Choosing The Best Resume Format

By Dan Simmons

A person’s resume is one of the most important pieces in what I like to call their “career advancement puzzle.”  There are a lot of items to factor into keeping your portfolio, references, contacts and resume up to date.  As a result, a resume should not only be treated as a “living document” (i.e., updated on a continual basis), it should also be utilized in the correct fashion.

ChoicesNot all resumes are the same, and not all resume formats are designed to accomplish the same objectives.  The savvy job seeker is able to distinguish between the different formats and to choose the one that fits their job search the best.

There are three basic resume formats: chronological, technical, and transitional.  I’ve presented them in more detail below.

  • Chronological—This format shows a job seeker’s work history starting with their most current position.  It’s most commonly used when the applicant has a solid work history and is looking to continue in the same general line of work.
    • List your objective first, followed by your work history.  (It could be called a reverse chronological resume, since your last job should always appear first.)
    • You may be tempted to use the true chronological format and begin in the following fashion: “I grew up in a small town in Ohio,” and then work through your career progression.  Resist that temptation.  It will only confuse the reader.
  • Functional or Technical—This format should be used if the applicant possesses skills that they deem to be more important than the position they currently hold or the work they’ve done in the past.  This format is also called a functional resume or a summary resume.
    • You should list your education first, then your certification and skills, followed by your work history.  This format is also good for entry-level candidates.
  • Transitional—This format shows an applicant’s basic qualifications and education.  The objective on the resume should speak to the specific position that the applicant is seeking and downplay work history.
    • You need to show where technical, academic, and extra-curricular experiences are applicable to the position you’re seeking.

Although the information you provide may essentially be the same, there’s a big difference in the type of impact each will have.

My experience has shown that the chronological resume brings the best results, since it represents the most explicit description of the quality and application of your skills within a specific time frame.

The functional/technical resume, works well if you’ve changed jobs or careers often and wish to downplay your work history and highlight your level of expertise.  If a prospective hiring manager is specifically interested in a steady, progressively advancing employment history (as most are), then the technical resume will very likely work against you.  If the employer’s main concern is your technical or problem-solving ability, the technical resume will serve your needs just fine.

Either way, follow these guidelines and don’t underestimate the impact of a well-constructed and well-written resume.   It could be your first step to a better and more rewarding career.  For more articles, check out the Animal Science Monitor and Sign Up Today!

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