Choosing the Proper Resume Format (page 3)
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.
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
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.
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.
"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.
"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."
BOB, HUMAN RESOURCES REPRESENTATIVE
Sample Functional Resumes
Your items within this section of your resume might look something like Exhibit 3–3.
Below the Experience and Accomplishments section, a summary of your employment history should be featured. Format this section in reverse chronological order, as shown in Exhibit 3–4.
Exhibit 3–5 shows an actual example of a functional resume, in part.
Who It's Best Suited For
For job seekers whose career path thus far doesn't fit nicely into a chronological resume format, the functional resume format is probably the next best thing to use. This resume format works best for:
- Recent graduates with little or no real-world work experience
- People with large or multiple gaps in their employment history
- Highly trained job seekers who have little actual work experience
- Job seekers with extensive unpaid volunteer work experience
- Job seekers with non-work-related experience that helped them develop skills that will be useful in the workplace
- People who are changing careers and will be working in a different industry, which was the reason behind the sample resume shown in Exhibit 3–5.
When to Avoid Using It
Most HR professionals prefer to see chronological resumes, because this format allows them to evaluate someone's entire career path in a matter of seconds. When an applicant doesn't use a chronological format, the reader might assume the applicant is trying to hide something about his or her past. When reading a functional resume, it's harder for a potential employer to put together an applicant's employment history or career path. To compensate for these potential drawbacks, it's critical that the information included on your functional resume be extremely relevant to the reader and to the job.
The Combination/Target Resume Format
If you pinpoint a specific job opportunity with a specific company and you want to create a customized resume specifically for that potential employer, you might consider using this resume format. All of the information included within this type of resume is used to support the statement, "I am the perfect applicant for this job, because…" Use this resume format if you already know the exact requirements and skills the job requires. When using this resume format, focus on why you're qualified to meet the job's requirements based on the skills you already have.
Using a targeted resume format allows you to combine elements of the chronological and functional formats. When listing your employment history (in reverse chronological order), the focus will be on showcasing your most marketable skills. The dates of employment, however, can be tucked away at the end of each employment listing, so it takes the emphasis away from any gaps in your employment history.
Sample Combination Resumes
Using the combination/target resume format, Exhibit 3–6 is an example of what one of the listings might look like under the Employment section of your resume.
Who It's Best Suited For
This format works well for applicants who know exactly what job they want and who understand the exact job requirements of a position. Thus, your resume can be custom tailored to the employer's requirements. This type of resume also works well for someone who posseses the skills needed to fill a specific job, but doesn't have related work experience.
When to Avoid Using It
Because this resume is targeted for a specific position with a specific employer, the main drawback to this format is that if you're not offered the job you want (because the employer doesn't think you're qualified, for example), you might not be considered for similar opportunities from that employer.
"When looking at a resume, what I first notice is a consistency in resume format. I look at the order the candidate lists his skills, make sure the fonts are consistent, and check that the way he lists his education and experience is consistent. An inconsistent format signals an inconsistent worker who isn't detail oriented."
—CARLI, PROJECT COORDINATOR
Biographical Resume Format
Someone who is applying for a non-traditional job and is extremely accomplished in his or her field might use a biographical resume.
This resume format is typically one page long, however, it lists someone's accomplishments using several paragraphs of text (composed of complete sentences as opposed to bulleted points). Because the applicant is submitting a full page of text, this format takes longer for someone to read and pinpoint pertinent information. Nevertheless, if you're already highly respected in your industry and have extensive experience, this resume format is useful. When submitting a resume is more of a formality than a requirement when applying for a job, this is the resume format to use.
When printing a biographical-style resume, use 8½-by-11-inch paper, and an easily readable font (such as Times Roman) printed in a 12-point size. To make the document easier to read, consider using line-and-a-half spacing and taking advantage of 1¼-inch left and right margins, as well as 1-inch top and bottom margins.
At the top of this resume, include your basic heading information (full name, address, phone numbers, e-mail address, etc.). This should be followed by one or two paragraphs listing your most recent achievements. Continue describing your professional accomplishments and employment experience in reverse chronological order. Thus, details about your educational background are listed toward the bottom of the page.
In terms of popularity, this style of resume isn't too common, so by submitting it to a potential employer, chances are you will stand out. Unless you have extremely impressive credentials, you should not use this resume format.
If you read other resume books or speak with resume-writing experts, some recommend using alternative, but less popular, resume formats. The linear, accomplishment, professional, and academic curriculum vitae resume formats are among the others you might read and hear about.
Although you want to stand out from the other applicants, it's important to provide HR professionals or recruiters with the information they desire and need—in the format they're used to receiving it. Thus, although you should incorporate some of your own creativity into the design of your resume, it's an excellent strategy to stick with a popular and widely accepted resume format.
An electronic or digital resume is one that will be e-mailed to a potential employer, posted on a career-related website, or included within an online resume database. Some employers that accept electronic resumes have a specific pre-defined resume form on the company website that must be completed online to be accepted. This also holds true for the majority of career-related websites.
Other employers that accept electronic resumes request that the documents be created and saved in a specific file format, such as Microsoft Word, Rich Text Format, or ASCII. When creating an electronic resume, adhere exactly to the formatting specifications provided by the employer or career-related website.
Instead of following the same format as a traditional printed resume, use keywords as opposed to action verbs to describe your employment history, skills, and education. For more information about how to create an electronic resume and how to take full advantage of today's computer technology and cyberspace when searching for a job, see Chapter 7.
To use an electronic resume, you must have access to the Web as well as your own e-mail account. If you don't own your own computer, you can find connected computers at a public library, a college/university, an Internet café, or by visiting a friend or relative who owns a computer. It is not advisable to use the Web access or e-mail address at your current place of employment for your job search.
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