Choosing the Proper Resume Format (page 2)

Updated on Nov 30, 2010

Traditional Printed Resumes

Traditional resumes are printed on standard 8½-by-11-inch paper and are prepared using one of the resume formats described in this section. Until recently, this type of resume was by far the most popular. However, a growing number of employers (of all sizes and in all industries) are using computer technology to assist them with recruiting needs. Thus, some companies are taking advantage of applicant-tracking software and scanning resumes into a computerized database, and others have begun accepting resumes via e-mail or through one of the popular career-related websites. For companies that scan resumes or accept resumes electronically, a traditional printed resume isn't suitable.

A traditional printed resume is most suitable if:
  • You're applying for a job at a small- to medium-size company that doesn't scan resumes into a computer database or use applicant-tracking software.
  • You're attending a career fair and plan to distribute your resume to participating employers.
  • You're meeting with an HR professional or recruiter in person.
  • You're responding to a help-wanted ad or job posting that lists a mailing address as opposed to an e-mail address or website for submitting resumes.
The chronological resume format is the most popular. This format requires you to list your educational background and employment history in reverse chronological order (by date), starting with your most recent schooling and job. This format makes it easy for a potential employer who reads your resume to quickly see a summary of your qualifications. This resume format also allows you to demonstrate a progressive work history.

The Chronresume Format

The chronological format is the most popular out of all the different formats for traditional printed resumes because it's extremely easy for an employer to quickly see a summary of your work experience, skills, and education. The majority of job seekers use this format, especially those who have a consistent employment record and at least some work experience to showcase.

List your employment and education information in reverse chronological order. For example, in the Employment section of your resume, start with your most recent job or work experience, and go backwards in time as you progress down the page. Each past employer is listed separately, and each should include:

  • Your dates of employment—When listing the dates of employment, use years only (1992–1996 or 1995 to Present). It's usually not necessary in your resume to list months you began or finished a job (June 1992–September 1996).
  • Your job title
  • The employer's name
  • A brief listing of your primary accomplishments and the skills you used

Sample Format

Using the chronological resume format, Exhibit 3–1 is an example of what one of the listings might look like under the Employment section of your resume.

Sample Format

Sample Format

For recent jobs, provide the most detail and information, especially when listing primary responsibilities and achievements. Three to five bulleted items are appropriate. For less recent jobs, include only two, or at most three, bulleted items for each.

The primary purpose of this resume format is to show you've been steadily employed. It can demonstrate upward or lateral mobility in your career path as you have moved from job to job. Assuming you have work experience to properly use this resume format, you will be able to demonstrate career direction. The job for which you are curently applying should be the next step up from your most recent work experience.

If you're a recent graduate, on the Employment section of your resume, be sure to include part-time jobs, after-school jobs, internships, and volunteer work. This allows you to showcase whatever real-world experience you have and highlight the work-related skills employers will be interested in.

Great Idea!

"If you are using a recruiter in the industry where your experience lies, always use the chronological format. It's difficult to highlight your actual job experience in a functional format. You might miss out on a wonderful job opportunity if you don't seriously consider the format of your resume."



Who It's Best Suited For

Applicants who have steady work and education records and can demonstrate constant growth or lateral movement with each position highlighted on their resumes will get the best responses when using a chronological resume. Job seekers with impressive job titles can easily demonstrate upward mobility and growth. Because this is the most popular resume format, most HR professionals prefer to receive it from applicants. Thus, if you choose a different resume format, you will want to make sure it highlights your strengths extremely well, because the person reading your resume will be curious as to why you didn't use a chronological format.

When to Avoid Using It

Although this is definitely a favored resume format among HR professionals, if you fall into one of the following categories, you should strongly consider using a format that better showcases your skills, capabilities, and potential, as opposed to your weaknesses. Don't use the chronological resume format if:

  • You're a recent graduate with little or no work experience.
  • You have large gaps in your employment history.
  • You have negative information in your employment history.
  • You're changing careers and have no experience working in the industry you're hoping to enter.

If there's only one gap in your employment history, you can still use a chronological resume format, but don't make it obvious that there was a period of time you were out of work. Never include a line within your resume stating, "Unemployed" or "Out of Work" along with the corresponding dates. For the time being, pretend it never happened.

Instead, focus on the positives—when you were employed and what you accomplished while employed. When asked about the gap, you could state that in between jobs, you took time off to pursue additional schooling, for example. However, if you have many small gaps in your employment history, strongly consider using a different resume format.

The Functional Resume Format

This resume format organizes your past work experiences into functional categories. You use the same basic information as you would when preparing your resume using the chronological format, but instead of focusing on employment dates, the information listed in your resume will focus on your past job responsibilities and job titles. Using this resume format, you highlight your skills and give less prominence to your previous employers, employment dates, and job titles.

The functional resume format is best used by applicants who want potential employers to discover what they are capable of as opposed to when and where they've been employed. When using this resume format to showcase your skills and capabilities, you will be answering the question, "What specifically can you do for the employer?"

If you choose to create your resume using the functional resume format, select five or six of your most marketable skills that are applicable to the job for which you're applying. As you list each marketable skill, also include between one and three specific achievements from your past employment experiences that required use of that skill. You will also want to mention where you were employed when the skill was used.

A functional resume format begins with a heading and objective. Next, include a section that lists "Experience and Accomplishments." Within this section, list one of your skills at a time followed by two to four bulleted points describing what you achieved in the workplace using that skill. When describing your accomplishments, it's appropriate to mention the specific employer.

Great Idea!

"Make sure to use common resume headings, like Education and Experience. Your potential employer or HR representative might not notice your most marketable skills and experience if he doesn't recognize the headings you have chosen."


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