuals with diverse career patterns that might be questioned.
  • Your career has ’downsized’ a while ago.
  • Your age is, perhaps, questionable, and you do not wish to emphasise a long career history. (see CV – Older Workers for detailed discussion)
  • Career changers who wish to enter a very different field.
  • You have extensive experience from another career path.
  • You have changed jobs frequently.
  • Those with large gaps in their employment history.
  • Persons entering an entirely new field, e.g. Military to civilian.
  • Have limited work experience.
  • Those looking for a position for which they may be over-qualified.


  • Takes focus away from gaps and/or inconsistencies in your work record.
  • Highlights your accomplishments, your skills, and your experience.
  • Is able to consider all past experience, whether career or otherwise.


  • Some employers do not like this approach, believing the writer has something to hide.
  • Says nothing about career growth or promotions received.
  • Impossible for reader to understand what you did in each job.

A skills-based CV structure can be found here.

Combination CV

As the name suggests, the combination CV (curriculum vitae) is a mixture of both chronological and functional CV.

The combination CV starts with a description of yourself, your achievements, skills and abilities, demonstrating who and what you are.  Correctly formulated, this single paragraph is a powerful ’hook’, illustrating immediately that you are the right person for this job.

This functional CV introduction is followed by a chronological listing of your work experience.

This format is welcomed by recruiters, allowing an immediate judgement of a candidate’s suitability for a given position.

Those who should consider a combination CV are:

  • You have a strong career and wish to demonstrate that you have the right skills for the job as soon as the recruiter starts to read your CV.
  • You have a sound employment history.
  • A chronological CV is stipulated by the recruiter.


  • Puts your most important skills and accomplishments right at the top of your CV, where they will be seen first.
  • You are able to group skills and accomplishments into specific groups that reflect the job requirements.


  • You must ensure that CV does not become overlong due to duplication of information.


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