If you’re the sort of person who left school at 18, went to University immediately after, graduating with a decent degree, and have worked ever since in more or less one sector, then a traditional CV will probably suit you fine.
But if your career has not been such a neat conveyor belt of uninterrupted progress; if perhaps you went to University late; or didn’t really get any academic qualifications; or if you have taken long periods of time out from working; or if you have done a wide variety of quite different jobs in different sectors; or even if you’ve had a conventional career for 25 years but now want to change direction, then you may wish to consider a skills-based CV instead.
What’s the difference?
A traditional CV tends to list your Education first, and then follows with a chronological list of your Employment History, starting with your most recent job and then working backwards to your first job.
Whereas a skills-based CV focuses mainly on your ‘transferable skills’. ie. stuff you’re good at that you think might be useful to the company you want to work for. You can see some examples here:
1) A sample skills-based CV.
2) A discussion on skills-based or traditional CVs, with samples
3) Another sample
4) Another sample
I don’t think any of these is great – but hopefully they give an impression of what a skills-based CV is about. The point is really to divert attention away from any career gaps or changes in direction, and instead focus on a selection of skills, and where you have used them.
I say ‘selection’ because ideally the skills you list should be relevant to the job you are applying for (you can read more about this on the Keep it Relevant page). For this type of CV, you really do need to customise your CV for each job you apply to. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach will definitely work against you here.
Note also that, even with a skills-based CV, people still want you to give some sort of chronological account of your employment history. But this tends to come at the end, and is touched on only lightly.
For myself, if I wanted another job as a headhunter, I would probably use a traditional CV format. But if I wanted to do something a bit different, and move into something other than headhunting, I would definitely use a skills-based CV.