Skills-based CV writing guide

Outline your key skills and achievements
CV Template

Nowadays, it’s difficult to get your foot in the door when it comes to getting shortlisted for an interview. CVs have become increasingly creative, but also somewhat debatable in terms of what you can include in a CV and different types of CVs. These various types, such as skills-based CV, are well known in the world of recruitment, although there are many who tend to opt for other types, such as chronological CVs.

Jobseekers should aim to stand out from the crowd when applying for a job. A skills-based CV can help individuals to stand out by highlighting transferable skills and valuable qualities.

A skills-based CV is also known as a functional CV, due to its function in highlighting an applicant’s skills and qualities over other factors such as education or work experience.

Using our OnlineCV maker is a good way of practising making your CV. With hundreds of CV templates and as many goes as you like, it’s easy to create a CV and follow the tips and advice given along the way.

What is a skills-based CV?

Creating a skills-based CV is simple; CV writers should think of their most attractive qualities and skills which would be a good attribute to the job role and make them stand out above anything or anyone else.

Skills-based CVs are also useful for changing job types and sectors. If you only have experience in a certain work field, yet wish to get a job in a different field, a skills-based CV helps to diffuse the tension that a chronological CV might create. Instead, you can direct recruiter’s attention to abilities, skills and knowledge you possess which could give you the edge you need to make recruiter’s think you are capable of the job role.

In short, skills-based CVs list your most desirable qualities and immediately demonstrate what you are good at and why you would do the job well. This helps you to get noticed and stand out amongst the many applicants that job applications typically receive these days.

When should you use a skills-based CV?

As there are a variety of different CV templates and types to choose from, not everyone is best suited to a skills-based CV.

Jobseekers climbing the career ladder looking for a promotion in the same sector are most likely to progress further with a chronological CV, as this displays your gradual career development in a reverse chronological order. Recruiters can view how you have developed over a series of different jobs and view elements such as promotions or company changes, all the while understanding your responsibilities and skills in an organised manner.

That said, skills-based CVs can be much more beneficial for those who feel that they lack work experience for that type of job or are looking to change jobs entirely. Grab employer’s attention with transferable skills and tasks or responsibilities you had in other jobs that may coincide with the job description.

If you feel that other CV types, such as chronologically formatted CVs hide factors of your personal profile which recruiters might overlook, a skills-based CV is a good option for you. List the elements that you feel are most important first in a bid to demonstrate that you fit the job profile as well as possible.

Skills-based CV layout

The best thing about writing a skills-based CV is that you can make it your own. Viewing functional CV examples is a great way of understanding more about how to write functional CVs and getting used to the liberal layout that they permit.

The rough layout of a skills-based CV consists of your personal details first (full name, email address, phone number and LinkedIn handle) and then a personal statement or profile summarising the key points you wish to emphasise about your personal profile.

You can choose to follow this with a skills or qualifications section. Some might choose to include a small education section with the highest or most relevant academic qualification before listing skills and achievements. However, others may prefer to include the education section at the end of their CV.

An option for listing your work experience on a skills-based CV is by writing a section called personal experience and dividing this section into types of job or areas of a job, such as marketing, computer skills or project management. This is one of many methods that individuals use when writing a skills-based CV.

On the other hand, you can include a skills section first and provide short examples of your skills with a smaller work experience section following afterwards. Achievements are also used to highlight personal and professional achievements on a skills-based CV.

Skills-based CVs tend to use bullet point format in order to make them more comprehensible, as well as enabling more information to fit on the page.

How to write a skills-based CV

The most important factor to consider when beginning to write your skills-based CV is that it should be personalised and tailored to the job listing. The information you wish to highlight on your CV should coincide with the job description and demonstrate to recruiters that you are the perfect match for the job.

It is recommended that for every job you create a unique CV tailored to the job post.

Here is a rough guide for each possible section that you can choose to include in a functional CV:

Personal statement

It is recommendable to include a personal statement at the beginning of your functional CV. The reason for this is that you can use a personal statement to capture the hiring manager’s attention and immediately draw them to your key qualities and skills. Try to make it relatively short and only include fundamental elements which will help to make a good impression and/or big impact.


Ironically, a functional CV is designed to outline your key skills. Use this section to your advantage and aim to match up any skills you have with the skills in demand for the job. This technique strengthens your job application.

Don’t go overboard listing every skill you have. Instead, read carefully through the job listing and identify job requirements where you tick the box. List the skills you possess which pertain to the type of job for which you are applying.

Remember: size doesn’t matter when you’ve listed skills which are valuable regarding the job role. Quality is much more important than quantity when it comes to writing a CV!

Employment history

The idea of a skills-based CV is to focus more on skills, as opposed to your work experience. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t include work experience if you feel that it is pertinent to the job for which you are applying.

Don’t forget: if you are listing your work experience, don’t write large amounts in the job descriptions, as the chances are you’ve probably mentioned the skills or tasks carried out in the skills section.

Choose whether you prefer to list your education or work experience before the other on your skills-based CV. This is a personal choice as individuals may have recently studied a course that is more reflective of knowledge in the sector or worked a job in a relevant sector.

Include all necessary information as you would in your work history on a chronological CV:

  • Job titles
  • Employment dates
  • Company name
  • Location
  • Job description (bullet point format is sufficient)

In the event that you have too much work experience, try to only include relevant work experience. If you still have difficulty fitting everything on, it may be worth contemplating the use of other CV templates and layouts, such as a chronological CV.


Where on your CV and how you write this part of your functional CV is entirely up to the individual.

For those with standard academic qualifications but none relating specifically to the job sector that you wish to enter, it might be better to list your skills first and emphasise other elements before listing your education.

However, if you recently completed an academic course or qualification which you feel benefits your job application, you can include it at the beginning of your CV.

If you’re struggling for space on your skills-based CV, list only the highest or most relevant educational qualification.

Hobbies and interests

This section is an optional part which you can choose to include on your functional CV if you feel that it brings something new to the table or supports your job application well.

Pertinent interests or hobbies can provide recruiters with the understanding that you are genuinely interested in the subject or topic of work.

For example, a P.E. teacher who is physically active in their spare time with interests in running, football and netball or a gardener who has their own allotment or vegetable patch demonstrates true interest and passion to prospective employers.

Tips for writing a skills-based CV

  • If you work better on paper, print out the job listing and get a piece of paper and pen ready for your planning
  • Highlight parts of the job listing where you feel you come through as a strong and compatible candidate
  • Analyse key skills needed for the job. Think of examples in the past where you have used these skills or learnt them
  • Try not to be too vague when providing an example. Instead, list a specific time or job where you used that skill
  • After composing this list, identify each key point of the job listing. Use them as a checklist to see if your CV content ticks the boxes of the job requirements
  • Think carefully about the type of language you used when talking about skills or previous work experience. Phrases such as “promoted to…” or “lead a team in…” can boost your professional image and help recruiters to identify you as a strong candidate
  • Don’t rush writing your skills-based CV or you run the risk of making silly mistakes or typos which can heavily affect your job application success

Skills-based CV advantages and disadvantages

Not all jobseekers may benefit from using a skills-based CV template, although there are various arguments for and against the use of a skills-based CV.

Advantages of a skills-based CV

  • If you have unemployment gaps in your work experience, a skills-based CV makes them a lot less obvious
  • Students or school-leavers with less work experience can outline their skills and academic achievements more
  • Those who have changed jobs and have little relevant work experience can use a skills-based CV to highlight other aspects of their professional profile
  • Highlight your skills and best qualities as quickly as possible, grabbing recruiter’s attention instantly
  • You can emphasise your transferable skills
  • If all your jobs have been short term, this allows you to concentrate more on what you learnt and which skills you acquired

Disadvantages of a skills-based CV

  • For those who are applying for a job in the same sector with plenty of experience, this type of CV may not present you as well as a chronological CV would
  • CV layout: particular job sectors may not value the layout of a skills-based CV
  • Some recruiters instantly view skill based CVs as a sneaky technique for covering up employment gaps
  • Due to chronological CVs being so popular, recruiters can find it difficult to navigate their way around skills-based CVs

Last modified on 15 October 2020

Jobless due to COVID? Let OnlineCV help you get your next job ASAP.