Which Resume Format is Right for You?
by Kim Isaacs, Resume Expert
The resume format you select can make or break your introduction to a potential employer. It’s crucial that your resume immediately convey the value that you bring to the table. Here is a rundown of the various resume formats:
Reverse chronological resumes
This format has long been preferred by hiring managers because the career history is easily seen. A chronological resume format presents a sequential employment history in reverse chronological (most recent first) order. A strictly chronological resume leads with experience or education and does not include a career summary section. This format is a good choice for professionals with a solid work history (minimal gaps or “job-hopping”) and who are not changing career fields. However, the “combination chronological” format (described below) is probably a better choice because of the addition of a strong summary statement.
A functional resume downplays employment history while emphasizing other credentials that are important to the career goal. Functional resumes will often lead with skills headings to highlight what the job seeker has to offer, while leaving employment history to the end of the resume.
Functional resumes have been the format of choice for job seekers who want to hide information about their backgrounds. Workers with employment gaps, a history of job-hopping, no related work history, and career changers have long used the functional resume to play up their related skills while downplaying work experience.
The problem is that hiring managers have become savvy to the strategies used in functional resumes. When a functional resume arrives on a hiring manager’s desk, it will likely be met with the question: “What is wrong with this candidate?” Since it’s best not to immediately be viewed with suspicion when you’re hoping for a job interview, use the functional format with caution. Your resume will need to be well-written and strategized to successfully use a functional format. Only use a functional resume if you have no work history at all, an extremely sketchy work history, or are undergoing a drastic career change.
Combination chronological (A.K.A. “hybrid” and “combination”) resumes
A combination chronological resume presents a reverse chronological work history, but is preceded by a career summary or outline of functional skills that relate to the job target. This format gives employers what they want to see (the reverse chronological work history), while allowing the job seeker to tout key skills and qualifications at the beginning of the resume. This format has been proven to be quite effective, so it is the format most recommended for transitionary job seekers.
Alternative resumes: brochures and narrative biographies (A.K.A. “bios”)
Some professionals promote themselves in brochure-style resumes that resemble corporate marketing brochures. This style is suitable for consultants, independent contractors, or executives who would like to demonstrate their marketing or design skills. Executives might also use a narrative bio (usually a page in length) to sum up their top qualifications. The non-traditional format gives the executive leeway to include the information most pertinent to the job or assignment, while omitting or downplaying unrelated experiences.
Reprinted with permission from The McGraw-Hill Companies, excerpted from The Career Change Resume by Kim Isaacs and Karen Hofferber. Copyright 2003. All rights reserved.
Kim’s Bio: Kim is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and a Nationally Certified Resume Writer (NCRW). She serves on the National Resume Writers’ Association’s advisory committee for the NCRW credential. Kim coauthored The Career Change Resume: How to Reinvent Your Resume and Land Your Dream Job (McGraw-Hill) with Karen Hofferber. Numerous other career books feature Kim’s advice about online job search techniques and sample resumes and cover letters.
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