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Apr 18th

Formatting your CV for non-traditional career paths

small_2306249760What an employer most wants to see on your CV is proof that you can do the job you’re applying for – preferably within the first few seconds of reading.

This is true whether you’ve had a traditional career path, or a diverse one.

Of course, it’s a little more tricky if your path has meandered all over the place, with breaks and side moves, but what’s in your favour is that you get to write your career story. You can choose what to include and where to include it – you don’t need to include details if they don’t fit your central theme. This is where making sense of your career history is a vital first step before you start writing your CV.

The key challenge is to create a smooth, seamless work history (with as few gaps as possible) that avoids confusing your reader. The fewer questions they have about your aptitude to do the job, the better.

Here are some ways to format your CV to help you achieve this.

Create a heading from the job title itself

This is a neat trick that many professional CV writers use. Under your name and contact details, put the name of the job you’re applying for in the centre of the page. This has the effect of defining you as that person right from the start.

Don’t waffle on in your profile area about career moves or changes. Instead, just write some of the skills areas or personal attributes that are relevant to the job. So to continue the customer service example from previous posts, something like “5 years’ customer service experience” (this can be five years amassed from various jobs by the way) and the sectors in which you’ve done this, such as Telecoms, Banking, Insurance, for example.

Avoid strict chronological formats

Listing all your jobs in reverse chronological order is great if you want to demonstrate continued progression in one type of role or sector. It’s not so useful if your path is fragmented. Instead, section your career history – either by theme, industry, or skill.

If by theme, create mini-sections (such as “Customer Service”) and include all your customer service type roles here. If by industry, your mini-sections could be “Telecoms” or “Insurance”, while by skill, your mini-sections could be “Problem-solving” or “Communications”. How you choose to segment your career history depends on various factors, such as what’s most important in the job description, or what’s most appropriate from your career history.

Make sure that your mini-sections include overall dates, and that they provide interesting information, such as the scope of your role and key achievements.

After these sections, include a full list of employers, again with dates.

Grouping information by theme also helps if you’ve had multiple temporary work or projects. (See my article on Guardian Careers on How to write a CV for portfolio careers for more tips on portfolio CVs.)

Next post: Why your CV only tells part of the story

Photo credit: MJM

Category: Writing a CV

Comments: 1

  • Simon Bennett June 30th, 2013

    Hi Clare,

    Thanks for an excellent article. To assist in tailoring the resume for each application and helping to identify relevant skills I recommend putting together a master resume including every job, skill or accomplishment. This enables the job seeker to quickly and easily select the parts that are most relevant to that particular job description or advertisement.


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