Should I use reverse date (chronological) order on my CV?
I have been asked the question many times “Which order should I put qualifications and work experience on a CV. My advice is always to use reverse date order, or reverse chronological order as it is sometimes known, there are good reasons why this will make your CV better reading which I will explain in this article.
Imagine that 15 or even 25 years ago you started your career with a job as a trainee draughtsman in an engineering drawing office, you were using basic AutoCAD, and perhaps even an ink pen, eraser and razor blade as I did around 30 years ago. Since that time hypothetically you have risen to the dizzy heights of Principal Piping Design Engineer for a world leading multidisciplinary engineering consultancy. In between times you have risen through the ranks of junior engineer, engineer, senior engineer and lead before achieving you current role heading up the Piping department as Principal. In the course of your work you use complex software packages such as PDMS, and have achieved a degree in Engineering and chartered status.
Now imagine that you are the head of HR looking for a Principal Piping Design Engineer, offering a fantastic salary, great benefits, a super pension and expect a good response when you advertise the position. Think about how much time you will have when faced with 100 CVs to short list, before passing the shortlist of 10 to the hiring manager, and how you might have to fit this in around many other pressing tasks you have.
CVs are often read at speed and yours will probably be amongst many others competing for the same position. It is really important to create a great impression in the first half page of your CV which will make the reader believe at first glance that you are a serious contender for the position and that they should read on further. The person reading your CV at this first stage will have certain criteria that short listed CVs have to pass, for instance a HNC in Engineering, experience at Lead level and use of PDMS. If the first qualification the reader comes to is a City and Guilds level 3 in Soft Furnishing, followed by an O Level in Photography only surpassed by your day release ONC in Engineering, they may have given up the will to live before reaching the crucial information that you are a degree qualified Engineer with Chartered status.
The same applies to your work experience. The reader of your curriculum vitae is not interested in your arduous and highly responsible work as a paper boy which taught you organization and prioritizing skills (I did actually see this on a CV for an graduate engineering job). Your trainee draughtsman job is interesting in terms of seeing where you have come from, but what the hiring manager or recruitment consultant is really looking for is what you have been doing most recently. Your most recent work experience is the best indication of your suitability for the role you are applying for. Employers are looking for recent relevant work experience, and always future employees who are going to be value for money.
In summary then, make sure that you always use reverse chronological order, or reverse date order on your CV. Dress your CV to Impress, put your best foot forward and your most recent work experience and qualifications first and work backwards from there.