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CVs and Resumes: The Professional CV Writer’s Viewpoint: Chronological, Functional or Combined CV – How do you choose?

Updated on May 16, 2015
Resume/CV writing tips from cvdiy.com
Resume/CV writing tips from cvdiy.com

Some strategies for choosing a CV format

Writing a CV is difficult enough. The abundance and availability of information and advice for how to go about it can actually make writing a CV more challenging. Different and varying sources sometimes offer contradictory advice. This can be a bit overwhelming and lead to more confusion than clarity for understanding which is the right approach for your situation.

For example, it can often be confusing as to whether you should write a chronological, functional or combined CV. The chronological CV tends to be the default approach since it is just a matter of listing your employment history in order with the most recent first and going backwards in time. But, this will not always be the most effective way to get the results you want. The skills-based or functional CV, if not done correctly, can end up coming across as disorganised, unfocussed and insubstantial as it is certainly not appropriate in every situation.

As a professional CV writer, I have developed tools to help me make these kinds of decisions when I am writing a client’s CV. The tool for determining chronological versus functional is similar to the tool I created for helping to manage space on a CV by strategically ordering employment history. If you have not seen it yet, the hub page for this is at: http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Professional-CV-Writer-Viewpoint-Structuring-your-Employment-History-for-Efficient-Spacing

How I determine whether a CV should be chronological, functional or combined is based on my analysis of a client’s job goal in relationship to his or her recent employment history. Rather than guessing, I use a comparison chart to cross-reference a combination of factors including the job or job type the person is currently doing and whether or not he or she is seeking to stay in that job or job type or if he or she is looking for something different.

This should also take into account the industry that the person is in and where he or she sees him or herself heading in terms of the industry. And, finally, this takes into account the person’s employer goal. This means considering whether he or she wishes to stay with their current or find a new employer.

By doing the above, the categories of job goals I have created help me to identify whether the client will be most effectively supported by a chronological or functional or combined CV and how the information needs to be structured.

CATEGORIES OF JOB GOALS

The aim of using these categories is simply to give your current job goal a context relative to what you have been doing and where and in what industry contrasted with where you would like your career to go in the future. These are only general guidelines but should provide a good starting point for thinking about how to structure your CV based on the needs of your situation and what your prospective employers are likely to be looking for.

Why is this important? Your job goal is going to determine which information you put forward first and/or which part of your work history on which you will place the most emphasis. This is part of ensuring that your suitability for your targeted position is visible in a quick scan.

JOB GOAL CATEGORY 1

Target Job or Job Type: Same as current
Target Employer: Same as current
Target Industry: Same as current
Example: Sometimes when an employer undergoes a corporate restructure, employees have to re-apply for their current positions. Another example of Job Goal Category 1 is when a person is seeking the same or a similar position with their current employer, but in a different department, division or location.
CV Type: Generally a chronological CV will meet the needs for this goal

JOB GOAL CATEGORY 2

Target Job or Job Type: Same as current
Target Employer: Change
Target Industry: Same as current
Example: This job goal occurs when a person is seeking the same type of role and responsibilities they have in their current position but with a different company.
CV Type: Generally a chronological CV will meet the needs for this goal

JOB GOAL CATEGORY 3

Target Job or Job Type: Same as current
Target Employer: Change
Target Industry: Change
Example: This job goal occurs when a person is seeking the same type of role and responsibilities but with a new employer and in a new industry. It will be very important to ensure that it is clear to quickly see how the skills and knowledge from the one industry can be transferred to the other.
CV Type: Combined functional/chronological with an emphasis on common knowledge and expertise areas shared with target industry

JOB GOAL CATEGORY 4

Target Job or Job Type: Change
Target Employer: Same
Target Industry: Same
Example: This is when a person is seeking a different role within their current company. This could be due to seeking a promotion, seeking to work within a different team or a project related role. It could possibly be a corporate restructure where the person’s current job is being phased out and their employer needs to be transferred elsewhere in the organisation.
CV Type: More functional with an emphasis on relevant training received and transferable skills, common knowledge and expertise areas shared with target job type

JOB GOAL CATEGORY 5

Target Job or Job Type: Change
Target Employer: Change
Target Industry: Same
Example: This is where a person is seeking to work in the same industry but wants to change job type and employer. This usually follows some kind of completion of training or other qualifications where the person feels limited by their current role and would like to start applying what they have learned, or they are seeking to further their career in the industry through professional membership.
CV Type: This would require a more functional CV where the qualifications, skills and strengths, would come before the employment history. The first piece of information at the top of the CV after contact details should be a concise summary of how the person has arrived at that point in their career along with their current objective. There should also be an emphasis on relevant training and transferable skills paired along with any knowledge/expertise of the industry.

JOB GOAL CATEGORY 6

Target Job or Job Type: Change
Target Employer: Change
Target Industry: Change
Example: This is where a person is seeking to entirely change their career. This usually follows some kind of completion of training or other qualifications or they are seeking to gain experience in a different industry and/or further their career through professional membership.
Other examples might include when the person:
- is seeking to use skills or training not being presently utilised;
- desires to return to the kind of work they did in a previous job;
- has upgraded their qualifications by recently graduating from college or university or another training programme;
- is seeking a career change without a specific career in mind;
- is seeking to re-enter the job market after a period of unemployment.
CV Type: For all of the above, this would require a more functional CV where the qualifications, skills and strengths, would come before the employment history. Similar to Job Goal Category 5, the first piece of information at the top of the CV after contact details should be a concise summary of how the person has arrived at that point in their career along with their current objective. There should also be an emphasis on relevant training and transferable skills they might have to pursue a different direction.

 For more advice on resume/CV writing, please see the links below:

How do you strategically manage the space on your Resume/CV when you have a lot of information?
If you have a lot of information to manage on your CV, Click here to find out how to strategically use the space on your CV to keep it concise and effective.

When is it Okay to Revise and Resubmit?
Sometimes you realise afterwards that the CV you sent may not have said what it needed to. Click here for guidelines as to when it is adviseable to revise and resubmit.

How do you know how long your Resume/CV should be?
Ensuring your resume/CV is the right length is an important part of successfully getting through the selection process.Click here for some guidelines to determine how long your resume/CV should be.

Is your resume/CV selling you as well as it could do?
Click here  to learn about Personal Value and what it means to your prospective employer(s)

 Is your Resume/CV not getting the responses you would like?
Click here for advice on how to diagnose an ineffective resume/CV.

© 2010 M Selvey, MSc

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