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What’s the difference between a Reverse Chronological or Functional CV?

There are many formats, styles, and templates available to create your CV today. Reverse chronological and functional are just two of the styles available.   

CVs are still an important part of the recruitment process and it’s an essential step to get you in front of the hiring managers. 

Despite living in a digital age, the majority of companies still ask for a CV to be sent.  It’s still one of the most widely used documents to get you an interview.

So, firstly what is a Reverse Chronological CV and what is a Functional CV, and what are the differences.

What is a Reverse Chronological CV?

Chronological means date order.  Reverse means you would start from the current day and go back. Rather than go from the beginning of your career to the present.  This means your current job or most recent job goes on the first page of your CV.

A reverse chronological normally focuses on your career history and the employment positions you’ve held.  Each job will be highlighted on your CV and it’s common to only have your last or current job on the first page.

Today the guidance is to go back approximately 10 years and then if your career is longer, just reduce the amount of information you share in each job held.

If you have several jobs to include on your CV, the general advice would be to put the remainder of your career history on the second page.  Any jobs held that aren’t as relevant, then you don’t need to go into much detail.  Accordingly, keep the descriptions for each job brief. 

For example, if your first few jobs after leaving school aren’t relevant anymore, you don’t need to go into much detail. Just avoid any ‘suspicious’ gaps!

Reverse chronological CV tips:

  • Focuses on your career history
  • Highlights your work experience
  • Current or previous job on the first page
  • Relevant achievements on the first page
  • Employment history covers the last 10 years

If you are starting your CV from scratch, it’s best to start with a Reverse-Chronological CV.  Here’s a useful article to help you get started: How to start your CV from scratch.

What is a Functional or Skills based CV?

A functional CV focuses more on transferable skills. It’s used for someone considering a career change or for individuals that don’t necessarily have the experience however, they have lots of transferable skills to offer.

Rather than focus on your employment history or the jobs you’ve held, you would list all your transferrable skills under specific and relevant functional headers.

These functional headers can be anything, as long as they highlight relevant skills, knowledge, transferrable skills relating to the job you are applying for.

Employment history tends to be listed briefly on the second page.  Therefore, you’d only include, company name, job title, dates, and one or two sentences to describe your main or core duties or responsibilities.  Because on a functional CV you are showcasing your transferable skills, rather than focusing on your career history.  

Functional or Skills-based CV tips:

  • Highlights transferable skills
  • List your achievements under specific and relevant headers
  • Employment history is brief 

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When do you use a Reverse Chronological CV?

Typically, you would use a Reverse Chronological CV when you are applying for similar roles.  Therefore, if you are remaining in the same discipline it makes sense to use a Reverse Chronological CV.  Because you want to highlight your relevant experience, knowledge, and skills. 

When do you use a Functional CV?

Typically, you’d use a Functional or Skilled-based CV when you are changing career direction.  Because if you are changing career you may not have the relevant work experience.  However, you can demonstrate transferrable skills.  So, rather than highlight your career history you are going to highlight transferable skills.

Regardless of which format you decide to use, you must tailor both to the job requirements.  Here’s a useful article to help you tailor each CV to the vacancy:  How do you tailor your CV?



In conclusion, there are some genuine reasons for opting for the reverse-chronological or functional CV. 

Therefore, to keep it simple you are either remaining in the same discipline or changing career direction. 

This means you are either using your career experience to land an interview or using transferable skills to get an interview.  And, consequently, you will opt for a reverse-chronological or functional CV respectively. 

Regardless of which format you decide to use, you must tailor both to the job requirements.  Here’s a useful article to help you tailor each CV to the vacancy:  How do you tailor your CV?