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You spent hours on documenting your skills and talents for your resume and then sent it off to potential employers. You wait and wait for the email or phone call that never comes.


Most of the time, employers don’t read your resume. They’re scanning your resume. Since they are inundated with resumes, they can’t carefully analyze each resume they receive line by line – when all they need is a few qualified applicants to select for first-round interviews. Therefore your resume needs to create a good first impression immediately, and have some impressive keywords to catch the recruiter’s attention. Many large companies use Automatic Tracking Systems (ATS) that scan your resume for keywords – most likely the exact same keywords from the job description. Hint: modify each submitted resume, paying close attention to the job description.

Resumes usually fall into one of three formats.

Chronological Format

The chronological resume is the most commonly used format and is usually the employer’s favorite as it is very easy to read and it is hard to hide anything in it. It works best when you have stayed consistent in your career. As long as the job you are applying for is in the same field, the full chronology will be relevant to the reader and therefore the focus will be on your experience.

Hint: Your employment history is actually in reverse chronological order and your current position will be at the top of the list. The chronological resume doesn’t work well when you have gaps or when you have shifted industries often, as it will expose your weak points. Make sure that your resume flows in the following way:

  • Objective
  • Summary
  • Experience
  • Education

Pros & Cons of the Chronological Resume

This resume format highlights experience over skills. It is simple, straightforward and easy to understand. It is ideal for those who have experienced linear career growth or who have worked in the same industry but for different companies. While the chronological resume is the preferred format by recruiters and other decision makers, it may not be the format that is right for your career situation.

By its very nature, the design of the format can highlight negative aspects of your career such as job hopping or an extended absence from the workforce

Functional Format

The functional format should be used when you want to draw attention away from your work experience due to job hopping, a very long career, a very short career, long gaps, re-entering the job market and so forth. The functional resume focuses on what you can do, what your achievements are and your core competence.

Hint: This format is used by recent graduates, people seeking to change their career completely, and anyone with employment gaps that don’t add any value to their experience. If you are looking to change industries, make sure to focus on transferable skills such as sales or people management. Your resume should flow like this:

  • Objective
  • Accomplishments
  • Capabilities
  • Employment History
  • Education

Pros & Cons of the Functional Resume

The advantage of the functional resume is that it helps to mitigate career flaws such as gaps in employment and job-hopping. But, it is also a way to showcase skills you’ve learned as a result of a non-career path.

Hint: keep in mind that many employers do not prefer functional resumes and they are not accepted on many online employer career pages and job sites.

The Combined Format

The combination format is exactly what it sounds like: it combines chronological and functional formats to ideally give you the best of both worlds. It allows you to use the features from the functional resume while flying in under the radar in the eye of the reader.

Hint: Examples of people that can benefit from a combined format would be someone wanting to change careers and has some relevant skills for the new field. It can also be useful when someone wants to pack more skills in than the work experience section allows for or would not bring out adequately. Your resume should look like this:

  • Objective
  • Summary
  • Accomplishments
  • Experience
  • Education

So what resume format is best?

If you can, go with the chronological as it is most employer’s favorite. If you are shifting careers and possibly have transferable skills, go combined. If you have a short career or big holes in your experience, go functional.

Hint: Only if you have gone to an Ivy League school or have attained an advanced degree (which would be helpful in the job you want) place your education after Summary and before Accomplishment

– Bill Barry

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