How to Use Different Resume Formats

Q: I’m trying to create a good resume, but the more research I do on resume writing, the more resume formatsand styles I discover. Is there one, ideal resume format that’s better than all the others.

A: In a word, “No!” Job seekers spend an inordinate amount of time writing and re-writing their resumes, trying to find that perfect resume format. The truth, however, is that the concept of a perfect resume format that will work for any job or any job seeker is a myth. No single resume format could possibly work for every background and objective.

But while there is no strict format you should use to create a resume, there are several things you can do that will help tilt the job search process in your favor. When writing your resume, remember that every good resume should include the following items:

  1. Personal data

These are all elements that make a strong resume. On the other hand, a good resume should not include the following items:

  1. References

Companies screen resumes (sometimes hundreds, or even thousands for a single opening) to find the best candidates to interview. They are looking for specific skills and experience. Your challenge is to make the cut so you get a chance sell yourself in person. If your resume doesn’t speak to their needs in the top two-thirds of the first page, they probably will reject it and squelch your opportunity to dazzle them face-to-face.

While there are lots of ways to present your accomplishments, all styles of resumes fall into one of two major types: the Chronological and the Hybrid. Both have advantages, depending on your situation.

Professionals who have years of experience in a particular career and wish to secure a job equal to or above the one they currently fill typically use the chronological resume. It puts the last job first and moves through work experience in reverse order. Featuring the most recent position at the beginning quickly catches a potential employer’s eye with the most relevant, responsible experience. Job titles, companies, dates, locations, and accomplishments are all important ingredients in this style.

This format is the traditional, universally accepted one. However, it may not be the best style for you. In fact, if any of the following typify your experience, the chronological resume may do you more harm than good:

  1. Your volunteer work is much more in line with your career objectives than your paid experience.

In any of the above cases, the hybrid resume probably will be the better choice. This format is much more flexible than the chronological one because hybrid resumes focus on transferable skills and accomplishments rather than specific experience by job title. They usually state an objective (Example: Director of Development for the Build a Better America Foundation), then divide the desired position into major functions (Example: directors of development need expertise in fund raising, oral and written communication, event planning, budgeting, and general management). Next, they arrange major paid and volunteer accomplishments under the appropriate functional category. For instance, experience listed under oral and written communication might look like this:

Oral and Written Communication

  1. Spoke to 25 professional and civic groups concerning the need for citizen participation in local government.

Note that job titles and dates do not dictate the structure of the hybrid resume. With it you gain a great deal of flexibility in listing your accomplishments in the order most relevant to your potential job. After your achievements, include an Employment History section, where you’ll list a short chronological summary of past experience, now no longer the focus of your resume.

As you see, whatever resume format you choose will be the right one, if it clearly states your objective and mirrors your potential employer’s needs.

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