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Choosing the Best Resume Format

Step 1 - Choose Your Focus

Targeted Resume

A targeted resume is used to focus your resume toward a specific career objective, performed in a specific industry, and for a specific company. The content of a targeted resume is written to highlight the skills, qualifications, and experience that match the requirements of your job target. You may want to consider writing a targeted resume when:

  1. You know the title of the position you are interested in and have a good idea of the qualifications that will be required for entry into this position.
  2. You are sending your resume in response to an employment advertisement.
  3. You are writing or revising your resume to apply to a specific company.
  4. You have several different specific career objectives and want a different resume for each one.

Inventory Resume

If you have only a general objective and don't want to limit yourself to a specific job title, an inventory resume may be your best choice. Likewise, if you want to be able to use the same resume to apply to a number of companies, you should write an inventory resume. This type of resume is designed to highlight your skills, qualifications, and achievements in a more general manner. Understand however, that you must have at least a general objective, for example, "a management level position in sales". In this case, you know that you are interested in sales management but you are open to the industry and company that you do this for. Once you have a clear idea of your general objective you can focus the content of your inventory resume by deciding on 4-6 key skills and abilities that you possess, that are relevant to your general objective, and that will be of value to an employer in this field. The content of the resume should highlight these skills by demonstrating them through statements of relevant accomplishments and achievements. If you are conducting an extensive job search campaign, the inventory resume is your most efficient choice and in most cases, you are still able to target specific companies and job openings by writing a tailored cover letter to send with your resume. Also, keep in mind that if you have more than one unrelated career objective, you should write a separate inventory resume for each of these.

Step 2 - Choose Your Format

The chronological resume is designed to highlight progressive career growth and advancement. It is easy to read and can be quickly scanned for employment history. For these reasons, it is the most accepted format among hiring authorities. In fact, many even prefer and/or expect it.

The chronological resume is most suitable when:

  1. You have a steady and consistent employment history with no major gaps in employment and have not changed career tracks recently.
  2. Your employment history has been one of progressively responsible positions.
  3. Your titles have been impressive and/or you have been recently employed at well-known companies.
  4. Your major accomplishments have been achieved in your most recent positions.
  5. You are seeking a career in a field where this format is expected.

The Functional Resume

The functional resume highlights key skills, accomplishments, and qualifications at the top of the resume, regardless of where they have occurred in your career. Your employment history is de-emphasized by placing it toward the bottom of your resume and by giving a simple listing rather than details of each position. In this way, the functional resume firmly places the focus on what you have done rather than where or when you did it.

Unfortunately, many hiring authorities don't like this format, as it is generally believed that the functional resume is used to hide some deficiency in your career history. Despite this, the functional format can be very effective when:

  1. Most of your achievements and accomplishments occurred in a past position.
  2. You have recently graduated from high school or college.
  3. You have been out of the job market for some time and are trying to reenter.
  4. You are an older worker and want to de-emphasize age.
  5. You have held a variety of unconnected positions.
  6. You are changing career tracks.
  7. You are returning to a previous line of work.

The Combination Resume

This combination format combines the benefits of both the chronological and the functional formats. By beginning with a summary (functional format) of your most impressive qualifications, skills, abilities, and accomplishments, it immediately places the emphasis where you want it. This is followed by an employment history section, written in the chronological format, that supports the statements made in your summary.

The combination format is well accepted by hiring authorities and you should consider using it when:

  1. You have a steady and progressive employment history.
  2. You are applying for a position for which the chronological resume is expected but you also want to highlight qualifications from earlier positions.
  3. You are writing a targeted resume and need an effective way to match your skills to the job requirements.

Step 3- Final Considerations

Now that you have chosen your resume style and format, you are ready to write your content. Before you do this, consider the following:

First, remember that even more important than the format you choose, is the content of your resume and how it is arranged. With only 15 seconds to capture the attention of a reader, it is essential that you arrange your content so that the most important and impressive information is in the top third of the document. This is easily accomplished by using a "Summary" or "Qualification Highlights" heading at the very top of your resume.

Second, be certain that your resume has a focus. An employer must be able to look at your resume and immediately discern the logical principle holding it together. This too, is easily accomplished if you keep your objective in mind the entire time you write. You may explicitly state your objective in a separate "Objective" section or you may prefer to state it implicitly, through the organization and content. Either way, be certain that you know what your focus is and that you communicate this clearly within your resume.

Finally, stay away from boring descriptions of your job responsibilities. Instead, whenever possible, write concise statements that describe specific examples of accomplishments and achievements. Tell employers how you will be of value to them by describing how you have been of value to previous employers. Examples of accomplishments to include would be how you have saved money, increased profits, improved productivity, or enhanced services. Whenever you can, include actual dollar figures and percentages.


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