How to structure your CV effectively

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How to structure your CV effectively

There are two generally recognised structures for a CV. The most common is the reverse chronological format with your career history in reverse time order following a short professional profile at the beginning. The other structure is an extended skills or competency based CV. Some job seekers choose a hybrid version between the two. Just as no two career histories are the same, the important thing is to choose a structure that is right for you.

The reverse chronological structure

With your most recent jobs presented first, this is the most popular CV structure. The professional profile at the beginning should position you in line with your target finance roles. This will be followed by your career history showcasing your most recent achievements. Your qualifications and should go at the end. This CV structure is ideal for most job seekers as it is easy follow the career thread and relevant accomplishments.

The skills or competency style CV

This structure is ideal if you are starting out in your accountancy career and have little work experience. It is also good if you are changing career and need to demonstrate transferable skills relevant to your new career in finance. Choose 4 or 5 skills headings that are most aligned to your target roles and give 2 or three examples of how, where and when you have demonstrated these. As this is going to take up more space, this section becomes more dominant than the career history.  

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So which structure is right for you?

With less than 30 seconds spent on average reading a CV, the best way of deciding the right CV structure is to consider how you can get all the most valuable information on the first page. Why? Quite simply, most attention is spent on the first page. Therefore, if you have lots of recent work-based achievements to present, then the reverse chronological format will allow you to get these on the first page. Likewise, if you have little work experience but lots of transferable skills then a skills based CV will allow most of these to be presented early on in the CV.  

The hybrid CV solution

Of course, few answers are ever black and white. An increasingly popular CV format is to have a short key skills section included within a mainly reverse chronological format. The key skills will mainly be words and phrases aligned to your target role. This is less about presenting transferable skills and more about helping the CV through ATS filters and reaffirming particular areas of expertise to the reader. A short key skills section will generally go after the professional profile and before the career history.

Choosing the right CV structure is an individual choice based on what’s right for you. The best way to determine this is to ask yourself ‘how can I get all the most vital information on page one?’ From there, the answer should be straightforward.

This article is written by Neville Rose, Director of CV Writers.

CV Writers are the official CV partner to ACCA Careers.

In addition to a CV writing service they can help with LinkedIn profiles, cover letters and interview coaching. You can get things started with a Free CV Review.

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