As a rule we do not find that functional CVs are as effective or well received by potential employers as well written chronological CVs that have functional elements built into them. In fact we would go as far as to say that we generally advise those with functional CVs to change the format. Whilst the theory behind functional CVs makes some sense, the reality is that they often fail to do the following:
• Prioritise your career achievements; by having a series of fairly subjective functions on the first page one’s achievements and those things an employer most wants to know about often slip out of sight or are missed entirely.
• Clearly and succinctly describe your actual career history; every employer wants to see, on the first page, what you are doing now and what you have done before in a straightforward format. Functional CVs are often used by those with a patchy career history to disguise the fact.
• Explain when a particular skill or function was developed and last practiced; if you last did something a long time ago then the skill is naturally going to be a little more rusty than if it was being practiced recently. It is therefore a little disingenuous to list a skill that has not been used for a long time alongside others that are 100% current.
This view is not based on an old-fashioned dislike of change or innovation. Rather there is a straightforward way in which functions or skills can be built into each of your roles, beneath your main achievements and in the conventional chronological format. CVs need to be ‘easy’ documents as they are, rather obviously, a direct reflection on the person that they are written about. A CV that is too long, provided in a format that is more difficult to open than word or a very simple PDF (remember that internet connections are not always fast, especially via mobile devices) or just overly complicated is just a little more ‘difficult’ than it needs to be. No-one wants to hire a difficult person!
So how should you put together your CV?
Our advice would therefore be to structure your CV in a straightforward chronological format, keep it to 1 ½ to 3 sides (1 page CVs are only standard in the US) and stick to word or a simple PDF. Never use Power Point or a PDF that is a very large file and minimise the use of imagery. A little colour doesn’t do any harm but too much creativity detracts from the content, unless you happen work in a very creative industry. As for the order we would generally suggest the following:
• Name and essential personal details. These should include a mobile number with an international dialling code, your nationality and, if you are targeting a role outside the UK, your marital status and date of birth).
• A succinct personal profile. In this a person’s main skills and characteristics can be easily summarised in a format that people will actually read. This is your ‘elevator pitch’ so it needs to sell you effectively.
• A career history, including months and years, in chronological format. Each role that lasted for a reasonable period of time should be summarised, followed by bullet points listing achievements, responsibilities and the skills and experience developed through them.
• Education and qualifications. Including exact dates, grades and institution details.
• A short personal interests section. Ignore those who tell you that these are not necessary; employers generally want to hire interesting people not robots, they just don’t require your full life story.
Getting your CV right in an age where attention spans are shortening and competition for roles is increasingly international is vital. Once written read your CV through the eyes of the person you want to work for and remember that the aim of the CV is to get you an interview. The rest is down to ability, personality, presentation, determination and a little bit of luck!
Written by James Wakefield, Director – Cobalt