Whether you’re a recent graduate with limited work experience struggling to dazzle potential employers, or someone fed up with their existing career and wanting a change, it might be time to do away with the traditional CV format and give the skills-based one a go!
Also known as the functional CV, the skills-based CV format is slightly different to its more traditional, chronological equivalent. While the latter emphasises employment and education history, the skills-based CV focuses instead on transferable skills gained through experiences that aren’t necessarily professional ones. Examples include things such as voluntary roles and hobbies, but can also include overcoming specific job-related challenges, or other achievements. The aim of these is to serve as evidence to the skills listed in the main body of the CV.
The skills-based CV can be a good option for those with limited employment history, or employment history that is peppered with many short-term jobs or lengthy gaps. Similarly, graduates as well as those wanting a career change, might find the format valuable in terms of showcasing all their relevant skills and experience in a way that wouldn’t have been possible with the traditional CV model.
Where do I start?
Arguably, the skills-based CV requires a bit more planning. It is important to make sure that you aren’t just listing every achievement you might be proud of, but rather tailoring your chosen skills and examples to specific employer and job criteria. So, to start off, re-read the job description and copy out the key skills and requirements mentioned. This is so you can refer to them throughout this process, and also to help you create your own list to then use in your skills section and the summary statement. Which brings us to our next point: the skills-based CV is best organised into three sections; namely the brief summary statement, the in-depth skills section, and the education and employment history section, which is also best kept short and to the point.
SECTION ONE: Summary Statement
Prospects.ac.uk recommends a brief personal statement of roughly 30-40 words explaining who you are, what you have to offer, and what you’re looking for. As this is the first impression potential employers will have of you, remember not to underestimate the impact this can have on your chances. To present yourself in the best light, make sure to flag up aspects of your history that might be especially important to the job you’re applying for, by weaving in skills-related keywords from the advert into your profile. Companies often use applicant tracking systems (ATS) that scan entire databases of CVs and select those that match the keywords they’re looking for. Whilst this is an efficient, time-saving tool, it sometimes means that even highly-qualified candidates that aren’t savvy enough can slip through employers’ net. You don’t have to plagiarise the job advert itself, but do make sure to mention as many of the relevant skills and keywords you find in the ad as you can.
A crucial thing to bear in mind is to keep your statement short and sweet, and avoid filling this section with unnecessarily ‘fancy’ words that will only distract from your personal attributes and value as a potential employee. Use this section to get the employer’s attention and show them that you’re a competent and suitable candidate for the role in a way that is clear and succinct.
SECTION TWO: Skills
The skills section is the meat and potatoes of the skills-based CV format. This is your opportunity to show how your existing work and voluntary experience, your extracurricular activities and other aspects of your history have equipped you with the skills perfect for the job the company’s advertising.
To start, select three to five different skills that you have identified in the job advert and can comfortably back up with evidence. It’s worth remembering, however, that occasionally, certain skills won’t be referred to as such. For example, time-management skills may be described as the ability to work to tight deadlines and prioritise a busy workload. Similarly, in one Indeed advert, communication skills are referred to as the ‘ability to develop strong and effective stakeholder relationships’. If you’re struggling to think of the types of transferable skills there are, have a look at our list of the Top 10 Transferable Skills below.
Once you’ve selected your key skills, divide them into separate headings. Using bullet points, make a list of relevant achievements under each heading, in order of importance. Make sure to be specific and provide solid examples of how you’ve gained your listed skills as well as how you applied them in various employment, educational, and other scenarios. Though it’s not essential to refer to job titles themselves, be sure to draw on some aspects of your work experience, no matter how scant, to demonstrate your competence as an employee and show how you’ve dealt with different roles. Most importantly, however, tailor your examples to the job description to make sure that your entire personal profile aligns with what the employer is looking for.
SECTION THREE: Work and Education History
Since the skills-based CV obviously rejects the traditional chronological format that stresses work and education history, the content of this section only needs to be kept to the essential facts. There is no need to provide an in-depth description of every job you’ve had. Instead, job titles with dates next to them will be enough with this type of CV. At the same time, if you feel like certain aspects of either your education or employment history would help underline your suitability for the job, it’s perfectly fine to go into more depth with it.
To get an idea of how the skills-based CV is supposed to look, have a look at the attachment below.
The skills-based format quite clearly holds a lot of potential for those not yet confident in the power of their employment history. Rather than over-emphasising the importance of job titles, length of employment and formal qualifications, this CV format makes space for a more nuanced and complete picture of the applicant, their achievements and their character. As an added perk, the skills-based CV also makes planning and writing of your cover letter (required for most jobs!) considerably easier. All you need to do is reiterate the key skills covered in your CV, pick out those examples that best support your claims, and write them out in a concise and convincing way. For extra help with writing cover letters, see Emily’s piece.