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Skills-based vs Experienced Based CVs: Which is Better?

Originating back to 1482, Leonardo Da Vinci sent a list of his skills and experiences to the Duke of Milan, in which he offered his services in designing structures such as bridges, boats and sculptures. Fast forward many years, the CV, which loosely translates as the ‘course of my life’, is still used by individuals when job searching, as a way of showing their previous work history and their transferable skills.

In this blog, we highlight the pros and cons of two of the most used CV templates, the skills-based and the experienced based, so that you can make an informed decision on which one best suits you and your career goals.

Don’t forget to read our ‘how to’ guides, which are linked below, to help curate your ideal CV.

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Skills-Based vs. Experience-Based CVs

What is a Skill-Based CV?

According to LinkedIns 2023 Future of Recruiting Report, todays hiring managers are 50% more likely to search by skills than they are years of experience when looking for talent.

Different from your traditional CV, a skills-based CV is often used by those who:

  • Recently have graduated from university
  • Are considering switching careers or industries, or
  • Are returning to work after a period of absence or maternity leave

This is because a skills-based CV focuses on transferrable skills, which a career switcher or graduate is likely to have, over industry work experience.

Skill-based CVs are a great opportunity to showcase who you are as an individual, providing evidence as to how your skillset can result in success in a specific role.

Download your Skills-Based CV Guide Here

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What is an Experienced-Based CV?

An experienced-based CV, much like your traditional CV consists heavily of an individual’s work experience and employment history to date. It often shows the steps taken to arrive at a current role and is commonly used by industry specific experts or those that have worked in the same field for several years.

An experienced-based CV allows for plenty of customisation, and it’s relatively straightforward for individuals to adapt their CV to meet the needs of different employers. This is done through extracting relevant information from job roles and inserting them into your CV where relevant.

Download your Experienced-Based CV Guide here

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Skill-Based vs Experienced-Based: The Pros and Cons

Both experienced-based and skills-based CVS have their specific pros and cons, and each are suited to individuals at different stages of their careers. We’re going to explore the pros and cons of both to give you a better idea of what CV is right for you.

Skills-Based Pros and Cons

Skills-Based CV Pro #1:

A skill-based CV is perfect for those who are switching industries and may not have relevant work experience. A skill-based CV provides an opportunity to showcase you as an individual, rather than the various roles you have held.

For graduates especially, the number of transferrable skills attained at university are invaluable, and a skills-based CV is a great opportunity to showcase them to an employer.

Skills-Based CV Pro #2:

If your work experience is based on short-term roles or internships specifically, a skills-based CV allows you to focus more on the relevant skills gained rather than just your industry experience.

This shifts the focus considerably, but still allows opportunity to include relevant industry experience information where relevant.

Skills-Based CV Pro #3

Skills-based CVs allow individuals to showcase their suitability for a role in a different way, which greatly increases the number of opportunities available. Skills-based CVs often encourage people to enter the workforce and apply for roles even if they lack industry experience.

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Skills-Based CV Con #1:

Skills-based CVs can be quite text heavy, as different scenarios and explanations are required to show how said skills were adopted. This means hiring managers can struggle to retract the necessary information they need to determine whether a role is right for you.

Hiring managers will sieve through hundreds of CVs when they are filling a role, so it’s crucial that yours is memorable.  

Skills-Based CV Con #2:

Skill-based CVs can often invite a lot of questions, as there’s less hard evidence provided of the successes that you have gained in previous experiences. This can result in hiring managers feeling apprehensive of how you would perform professionally in a role.

Skills-Based CV Con #3

When reading job descriptions, it can be considerably harder to identify the exact transferrable skills that said employer is looking for in their new candidate. Hiring managers can unconsciously sometimes focus more on experience when writing job adverts, rather that skills, which means extracting the skills needed to succeed in that role, could be particularly challenging.

This simply makes it harder to put together a skills-based CV that you know a specific employer would want to see.

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Experienced-Based Pros and Cons

Experienced-Based CV Pro #1:

Experienced-based CVs allow for hiring managers to not only skim read, but easily pick up on key past experiences and job titles. With roles commonly listed from your most recent role, to your first, its easier to extract the information as a hiring manager.

Experienced-Based CV Pro #2

As experienced-based CVs are the most traditional and well recognised form, hiring managers expect to see these types of CVs more often. This means that over time they have become much more familiar and reliable sources of information when it comes to filling a role.

Experienced-Based CV Pro #3:

An experienced-based CV can make room for both your skills and knowledge, and your previous workplace history. Often, this is seen as the best of both worlds in the eyes of a hiring manager.

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Experienced-Based CV Con #1:

Hiring managers are now more likely to search for potential candidates by skills, rather than experience. Experienced-based CVs lack in depth information about a candidate’s transferrable skills, which means it is much more likely to go unseen when searching.

Experienced-Based CV Con #2:

As experienced-based CVs focus more on previous work history rather than who an individual is and the skills they have, it can be much easier to discriminate and stereotype.

So much so, that Graham Trevor, Group HR Director of Randstad UK states that there’s been a huge trend towards limiting the use of experienced based CVs as a way of reducing bias.

He recommends not getting too hung up on experience, as career switchers, graduates and those returning to work may all lack industry experience but will have an abundance of transferrable skills that would greatly increase their suitability for a number of roles.

This shows that skills can sometimes speak louder than experience.

Experienced-Based CV Con #3:

A lot less relevant to the actual job you are applying for, experienced-based CV’s can often hold a lot of clutter and include irrelevant work experience that an employer is unlikely to be interested in. This makes it more likely that they’ll miss the vital parts of your CV.

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So, which CV is better?

With both types of CV accepted and enjoyed by hiring managers and recruiters, the choice of which is better is really up to you. If you are someone with an abundance of industry experience, an experienced-based CV will allow you to go into detail about your previous work history, including any specific responsibilities which may position you as an industry expert.

On the flip side, as a career switcher, career starter or graduate, a skills-based CV allows you to truly promote yourself, which in turn builds confidence in your ability and directly shows hiring managers how your skills could contribute to the success of their organisation. Research also confirms that 76% of companies are using skill-based hiring to fill roles, which means the likelihood of your CV being seen by hiring managers, increases considerably.


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