Choosing the Best Resume Format
Step 1 - Choose Your Focus
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
- 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.
- You are sending your resume in response to an employment
- You are writing or revising your resume to apply to a specific
- You have several different specific career objectives and want a
different resume for each one.
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
The chronological resume is most suitable when:
- You have a steady and consistent employment history with no
major gaps in employment and have not changed career tracks
- Your employment history has been one of progressively
- Your titles have been impressive and/or you have been recently
employed at well-known companies.
- Your major accomplishments have been achieved in your most
- You are seeking a career in a field where this format is
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:
- Most of your achievements and accomplishments occurred in a past
- You have recently graduated from high school or college.
- You have been out of the job market for some time and are trying
- You are an older worker and want to de-emphasize age.
- You have held a variety of unconnected positions.
- You are changing career tracks.
- 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
The combination format is well accepted by hiring authorities and you
should consider using it when:
- You have a steady and progressive employment history.
- You are applying for a position for which the chronological
resume is expected but you also want to highlight qualifications
from earlier positions.
- 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.