Chronological CV or Functional CV?
There are essentially two types of CV (the European name for a résumé): the chronological CV and the functional CV (also called skills-based CV). This article is intended to help you decide which type of CV is best suited to your needs. It describes the differences between the two and explains how and when they should be used.
Chronological or Reverse-chronological CV
A chronological CV is, as the name indicates, a chronological list of your education and work experience, with your earliest experience presented first at the top of the page. Nowadays, however, this particular type of CV is not very widely used. Employers and recruiters prefer to have a reverse-chronological CV, which presents your experiences from the latest to the earliest. This is in fact the most logical way to proceed, since the person who recruits will doubtlessly be more interested in your most recent achievements.
This kind of CV gives a clear, easy-to-read and concise outline of your educational and professional history. It is particularly recommended if you have a steady school and work record reflecting constant growth in your career, and if your previous experience corresponds well to the position for which you are applying. It also gives you more leeway to describe each position held in some detail.
If you have gaps in your employment history, or have changed jobs often, these become very noticeable.
Functional CV (skills-based CV)
The functional or skills-based CV puts the emphasis on the responsibilities and skills acquired, rather than presenting the various positions in chronological order. It includes similar information to the reverse-chronological CV, but the material is organized under a different sequence of headings. Your professional achievements may be grouped into categories, for example, by area of expertise or by skill.
This type of CV has the advantage of emphasizing actual achievements: the historic aspect of your career becomes less obvious. It gives the recruiter a useful overview of the kind of position to which the candidate can aspire.
If you are looking to move to a new employment area (i.e. your last job has no direct link with your current objective), a skills-based CV is particularly useful for showing a future employer how your skills can transfer over. By highlighting your key points, it enables recruiters to see at a glance how your capacities, professional skills and key realizations can match the needs of the job, even if you are not quite sufficiently qualified or don’t have the right number of years’ experience for the specific job.
The skills-based CV is also recommended for those who wish to return to work after a period of inactivity, as well as for candidates who have a “non-specialized” profile. Job titles tend to be less important with this type of CV.
Finally, it is suitable for new graduates who do not have much work experience.
If your objective is to demonstrate professional stability, then this CV is not ideal for you. It also tends to limit how much detail you can go into when describing a particular job and the responsibilities given to you. You may find that you want to describe a particular job in detail, but that on the other hand you have gaps in your career. Choosing the right type of CV is often a fine balance between these two problematics.
To see some examples of reverse-chronological and skills-based CVs, see our page of Free Templates.
About the author
With diplomas in both technical writing and communication, Savannah has been working as a technical writer and translator for 15 years. Born in France and raised in the UK and the US, she has been living in France for many years and thus is perfectly fluent in both French and English.