Choosing the Proper Resume Format

Updated on Nov 30, 2010

This article will show you how to select a format in your resume-writing process. The format determines how you organize and display the information.

The resume format you choose should be based on several different criteria, including:

  • Personal preference—When it comes down to it, you need to create a document you believe best showcases your skills, capabilities, and experience. Because your resume is being designed to promote you, it's only fitting that the format of the document be based partially on your personal taste. You will want to adhere to the main structure of whatever resume format you select, but there is room to add a touch of creativity. For example, Chapter 1 showed five different ways to lay out the heading (including centered, left justified, and right justified), which includes your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address.
  • Your employment history—Depending on your personal circumstances, the format you choose can highlight your strengths while downplaying your weaknesses and any negative information in your employment history. Job searchers who have large gaps in their employment histories or who have jumped between jobs often should use a different resume format than someone who has a consistent employment history. Likewise, someone with little or no real-world work experience should create a resume using a different format than someone who has been working in the same industry for ten years.
  • The job you're applying for—If you're applying for a traditional job at a small company, for example, you will probably want to use a printed resume, using a standard chronological format. If you're applying for a job at a dot-com or high-tech company, you will probably want to create an electronic resume and submit it via the Internet or e-mail. If a job at a large corporation seems more appealing, your resume will likely be scanned into applicant-tracking software and not initially read by a human. To prepare for this, you will want to create a keyword-based resume.
  • The employer you're submitting your resume to—Employers typically have specific guidelines for resume submissions. For example, some only accept traditional printed resumes, whereas others prefer to receive an electronic file in a particular format (such as Microsoft Word, Rich Text Format, or ASCII). When an employer states a defined resume submission policy, it's important for you to precisely adhere to that procedure in order to be considered for the job opening.

As you read this articler, think about the types of jobs for which you will be applying, and determine which resume format best suits your needs. Keep in mind, it may be necessary to create several versions of your resume based on the type of job you're hoping to land. For example, you may want to have a traditional printed resume ready to submit to companies where you know an HR person (or executive) will be reading the resume, and also have a keyword version of your resume ready to send to companies using applicant-tracking software.

Once you have your basic resume completely written, modifying it to fit another format will be a far less time-consuming task, but one that could make the difference between receiving a job offer and having to continue your job search.

To be the most competitive as an applicant, it's an excellent idea to create a traditional printed resume and then modify that resume into both a scannable (a resume that contains the same basic information as a traditional resume, but focuses on the use of keywords) and an electronic resume.

As the name suggests, an electronic (or digital) resume is not printed on paper. It's created on a computer, using a word processor, resume-creation software, or online resume form, then submitted to a potential employer using the Web (usually via e-mail). This way, no matter how a potential employer requests resumes to be submitted, you will be prepared.

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