Question: “What’s the best resume format for me?”
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
There are basically two kinds of resumes: chronological and functional.
Chronological resumes, the more typical style of resume for job-seekers following a single career path, are organized by your employment history in reverse chronological order, with company/job titles/accomplishments/dates of employment. You can read more in my article, Fundamentals of a Good Chronological Resume.
Functional resumes, for job-seekers who have a varied employment history or are looking to make a career change, are organized by skills and functions; bare-bones employment history often listed as a separate section. Be wary of using this format as it has fallen out of fashion except for extreme cases of career-change. Read more in our article, The Demise of the Functional Resume.
A third option — which is basically a hybrid of the of the first two formats — is the chrono-functional resume. This type of resume is written in mostly functional format, but also includes a bare-bones work history in reverse chronological order. Such a work-history section includes only job title, name and location of employer, and dates of employment. The job-seeker doesn’t list what he or she did in each job because that information already is listed in the functional section.
Perhaps more important than the format (since most job-seekers will use a standard chronological format) is the content in your resume. Here are my suggestions for improving the quality and strength of your resume.
- Consider adding a key accomplishments/summary of qualifications section to your resume. This section should summarize (using nouns as keywords and descriptors) your major career accomplishments.
- Consider adding a career objective/job objective to your resume… but only do so if it will enhance your resume and not simply waste space. Read more in our article, Your Job-Search Resume Needs a Focal Point: How Job-Seekers Can Add Focus to Resumes
- Focus the descriptions of your experiences on accomplishments, not duties and responsibilities. Accomplishments, especially those you can quantify, are going to sell you to a potential employer. Read more in our article, For Job-Hunting Success: Track and Leverage Your Accomplishments.
- Showcase your transferable skills. Especially important for functional resumes, these are skills you have acquired during any activity in your life — jobs, classes, projects, parenting, hobbies, sports, virtually anything — that are transferable and to what you want to do in your next job. Read more in our article, Strategic Portrayal of Transferable Skills is a Vital Job-Search Technique.
- Tailor your basic resume to specific jobs, specific employers. There is simply no excuse for having one generic resume anymore. Tweak each resume you submit to the specific job you are seeking or to the specific employer.
- Include strategic keywords. Because of the likelihood that your resume is going to get scanned into a database, be sure to include powerful keywords — noun phrases that include such things as job titles, education, skills, industry jargon, and much more. Read all the details in our article, Tapping the Power of Keywords to Enhance Your Resume’s Effectiveness.
- Take the time to tweak and polish your resume. There are numerous “little” things you can do to improve your resume. Read our article, Ten Easy Ways to Improve Your Resume.
- Take the time to carefully write, rewrite, and edit your resume. Be sure to carefully proofread your resume for misspellings and typos.
- Consider having your resume professionally critiqued/evaluated. If you’re unsure about the strength of your resume, use a professional service such as our Quintessential Resumes & Cover Letters to critique your resume and offer valuable suggestions for improvement.
You can find all of these resources — and more — in our resume resources for job-seekers section.
This article is part of a series from The Career Doctor’s Cures & Remedies to Quintessentially Perplexing Career and Job-Hunting Ailments. Read more.
See a list of all the most common college, career, and job questions — and Dr. Hansen’s solutions.
Who is the Career Doctor? Learn more, read his current career column, or browse the column archives when you visit the Career Doctor’s homepage.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is a nationally recognized career and job-search expert. He is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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