How do I write a skills-based CV?

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Everyone’s CV credentials differ, so why stick to a traditional chronological CV, when perhaps a skills-based approach would suit you better? There are many reasons why this approach, rather than a traditional chronological CV, could be for you.

One benefit of a skills-based CV is it makes it easier for prospective employers to tell at a glance whether or not you’ve got what they’re looking for. Another is you can draw upon extra-curricular projects and achievements far more easily.

A skills-based CV is ideal for grabbing the recruiter’s attention and summing up your expertise on the first page, rather than focusing on educational and employment history. That said, although the format is different to a chronological CV, the substance needs to be the same - it’s essential to provide the reader with relevant examples of your achievements and employability to back up your claims.

Be seen – bullet points are a great way to make your skills really stand out, so make sure you use formatting that has a strong visual impact. Pick five or six key points that are most important to the job you’re applying for and slot them in at the top of your CV, after your personal profile.

Be specific – prove your suitability for the role by ensuring you only highlight key achievements that demonstrate you can actually do the job. Reassure the recruiter of your suitability by providing enough explanation to put their mind at rest, without going into too much detail. If they want to know more, you can expand upon your key points at interview.

Focus on results – use positive language and active verbs such as developed, implemented, created and designed. Passive verbs such as liaised and coordinated have less impact but can still be relevant, so long as you use them in the context of specific achievements and results.

Reiterate– if you’re at the stage in your career where education and previous employment is a secondary focus, or you’ve yet to accumulate enough history to make it of primary importance, be sure to state – and reinforce – the ways in which you’ve contributed to path-altering projects in other arenas, such as extra-curricular pursuits. Make your contributions resonate with the reader by using similar terminology to their job ad and be sure to demonstrate how you affected various positive outcomes, rather than simply stating your involvement.

Remember the rest– as with a chronological CV, it’s essential you include the basics, even though they may not appear in the same place. Your name and contact details should still be at the very start, followed by your mission statement or personal profile. Next comes your core skills, highlighted by bullet point formatting as detailed above, then your educational and career history. Professional training can be emphasised here, too, but don’t bother wasting space with hobbies and referees.

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