How to Choose the Best Format for Your Resume
Chronological? Functional? Combination? What difference does it make which format you use for your resume? It's all about timing. With the right format, you can grab an employer's interest during his or her initial eight-second scan of your resume.
An employer gives only about eight seconds to a resume in the initial scan. During those few seconds he or she wants to see:
- Who the job seeker is;
- What the job seeker wants; and
- Why the job seeker should get an interview.
If the employer can't grasp that information in a quick scan, he or she is apt to set the resume aside or, even worse, discard it.
The right resume format (chronological, functional, or combination) organizes your information so that it passes an employer's eight-second test. So which format should you use? It depends on what type of career transition you're making. Here are guidelines for when to use each format.
The most traditional format is the chronological resume. This format highlights your dates, places of employment, and job titles, presenting them as headings under which your accomplishments are written.
The chronological format can be most effective when:
- You wish
to remain in the same field or industry.
- Your work
history shows lateral or vertical career growth or an increase
in job responsibility, making your job objective the next obvious
step in your career path.
- Your current or most recent position is one you are proud of and enjoy.
The Functional Resume
The functional resume presents your work experience under skill headings, which gives you the freedom to prioritize your achievements by their relevance and impact rather than by chronology. The dates, names of employers, and job titles in your work history are listed concisely in a separate section, usually at the bottom of your resume.
This resume format is not highly regarded by most employers because it's not easy to figure out what happened where in an applicant's work history. For that reason, do not use it unless:
- You are making a very extreme career change, so extreme that your work history has almost no value to the potential employer (for example, rattle snake charmer to diplomatic ambassador).
- You are preparing to re-enter the job market after a long and hard-to-explain situation (such as incarceration or other circumstance that you want to de-emphasize).
The Combination Resume
The combination resume format is a hybrid of the chronological and functional resumes. Starting with the chronological format, skill headings are inserted under job title and employer headings to emphasize the relevant skills used on that particular job.
Employers like the combination format because it clearly displays the job seeker's work history. Job seekers like this format because it highlights their skills.
The combination format is a great choice if:
- You're making a career change and you need to underscore your transferable skills.
- Your job titles do not accurately describe the level of responsibility you held.
- You want to incorporate unpaid experience into your work history and you need to demonstrate the relevance and value of that experience.
- You want to draw attention to an earlier job, which you can do by inserting skill headings for the earlier job and not using skill headings for more current jobs.
© Copyright Susan Ireland, 2003-12. All rights reserved.Used with permission.
About this author:
Susan Ireland is the author of four job search books including The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Resume, now in its 5th edition. For more information about writing your resume, read Susan's books or visit Susan's Website SusanIreland.com. For immediate help with your resume and cover letter, check out Susan's Ready Made Resumes and Cover Letters, an online resume builder to help job seekers quickly create an effective resume. Follow Susan on Twitter @SusanIreland, visit her JobLounge blog, and interact with her on the LinkedIn's JOBS Group (Job Openings, Job Leads and Job Connections!) in her ** Let's Talk Resumes ** featured discussion.