A resume is a critical component in the job search, but choosing the most appropriate format to sell your background can be a real challenge. First, carefully analyze the job opening and then approach the process from the hiring manager’s perspective to determine what style is best.
1. Chronological – This is the most traditional, popular and preferred style of resume writing where the education and experience are listed in reverse chronological order beginning with the most recent first. Ideally, it should show how each job builds upon the former. By giving a clear picture of where you have worked and what you have accomplished, the chronological resume demonstrates that you have “paid your dues” and you are ready to strategically advance to the next level of responsibility.
• Past experience is emphasized.
• A straightforward experienced-based approach which helps recruiters make quicker decisions; often expected by employers.
• Effective if progressively moving upward in the same or similar fields with a strong, steady and stable career track record.
• Clearly follows a timeline of experience where job titles, employers and length of employment are impressive.
• Duties, responsibilities, promotions and achievements are connected, related and described with each work experience.
• Best for focused candidates looking for further advancement in the same or similar fields.
• Easiest to prepare, read and interpret by highlighting career growth, current responsibilities and educational credentials.
• Useful for those whose career objectives are aligned with their past work history.
• Causes employment gaps, frequent job changes or weak areas to stand out.
• Does not allow the opportunity to emphasize skill sets.
• Not good for those trying to change career fields.
• Work dates divulges the candidate’s age more quickly.
• May give the impression that you are “over-qualified.”
2. Functional/Skills-Based – This type of resume groups a variety of experiences around skill categories (i.e. Administrative, Communication, Customer Service, Financial, Human Resources, Management, Organizational, Sales, Teamwork, Technical, etc.). These headings come first followed by bullets with an action verb that details your responsibilities and accomplishments. Next, a category called “Employment,” lists work history in reverse chronological order without outlining the duties. It a resume that’s hard to design.
• Future potential is emphasized while downplaying a lack of direct related experience.
• A transferrable skills-based approach which draws attention to core competencies and results.
• Useful when past education and experience is diverse and not exactly related, linear, continuous or progressive.
• Good for career changers, stay-at-home parents, ex-offenders, the disabled or those re-entering the job market.
• Helps conceal age or spotty work record.
• Enables the job searcher to cover education or credentials that are limited, interrupted or irrelevant.
• Best for candidates with past experience that has been coursework, freelance, volunteer, consulting or temporary in nature.
• Flexibility to reorder skill clusters to better match the requirements of each specific job opening.
• Useful if there is no obvious connection between the current job and the current career objective.
• Often suspicious and confusing to employers creating a red flag that the candidate is trying to hide something.
• Can be a struggle for employers trying to make the connection between skills and the places where they were developed.
• May not be acceptable for some online resume posting sites.
• Not good for traditional fields that expect chronological format (i.e. teaching, accounting, politics, etc.).
• Difficult to show a candidate’s job progression clearly.
3. Combination/Blend – This format uses the strongest elements of both the chronological and functional styles. It can focus the reader’s attention on one to three skills sets while also detailing education, experience and accomplishments. It satisfies the employers need to know job titles, employer names and dates. It is appropriate for anyone desiring a job change in a related career field or to strategically promote their top marketable skills. It is becoming an increasingly more acceptable style, but does require more preparation time and creativity.
4. Business Card – One way for a candidate to stand out is to have a business card that features the most important points from the resume. This calling card contains contact information, objective, key work and educational experiences with a section on the back for handwritten notes. By making the resume completely portable, it can be used at any opportunity or networking event. With this type, you may find yourself naturally distributing more resumes than with the other styles. This format requires a great deal of creativity and effort to do it right.
Putting a resume together for some can be a daunting task and a real struggle. Strong opinions vary widely on which type works the best. Talk to a professional about your background and particular circumstances. They can help you more objectively decide which format is going market you successfully. Remember, the goal of the resume is to generate interviews; the purpose of the interview is to land a job offer. If your current resume is producing few, if any, interviews, then consider having your resume professionally critiqued or change the style or format. Using the right type of resume can make all the difference in shortening your job search.
© 2010, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC