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Choosing the Right Resume Format

Jul 30, 2008
If you learned to write a resume more than 10 years ago, you may be thinking, "I didn't know there were different formats." That's because until recently, most workers were pretty predictable: they stayed at the same company--or at least within the same field--throughout their careers. Few people switched careers, and they certainly didn't switch careers the three to five times many workers today do.

Everyone learned how to write a chronological resume because it made sense. And it's still a viable format for many people, but there's a whole new world of possibilities out there. Below is an outline of popular formats and a listing of when they're most useful.

Chronological Resumes

These are still the most commonly used resumes--first, because most people apply for jobs that are relatively similar to the position they currently occupy and secondly, because it's the most commonly taught resume. Chronological resumes are perfect for showcasing your growth within a field of employment and progression up a career ladder. Use this format when you're:

* Applying for a position within the same field.
* Applying for a promotion at the same company.

To format this type of resume:

* Start with your Objective, where you list a specific job you're interested in, or an Interest section, where you list a few of your most marketable strengths.

* Next is the Experience or Work History section. In reverse chronological order, list your jobs, dates of employment, and significant tasks.

* Add your Education section third (assuming you've been out of school at least five years and have been building your career since then), and include any special training or certifications you've received.

* Finish with an Additional Skills list, where you describe abilities that may not be directly related to the job for which you're applying, but are assets just the same (superior computer skills, foreign languages, etc.).

Functional Resumes

Functional resumes are the second most popular format because they can be used to both highlight and hide certain elements. This format is great for emphasizing a skill set and unique abilities. For better or worse, it doesn't underscore the jobs you've held, so make sure you understand that before putting together a functional resume. Use this format when you're:

* Switching careers or fields.
* Re-entering the work force after an absence (to stay at home with kids, an illness, etc.).
* Young and entering the work force for the first time.

To format this type of resume:

* Start with your Objective or Interest section. This is especially important with a functional resume, which may include information from several fields or careers.

* Next list all of your experience under different headings. For example: Sales Experience will include everything you've done in sales--from all of your jobs. Organizational Experience will include everything you've ever done in that category, etc.

* Third is the actual Employment category. In reverse chronological order, list your employer, dates of employment, and title. Don't record job responsibilities--all of the good stuff will already be listed above.

* Now add your Education section.

* Finish with your Additional Skills section.

Technical Resume

As its name implies, a technical resume is ideal for drawing attention to a job seeker's technical skills--a highly valuable commodity in today's market. Done correctly, it also highlights stability. Use this format when you're:

* Applying for a technical job and have lots of experience.

To format this type of resume:

* Start with a Profile section that lists your strengths and skill sets.

* Next add an Experience section that lists your jobs and associated responsibilities in reverse chronological order. (Because technical formats are geared toward technical industries, it's assumed that you don't need to hide career gaps or changes.)

* At the bottom, insert your Education section, and include any additional training, certificates, courses, etc.

Curriculum Vitae

Many people use "curriculum vitae" and "resume" interchangeably. But technically, a curriculum vitae is specifically used within the academic and research arenas. It's a format that accents teaching, publication, and research experience. Use a curriculum vitae when you're:

* Applying for an academic or research position.

To format this type of resume:

* Start with your Education section--even if you've been out of school for years. In reverse chronological order, list your degrees, where they were earned, your areas of study or research, and thesis topics.

* Next, in reverse chronological order, list your Practica section (for educators who also have a degree in areas such as psychology, as well as researchers) or Teaching section (for academic resumes). Both of these are the equivalent of the Experience or Work History sections of most job seekers' resumes. If you need both a Practica and Teaching section, list the Practica first.

* Third, list your Research section (if applicable). Discuss what projects you worked on, under whose supervision, what the results of your research were, and any other highlights of your experience.

* Add your Publication section next, listing the journals in which your work has appeared.

* Finish with an Affiliation section followed by an Honors or Awards section.
About the Author
Jason Kay recommends you read resume writing service reviews before choosing a professional resume service. Read more career advice and resume distribution reviews at JobGoRound.com.
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