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Resume Formats—Which to Use?

RESUME WRITER: Dodie T.
CATEGORY: Build a Better Resume
POSTED: August 21, 2014 at 12:54 pm

It’s time to put together your resume. You’ve reviewed your work history, assessed your skills, abilities, and strengths, and compiled examples of your quantified accomplishments. The next question is, “what format do I use?”

While each person is unique and should have a resume tailored to their needs, there are three general formats that are commonly used.

The Reverse Chronological Resume

This format presents your work history from the present, then works backward. This is the most appropriate choice for most applicants. In addition, this is the format that most hiring managers and recruiters expect to see. The benefits are obvious: it’s logical in its presentation, and allows the reader to quickly scan your history. This works well for job seekers with a consistent work history in the same career field.

The Functional Resume

The functional resume allows you to present your work history by skill area, such as sales, administration, technical expertise, or consulting engagements. The functional areas should be chosen based on both your skills and qualifications, and the requirements listed in the job announcement. The bullets should be written in the same manner as a chronological format, with the action taken for a particular challenge, task, or project, and the quantified results. This format works well if you are making a major career change or if your skills were gained through a non-traditional work history. However, most interviewers will want to know when a particular skill was gained and used, so be prepared to answer those questions and provide a chronology.

The Combination Resume

Finally, the third commonly used format is the combination resume. Just as the name implies, this format combines the best of the chronological and functional formats. For example, you could compile your work history in reverse chronological order and use functional sub-headings within each job entry. However, this type of resume format should be tightly focused on the skills required in the job announcement or the document could easily become too long and unwieldy.

Focus first on the needs of the employer when you develop your bullets. Solidly written, quantified information that demonstrates how you can meet the employer’s talent gap will be more compelling than a beautifully formatted document filled with fluff. The format which is best for you and your situation will then be more obvious. If you need more help, contact a Certified Professional Resume Writer to guide you through the resume writing process.