Resume Formats

Resume formats are a critical consideration when writing a resume. Without the correct resume format, your resume will be weeded out immediately by recruiters, HR professionals and even by scanning software. If you don't take the time to create a resume using an acceptable format, then you make a poor first impression if you make any impression at all. Choosing the correct resume format may depend on the employment field. Legal resume formats will be different from a teacher's resume, for example. Refer to the many resume examples to discover acceptable formats being used within your job niche. Here is a table with links to various job-specific resumes. Simply click on the resume for your field of interest.

There are basically five resume formats:

  • Chronological
  • Functional
  • Key Word
  • Portfolio
  • Creative

Resume formats vary in all shapes and sizes. The most common formats - outside of the academic resume - are chronological, functional and what I like to call the combination platter. Determining which one is right for you is as easy as deciding where you have been and where you wish to go next.

First Things First

The most common format is the chronological resume. It presents your work history in reverse chronological order, starting with your current position and working its way back to the job you landed with your first interview suit.

Chronological resumes are most appropriate for candidates with stable, solid career progression through one or, at most, two fields. If you started off your career as a circus performer, this is probably not the format for you.

This format highlights growth and maturity throughout an organization or career. It is the format employers see most often and provides an easy-to-follow structure for interviews. On its face it looks like the simplest to prepare, but like all resumes, it's a toughie. It can also be poison to candidates crossing into new fields, leaping sectors or returning to the workforce after an extended leave.

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Functional resumes allow candidates to flaunt the skills of their choice and the experiences of which they are the proudest. This format gives candidates the luxury of combining a lifelong dedication to community service into their for-profit achievements when switching career tracks. And, as an added bonus, they work well for candidates who want the world to forget about their brief professional dalliance with interpretive dance.

This resume format focuses attention on skills and achievements, rather than place of employment, which make it ideal for mid-career changers or recent grads.

But lest you think this is the perfect format for you, beware. Many employers are made immediately suspicious by these resumes since they are also often used to hide spotty employment records. Others just don't want to do the work necessary to put together a complete picture of you.

The Combination Platter

Candidates who want the advantages provided by both the chronological and the functional resumes - much like restaurant patrons who don't know what to order - opt for the combination platter. But, much like ordering the combination platter in a restaurant, most recruiters feel they have gotten more than they asked for and end up with indigestion.

Use this format at your own risk. While some find it to be the perfect marriage of form and function, some employers get turned off by having to dig for information. These longer resumes tend to be repetitious and confusing and should only be tried at home with a strong editing hand nearby.

The growth of online resume services has brought a dramatic change in the way resumes are constructed. Electronic and software scanning have now become widely used methods of screening resumes, eliminating the need for humans to do the job in many cases. Resumes must now emphasize keywords and industry-specific terms and acronyms. So no matter if you use the other resume formats, you need to use keywords. Chances are it will be e-scanned and e-distributed!

Key Words Resume Format

In general, you will want to think about keywords that describe your job responsibilities and your accomplishments. These accomplishments are what you will feature in your resume, not your previous job titles and job descriptions. The more that you can state these accomplishments in terms of problems solved, the better your resume will be. And the more these problems can focus on an impact to the bottom line, the more you will get noticed. The criteria that are important for determining bottom-line impact will vary by industry and job area. For example, in sales, the dollar volume is what counts; in management positions the emphasis is on time saved (time =money), and in technical jobs, you will discuss production increases that do more with the same or fewer resources.

Begin your resume with a section of keywords. You may want to call it "Summary Statement" or "Skills," but it should contain technical words and other nouns (i.e. systems analyst; instructional designer; direct marketing specialist; museum proposal writer) that describe the job or describe you. Think about words that you might type in to Google or MSN to find someone to fill the kind of job you want. You can look for these words in classified ads and on industry-related Web sites.

Here's an example of use of keywords. It is called Summary Statement in this resume.

  • Thomas Seeker
  • Name , Address, phone number, e mail address
  • Objective: Client Server Systems Architect for a high technology firm.
  • Summary Statement: Systems Engineer, Client Server, System Architect, System Analyst, Network Administration, Database Administration, project management, computing systems, C++, visual basic, BETA Tester, Sales Presentations, Microsoft LAN Manager, Computer Engineering..

Portfolio Resumes

Portfolio Resumes are especially good for artists and those who need to show their creative skills. Click here for more on creating a Portfolio Resume.

Creative Resume

Here's an example of a very different but successful resume for the right company—one that appreciates brevity and creativity:

You Want

5 or more years' experience working in the food industry

A focus on marketing specialty food items

A direct marketing background

A degree in marketing or organizational development

I Have

7 years' experience in the food industry, working for Company A and Company B.

Created two specialty food campaigns for Employer B, each one coming in 15% over budgeted expectations.

Focus was on direct marketing for both Employers A and B; Hold a Direct Marketing Certificate from the DMA.

BA in marketing from the University of North Carolina