Resumes and Letters
Choosing Your Resume Format
There is no "right" resume style or format. The right format for you is one that succeeds in gaining you an interview. A format that works for someone else may be totally wrong for you. Again, the primary objective of a resume is to obtain interviews. The secondary objective is, once you are in the interview seat, to serve as a prompter for questions that enable you to elaborate on the achievements and skills you’ve highlighted. Your resume should capture your skills, abilities and accomplishments such that they elicit the potential employer's desire to meet you in person and, once there, serves to fuel the course of a great interview.
The three most common resume formats are chronological, functional and a style that combines aspects of both (combination). Many experienced alumni use the combination format to highlight their years of experience and employers. A fourth, highly specialized format is the curriculum vitae, which is only used in academia and pure research situations.
Visit our Resume Writing webpage for additional information.
The Chronological Resume
This is the most widely accepted format and most familiar to employers. It is also the easiest to write. Jobs are listed in chronological order, starting with the most recent (which generally receives the greatest emphasis) and working back through the years. For people with more than 20 years of experience, it is recommended that the chronological entries encompass the last twenty years with a small summary at the bottom that describes the prior years (e.g., “Career Notes”)
- Professional interviewers are more familiar with it
- Easiest to prepare since its content is structured by dates, companies and titles
- Presents the best perspective of a steady employment record
- Provides the interviewer with a guide for discussing work experience
- Starkly reveals employment gaps
- May place undesired emphasis on job areas that you want to minimize
- Skill areas are difficult to spotlight unless they are reflected in most current job
The Functional Resume
The functional resume format highlights your qualifications with little emphasis on specific dates and more emphasis on skill sets. Each section is defined by a specific skill with strong examples. This format is particularly appropriate when changing careers or re-entering the work force.
- Stresses selected skill areas which are marketable or in demand
- Helps to camouflage spotty employment records
- Allows you to emphasize professional growth
- Can down-play positions not related to current career objectives
- Many employers are suspicious of it and will want to see additional work history information
- Doesn't allow you to highlight companies or organizations for which you have worked
The Combination Format
This resume is similar in format to the functional resume. Company names and dates, however, are included in a separate section.
- Provides a good opportunity to highlight the applicant's most relevant skills and abilities
- Can de-emphasize gaps in employment
- Can be varied to feature highlight and de-emphasize functional descriptions, or vice-versa
- Takes longer to read which means employers can lose interest unless it is very succinctly written and attractively laid out
This format is highly specialized and used only for graduate school applications, academia or research positions.
For more information and tips to make your resume successful, visit our Resume Writing webpage. Cover letters, thank you letters and other documents are an important part of any job search. See our Letter Writing webpage for additional information.Maintained by email@example.com
Last modified: July 28, 2010 09:02:06