There are basically two different resume formats that you should consider. As a hiring manager, I’ve seen all sorts of different formats, some of them wildly creative and some of them virtually unreadable. By far, I (as well as most other hiring managers) prefer one of the following commonly accepted formats: the “Chronological” resume format and the “Functional” resume format.
Although both have their individual advantages and can be correct based on your situation, the chronological format is by far the more common format and the one preferred by most hiring managers. That said, I do want to give you an overview of each one and some advice as to which to consider. Let’s start with the chronological format.
The chronological resume format is so named because it lists your prior experience and employers in chronological order, beginning with your most current employer first and then working backward. The reason for this order is that hiring managers want to read about your most recent experience first.
The danger, of course, is that if your most recent experience is considered to be not applicable, the reader may stop reading right there. However, if you’ve done a good job of only applying to jobs for which you’re qualified (a point I frequently hammer on!), this shouldn’t be an issue.
When you’re deciding which format to use for your resume, please keep in mind that the chronological format is the one used by most applicants. There’s a reason for this. It’s the one most hiring managers are used to seeing and the one they prefer. It reads the most naturally, makes it easy for the hiring manager to see how relevant your recent experience is, how your career has progressed and how long you’ve held each of your prior jobs.
So if you’re in doubt about the correct format to use, choose the chronological format. It’s the correct choice for most people and is the simplest format to write. Here’s a good example of the chronological resume format.
Now, on to the functional resume format. Rather than focusing on a chronological list of your previous jobs, the functional format focuses first on detailing your skills and education, then showing your employment history at the end. With the functional resume format, you give no details of your various jobs except the dates you were employed at each, in date order starting with your most current job. In other words, with the functional format the emphasis on your skills and experience rather than your past employers.
The functional resume is best used if you’ve held a large number of jobs. Why? Because you may want to highlight your skills and experience and downplay the number of employers you’ve had. A large number of past employers is often seen as a sign of instability. This format is best used for entry or lower level positions, which the requirements are often for specific skills rather than long years of stable job history. Here’s a good example of a functional resume.
While you may read about other, less commonly used formats (such as the “combination” format), just remember that the chronological and functional formats are the appropriate ones for almost everyone.
Next time, I’ll talk about how to make your resume score well with the increasingly commonly used automated screening software.