There are three conventional formats used for preparing your resume. They are the: Chronological Format; Functional Format; and Combined Format.
The Chronological Format:
This is the most widely used format. It starts with your most current or last employer and works backward for positions preceding the most recent job. It shows clearly to the Recruiter or Hiring Manager, your employer, job title(s), length of time in the role; and job duties/responsibilities. The job duties/responsibilities can be stated in 2-5 bulleted high-lights, or 1-3 short paragraphs. More recently bullets have become more widely used, they can be short, targeted and descriptive. This format is preferred by most Recruiters because it presents in a straight forward manner your experience. This format is also more easily scanned by most Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). These are the systems employers use to capture and hold candidate applications.
I recommend you also add your achievements and accomplishments to ensure they stand out separately from the text of your job duties and responsibilities. This can be done easily by adding a separate section under your employment with a special heading.
Though you can use any type of resume format, approximately 90% of job seekers use the Chronological format. If you’re hoping to have your resume read, this is your best choice. Drawbacks of using this format are: it points out gaps in employment; is standard and more vanilla; to use this format effectively, you must have a solid work history. Think of it this way the format is the frame, your work is the picture. Good work experience will get you noticed.
The Functional Format:
The functional format can be utilized by varying levels of workers: senior-level people in higher level positions; new graduates or those with less work experience; or experienced workers wanting to make a career change to a new or novel field un-related to their work experience. The higher level people are those who oversee large departments or functions and have large teams of people reporting into them on a dotted line basis. They usually have a handful of direct reports ranging from Senior Directors to Managers. Their titles are Executive Directors, Vice-Presidents, and C-Suite Executives. This format enables them to speak about their work experience at a high-level of managing a business unit, department or company and discuss their achievements.
If you have a wide range of both soft skills and technical skills this is a good format to highlight those areas. If there are large gaps in your employment history it is often suggested you use this format because it does a better job of camouflaging employment gaps.
However, be advised you’ll be asked questions by Recruiters who want to get to the “nitty gritty” of your applicable experience. Hiring managers will also want to know your specific work contributions and where you gained that experience.
There may be an Objective section at the top of the resume highlighting specific skills. This section is usually followed by a summary of skills and experience in several paragraphs below with the actual breakdown of employers, titles and dates employed as one-line bullets. For those wanting to enter into the workforce it may also show relevant volunteer experience. Keep in mind too that resumes are subjective to the reader. Each reader has their own preferences.
The Combination Format:
This format is for those wanting to emphasize their experience and skills over their work history. This format also masks employment gaps. It allows you to show the reader a broader range of skills and experience as well as highlight specific experience. It also allows you to show the actual work experience too. People with large employment gaps or those with more general diverse types of experiences may use this format. For example, if you went from being a teacher, to a manager position, then into a field sales role this could be a good format for you.
Creative people like: artists; web designers; writers may also use this type of format successfully. The downside of using this format is you need to show some solid experience and skills. Know too that Recruiters will want to drill down to learn more about your skills/experience.
The format should be in line with the industry and position for which you apply. Now that we’ve reviewed formats there’s still so much more to consider.
Gathering Personal Data:
Remember, good writing takes time. Nothing else you do will have the weighted impact that a good resume will have for your career. If you’re like most people you update your resume when there’s a need. Even though we have good intentions about keeping our resumes updated, we get busy with work and life. Then it’s a fire drill to remember all the great things you did in your positions.
A good starting point is to look at old performance reviews or your old job description. These documents can help you remember the projects, tasks and responsibilities you had over the years. The kudos you received from specific projects will remind you just how much you grew in a role. Pull those things out to help make writing your resume easier.
Keep in mind writing a good resume can be difficult and time intensive to complete. Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t rush the process. It’s not easy to crystalize your experiences into to a few short paragraphs or bullets. It can take a couple of weeks, especially if you’ve got a strong work history. It’s like packing for a trip. You need smaller versions of the essentials.
Meet Insider Expectations:
Recruiters and Hiring managers want to see how you excelled in a role. Demonstrate a clear progression of growth and development, relevant work experience, responsibilities, and achievements like promotions you may have received on your resume. It helps us to see you didn’t settle into a coasting mindset after being hired. But will show you continued to do your best work consistently. Resumes should be clearly and concisely written and show your stability with your employers. A minimum of 2 -3 years in each role is okay. Ideally, though if you have a longer tenure in a role is good.
For those who have moved around a lot with short stints on your resume, you’ll have to explain why you left each role. For example a few valid reasons are: I moved out of the area; I was promoted, laid-off or downsized; I accepted a better job; there was no growth potential are all good examples of reasons for leaving. Be honest. Even if the reason for leaving was negative.