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Written by Paul DruryPaul Drury

Best CV formats for 2024

18 min read
Best CV formats for 2024
There are three main CV formats used when applying for jobs in Ireland: chronological, functional, and combination, otherwise known as hybrid. We’ll explore how to choose a CV format that’s best for you, our top CV formatting tips, and how to impress employers with a polished, professional CV.

The term "CV format" can sometimes be confusing, since it can mean different things across various contexts. Essentially, CV formatting refers to how your CV content is structured. For instance, a functional CV format highlights individual skills and abilities and is ideal for career changers or those with gaps in their employment. On the other hand, a reverse chronological CV format showcases your employment history, listing positions from newest to oldest, and is often preferred by those with solid experience in a particular industry. 

Choosing the right CV format is key: it makes your CV look good, fits employer expectations, helps it get through job application filters, and makes it easy for employers to read and understand. In this guide, we’ll help you choose the best CV format for you. 

So, what’s the best CV format? 

When it's time to decide on a CV format, there are three main CV format types to choose from:

  • Reverse chronological
  • Functional
  • Combination/hybrid

Each CV format has its own advantages, and there's no single 'best' CV template. The best CV is the CV that successfully showcases your professional profile! It’s useful to prepare different versions of your CV in each format and tailor it to the job description, industry, and employer. Our online CV builder can simplify the process, allowing you to reorganise sections and switch between formats with ease. Without further ado, let’s explore the three main CV format types: 

Reverse chronological format

The reverse chronological CV format remains the most popular CV format choice for job seekers, and for good reason! This CV format is ideal for demonstrating your work history, particularly in industries such as finance or accounting where career progression is valued. "Reverse" indicates starting with your latest job and listing prior relevant roles. You don’t need to detail all your experience, and it’s best to avoid listing unrelated positions, like sales experience on an accounting CV. It’s important to be mindful of employment gaps, however, as they're often more noticeable in this format.

Do
  • Use a chronological CV format when you have a strong work history
Don't
  • Choose a chronological CV format just because you think you should!

Functional CV format

A functional CV format, otherwise known as a skills-based CV format, is for roles where expertise and skills trump work history. Functional CVs showcase your special skills, hard skills, and soft skills at the beginning of your CV in a section often labeled “Experience.” By choosing a functional CV, you highlight what you can immediately contribute to the workplace, rather than focusing on past achievements. The functional CV is versatile and practical, making it an excellent option for tradespeople, freelancers, those with gig experience, students, and recent graduates. It's also a great choice for those who prefer to emphasise their abilities without aligning them strictly to past roles from other, less relevant industries. 

Do
  • Choose a functional CV layout if showcasing your abilities is essential for the role you're applying for
Don't
  • Default to a functional CV due to  a lack of work experience in industries that traditionally favour a more chronological layout

Combination CV format

A combination CV format, or hybrid CV format, takes the best parts of both chronological CV and functional CV formats. The way it’s structured changes based on the needs of the applicant. For example, freelancers moving to a more regular job may start their CV by showing off their most relevant skills, then list any previous jobs they’ve had. The good thing about a combination CV is that it shows off your professional highlights right away, and still gives a full list of your past jobs. If you think a functional CV shows you in the best light, but still want to include some work experience, a combination CV format might be the best choice for you. 

Do
  • Opt for a hybrid CV format if you're looking to take a more creative approach, showcase your core skills, or if you're in the midst of a career shift
Don't
  • Try to format your sections yourself! Be sure to use a template with sections that are easily visible and meet a hiring manager's expectations

Our top tips for choosing an effective CV format

Here are our top 5 tips for selecting an appropriate CV format: 

  1. Pick a CV format that matches the style and image of the company you're applying to
  2. If unsure, opt for a clean, professional, or simple template over a more elaborate template
  3. Ensure your template has a good amount of white space-to-text ratio to avoid overwhelming the reader. Too much or too little text, or awkward spacing, can be a visual nightmare for potential employers
  4. Determine which CV sections are most important for showcasing your professional experience and choose an appropriate format that highlights these elements effectively
  5. Use our online CV builder to quickly restructure sections as necessary

Many believe the reverse chronological CV, which starts with your most recent job and moves backwards, is the only way to go. However, the reverse chronological format isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. Exploring alternative CV structures can help you spotlight your diverse experiences and unique talents and help you stand out from the crowd. 

Statistical insight

According to the National College of Ireland, recruiters typically only glance at your CV for 6 seconds, making it vital that your CV leaves a good impression!

Which CV format is the best to use in 2024? 

No single CV format reigns supreme; the best CV format ultimately depends on your own professional experiences, industry, and prospective employer. 

If you respond with “yes” to any of these questions, a functional CV format, or combination CV format, might suit you best: 

  • Are my skills unique and need immediate attention?
  • Am I transitioning to a new industry or role without prior experience?
  • Have I gained a broad skill set from a limited number of roles?
  • Would a straightforward CV format resonate with the potential employer?

If these questions don’t quite resonate with you, you might want to opt for a reverse chronological CV format if:

  • Industry-specific experience is paramount over individual skills
  • You’re applying to a traditionally structured, large company
  • You’re competing against candidates with linear careers at prestigious companies
  • Possessing extensive work history relevant to the job you're pursuing

If you’re still not sure, that’s fine, too! Check out our helpful chart to help decide which CV format is best for you:

CV format  Chronological Functional Combination/Hybrid
Features Focused on employment history Typically the best option for career starters A combination of the functional and chronological CV formats
  Most appropriate for traditional corporate careers Ideal for individuals with limited professional experience Typically begins with a detailed section on skills or accomplishments, followed by a brief employment summary
  The most common CV format Focuses on abilities, skills,  and personality traits An excellent option for individuals in creative professions or freelancers

The best CV format for freelancers

For freelancers eager to stand out from the crowd, selecting the right CV format is essential. Freelancers aiming to stay in their current industry may find that a functional CV is an excellent tool to demonstrate their abilities to potential clients. When your skillset is your main selling point, but you also have some noteworthy previous employers, a combination CV could also be a great choice. It allows you to showcase both your talents and an impressive employment background. Alternatively, if you're transitioning to full-time employment, a reverse chronological CV format may suit you best, as it presents a clear timeline of your professional experiences. Be sure to consider your own professional situation, as all jobseekers are unique!

How to highlight specialised knowledge on a CV

The future favours those with specialised skills, and a deeper understanding of products and the market will be crucial, as it replaces less specialised roles with highly skilled positions. It's wise for individuals to embrace new skills and aim for continuous career growth to boost their opportunities.

With this in mind, your CV needs a smart layout. Employers are on the lookout for what unique expertise you bring to the table. A combination CV can be a smart choice as it puts the spotlight on any specialised strengths and experiences you may have up your sleeve. If you've recently completed any extra training or bagged some new certifications, be sure to update your CV to highlight these accomplishments.

Statistical insight

A recent McKinsey report revealed that by 2030, approximately 1 in every 16 employees may have to transition to a different occupation. For those considering a career change, selecting the right CV format can significantly enhance your prospects against more seasoned professionals. Opt for a functional CV layout if you're entering a new field without direct experience, or a hybrid CV if you have 1-3 relevant roles to highlight.

The best CV format for recent graduates

Global shifts in employment have tightened the entry-level job and internship landscape for graduates. Recent graduates must display adaptability and skills, but opting for a purely functional CV could raise employer suspicion if it appears to conceal scant work experience. Those with internship experience should contemplate a reverse chronological CV format or a hybrid CV format tailored to their industry.

Statistical insight

According to the Higher Education Authority, more than 80,000 students graduate from Irish universities every year. That's a lot of people potentially entering the workforce! Ensure that your CV features an engaging layout to differentiate yourself in a crowded job market.

How to format your CV to pass the ATS

These days, it's not just humans sorting out the first round of job applicants. Lots of companies use ATS – that's Applicant Tracking Systems – to weed through candidates. It can be a real-time and effort saver for the person hiring.

The ATS sorts CVs by looking for specific keywords and ranks them against other job seekers. Just a handful of CVs get passed along to a real person in charge of hiring. You could have all the perfect experience and skills, but if they're not presented right on your CV, there's a pretty hefty chance the ATS can ruin your chances of getting contacted for an interview. Yikes! 

Expert tip

When formatting your CV to get through the ATS, here are our top five tips:

  1. Go for a design layout that’s tidy and simple
  2. Stick to classic section titles like “Work Experience” or “Education” to keep the ATS from getting confused
  3. Skip the fancy graphics or images
  4. Double-check your spelling – the ATS can identify even the smallest of mistakes
  5. Save your CV in a format the ATS can easily digest, like Docx or PDF

Key Takeaways

Before you dash off to create that job-winning CV, don’t forget our top 5 CV formatting tips: 

  1. The reverse chronological CV is still the go-to for most traditional jobs that care about your employment history
  2. Functional CVs can help you shine a spotlight on your skills and expertise, but don't use a functional CV just to hide breaks in your employment history
  3. Combination CV formats are flexible and can let you showcase your special skills and previous employment experiences
  4. In a tough job market, you've gotta match your CV to what employers are looking for. Remember: customised CVs are best!
  5. The ATS is like the first-level boss of job applications, so make sure your CV passes the test by optimising it with relevant keywords, appropriate sections, and no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors.

The simplest way to create a job-winning CV is by using a professional CV template. At CVapp.ie, all of our templates are designed by experts, and with a wide collection of templates, ranging from modern, professional, simple, and creative, we’ve got something for everyone. You can start applying for jobs knowing your format is polished, looks professional, and is set up just right for the ATS, all without wrestling with complicated design tools for hours. 

Craft a compelling CV in minutes
Craft a compelling CV in minutes
Use expert-approved, professional CV templates built to engage your prospective employers
Create My CV
Craft a compelling CV in minutes
Craft a compelling CV in minutes
Use expert-approved, professional CV templates built to engage your prospective employers
Create My CV
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