Learn how to order your CV correctly so that recruiters can view your relevant experience and skills first

Chronological – that's a word that certainly fills up the mouth, isn't it? So let's break it down. It partly comes from the Ancient Greek of “chronos,” meaning “time,” and refers to a record of events following the order in which they occur. So, in CV terms, this means listing your career and education in date order.

What is a chronological CV?

Put simply, a chronological CV (also known as a reverse-chronological CV) presents your career summary in date order in a concise and easy-to-understand way. This means that whoever is reading your CV can immediately see how your career has progressed over the years. Bearing in mind that you only have a few seconds to make that vital first impression, it's very important to present your CV in a way that gives maximum impact.

If you are a recent graduate or don't have much work experience, you'll need to put your Education section above the Work Experience section - but with both sections still in chronological order.

How to write a reverse-chronological CV

Writing a reverse-chronological order CV can feel strange. With a biography, the author usually starts at the beginning of the subject's life and builds on their experiences to present them as the person they are today and how they got there. It's a life journey which follows a particular path.

With a reverse-chronological order CV, this notion is totally flipped on its head. Recruiters or prospective employers just aren't interested in your internship from 1991 if you are now a fully fledged Area Manager. They're keen to know what your skills are now, not what they were when you started out in your career.

So change your mindset and start your career summary with your current or most recent role. Include the company name, official job title, dates you worked there, responsibilities, and any key achievements. This should go under the Career Summary heading on your chronological CV, so it's the first position the recruiter sees.

Once you have compiled that in a succinct but impactful manner, include the position you did before this and work your way back through your career like that.

If you've been promoted within a company, this shows true progression and should be highlighted as it proves that you were thought of highly within that organisation. Make sure all your promotions are listed in reverse-chronological order as well.

When should you use a chronological CV?

A chronological CV is the standard format for CVs nowadays and is by far the most common type of CV. There are other types of CV, and exceptions of course (see below), but a chronological order CV is the one that recruiters prefer. This is because they can easily ascertain what the candidate has done, where they did it, and how recently, in order to check if they're suitable for the vacancy.

Other types of CVs

There are two other main types of CV in use.

A functional CV lists your experience under different functional headings, as opposed to having a straightforward Career Summary section. For example, sections could include Customer Service, Administrative Skills, Marketing, that sort of thing. This forms the main part of the CV, with the focus on specific skills rather than a full history of work. This type of CV can work for those with a chequered career history, those looking to move into a totally different line of work, or where the profession chosen means that they are constantly moving jobs or contracts. If you choose to go ahead with this type of CV, you still need to include a brief Career Summary section which lists your job titles, company name, and dates - all in reverse-chronological order, of course.

A mixed or combination CV is a hybrid of a chronological CV and a functional one. Here, skills are listed under different headings but there's also a detailed career history section listed in reverse-chronological order. This can be seen as offering the best of both worlds and can be useful if you are changing careers, as you can present transferable skills towards the top of the CV.

If you're still unsure, check out the best CV format for you which will guide you in the right direction.

A chronological CV example

A chronological CV example is set out below, where you can see the candidate has a long work history, starting as a graduate Project Manager back in 1989 and working their way up to current Director level. It's plain to see that starting the career section with the first role in 1989 would be counter-productive. The recruiter would have to sift through all of the career section, not reaching the candidate's current position and experience until the second page. By then, they might have given up and picked up the next CV on the pile. So it pays to have a CV that is correctly ordered.Preview image of chronological CV

Get ready

Now that you know how to construct the Experience and Education sections of your reverse- chronological order CV, it's time to put that into practice. 

Help is always available, so get the expert's view by requesting a free CV review today.

Recommended reading: 

Related Articles: