Resume Format Options

Resume Format Options

Which resume format is the right fit for you? It depends quite a bit on your level of experience in the field for which you are applying. Below are a few of the more popular options that you will find suitable for your profession of choice:

You may have grappled with whether to set up a chronological or functional resume. A chronological resume focuses on work experience, providing a reverse-chronological employment history and ample detail about job duties and accomplishments. This type of resume works for applicants on a steady career track, because it emphasizes work experience.
A functional resume highlights key skills and downplays work experience. The functional resume format is a good choice for career changers making a radical career shift and job seekers with sketchy work histories, including excessive job-hopping and employment gaps.
The combination, or hybrid, resume. The combination resume incorporates the best of the chronological and functional formats. Generally, it leads with a description of functional skills and related qualifications, followed by a reverse-chronological employment history.

This format allows you to state your most relevant qualifications up front, while providing the employment timeline that many hiring managers like to see. The disadvantage is that this hybrid format still includes a detailed employment history, so job-hopping, gaps and unrelated experience will be more apparent than they would be in a functional resume.

Who Should Use a Combination Resume?

Many job seekers would benefit from using a combination resume. The addition of a career summary pinpoints the candidate’s top credentials so employers readily see it’s a good match.

If you fall into any one of the following categories, you may want to consider going this route with your resume:

Students, New Graduates and Entry-Level Job Seekers: This allows job seekers to emphasize their skills rather than their short-lived employment history.

Workers with a Steady, Consistent Employment History: The addition of a qualifications summary pinpoints the top credentials for the job objective so employers readily see it’s a good match.

Career Changers: Unless you’re making a radical career change, in which case a functional resume probably makes more sense.

Applicants Reentering the Job Market: Again, this takes a little bit of emphasis off the fact that you have not been working for a while.

Older Workers: Workers with extensive employment history need to sell their strongest credentials; inclusion of a summary section provides that focus.

How to Create a Combination Resume

One of the advantages of a combination resume is flexibility to structure the document so that it works best for you. The main strategy is to lead with a career summary (also commonly called a qualifications summary or skills summary) that emphasizes your strongest credentials. By stating your key qualifications at the beginning of your resume, you will entice hiring managers to read the rest of your resume. You can incorporate your job objective, key skills, areas of expertise, accomplishment highlights and related training into the summary section. Follow with a reverse chronological employment history; this keeps your resume in the chronological format most employers prefer.

Keep in mind that because you’ve included a career summary, you will have less room for your work history. Be clear and concise when writing your experience section. Focus on accomplishments rather than job duties, and avoid adding unnecessary information about jobs and tasks unrelated to your career goal. Other sections on a combination resume depend on your specific experience, but can include education, training, affiliations, languages and additional/miscellaneous information.

Test-Drive It

Whenever you change your resume’s format, test-drive the document by posting it on Monster and distributing it to employers. See if the new format generates favorable feedback and more calls for interviews. You can always go back and modify your resume based on feedback and response rate. By taking the time to select the format that’s right for your situation, analyzing the results and tweaking when necessary, your resume will be a more effective marketing tool for your career.

Another strategy for career changers with minimal related experience is a resume letter, which is a cover letter that substitutes for a resume. A resume letter emphasizes your passion for the industry and any related experience/training, but its narrative format allows you complete control over the information you provide. Keep your letter focused on how your motivation, enthusiasm and passion for your new career would benefit the employer’s operation. You will still need to have a more traditional resume format on hand in case it’s requested, but the letter will serve as a good introduction and pique the hiring manager’s interest in interviewing you.