Skills based CV versus Chronological CV – which is most effective?

Having read thousands of CVs in my recruitment days and interviewed hundreds or candidates it became abundantly clear that the answer to the above question is the chronological format is most effective within the Project Management domain – why? Because employers need to understand where and when the skills have been used, simply listing core competencies does not give the reader any context. Also some skills may not have been used for 5 or 10 years, the hiring manager may require recent exercise of a particular skill as this plays a major part of that project. By listing expertise in skills based CVs you may be fortunate enough to reach interview but will be asked questions about those skills in the interview and be rejected against another candidate who does have recent relevant experience. Bear in mind when applying for a role you could be up against a large number of applicants, if there are candidates contextualising their skills on their CVs it is likely your CV will be discarded for those “ticking the boxes” for the recruiter / hiring managers role requirements list.

In a chronological CV each role should have a good level of detail which clearly states the key skills required for that role, every project is delivered differently and due to size and complexity a pragmatic approach to which aspects of formal methods used is key to successful delivery. There’s no point over complicating a fairly straight forward project, this only ties up the project manager or the support team in unnecessary “paperwork”. Do not assume the reader has worked in your organisation or on similar projects – if the CV isn’t clear, it does not get short listed.

Writing a skills based CV may seem like the easy option, it is. Being able to provide a list of bullet points or statements at the top of the CV which covers your entire career in project management would seem to make sense but it detracts away from the subtleties of each role and makes it difficult to actually “paint a picture” of you, the types of projects you have delivered and your style of execution.

Your CV is your personal marketing document – your customers are the recruiters and more importantly the hiring managers. What sells a product to you? For me it has to be a straight forward piece of information which says what it can do, how it works and how up to date it is in key areas of interest for me. Now take that formula and add to it the key requirement for any project management role which is exceptional attention to detail and written communication – think about all the reporting, MI etc.

The CV Righter is a dedicated Project Management CV writing service aimed at righting the CVs of project professionals who could use some insider perspective from PM recruitment specialism and having worked in PM previously. For more information visit: