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The Right Format

Your resume is a relatively straight forward document highlighting your accomplishments. But what if you are making a career change, or there are gaps in your job history? What if you are applying for jobs in a conservative field such as engineering or law? In such cases, might one resume format be better than another? Which resume format best accentuates your accomplishments, fits your objective and gives you the greatest shot at getting your foot in the door?

Although there are several ways to present your resume, the most common are chronological, functional, and a combination of both (“chrono-functional”). All have their uses, but there is one preferred format among hiring personnel and recruiters and your FPC of St. Louis recruiter can walk you through that format, making it work for you.

What Format Should I Choose?

What It Is: The most common format and the one most preferred by hiring professionals and recruiters. Your experience is presented in a reverse chronological order: your most recent position and accomplishments go first, followed by the next most recent and so forth.

Pros: It’s easy to read. It clearly demonstrates the progression of your career, responsibilities and accomplishments. It is also the most effective format for jobs in such conservative fields as engineering or legal. And, as stated earlier, it is the most preferred format among hiring professionals and recruiters.

Cons: Those with large gaps in their job history or transitioning to a new industry may not find this format so straightforward; generally though, such situations can be addressed by inserting a succinct sentence explaining the gap or by targeting your resume if you are switching industries (see below for a more detailed explanation).

The chronological format is by far the favorite among hiring professionals and recruiters. It is also the most common format used by job candidates: over 60% use this layout. People who are searching for the right person to hire want to know the tangibles: what you accomplished and how you did it. The chronological format does the best job provides very quick access to this type of information.

The beauty of this layout is that it presents an easy-to-grasp visual progression of your career to a potential employer.

The chronological format is also flexible in that you can target it toward a specific company or industry if you don’t have sufficient or any experience in that industry. Targeting can be something as simple as bringing up a bullet point on one resume that may not need to be so prominently emphasized on another.

What It Is: The functional resume groups skills together under such headers as “Management and Supervision” or “Cost Reduction.” The emphasis is on the skills accumulated as opposed to dates of employment, the companies you worked for and your specific achievements for each position held; a purely functional resume doesn’t even include this kind of information.

Pros: Since its main focus is on one’s functional strengths, it immediately draws attention to those skills and talents that might be appropriate for a new position.

Cons: This format elicits strong suspicions that the jobseeker is attempting to hide something unsavory in his job history: for example, they’re a frequent job-hopper or other potential serious weaknesses. Because of this, it gets a thumbs-down from most hiring professionals and recruiters, and jobseekers are advised to avoid using this format whenever possible.

The verdict is virtually unanimous: the functional resume format is perhaps the least preferred among hiring professionals and recruiters. It immediately raises doubts and concerns: is the jobseeker trying to cover up something in his employment record? Another disadvantage to this format is that those reading your resume may have to work to figure out what you have done and when. And hiring professionals don’t have that kind of time. If your resume is not clear and easily digestible, it may be passed over. That is one reason why a functional resume can hurt more than it can help. And while it may contain important things about one’s functions and abilities it doesn’t tie them directly to tangible accomplishments for a specific company, and it will leave the readers skeptical.”

Chrono-Functional (Hybrid)
What It Is: As its name indicates, this is a combination of both the chronological and the functional format. Like the functional resume, your most relevant achievements are listed up front under certain functions (e.g., “Sales,” “Training,” etc.). The work history section typically includes only the companies you’ve worked for, your job titles and dates of employment.

Pros: While it highlights your key achievements, it also shows when and where you have worked, so you don’t come across as trying to conceal something.

Cons: It can be confusing to many hiring personnel and recruiters. And if you’re applying for positions in conservative fields, it is best to avoid this and go with the chronological format instead.

While it may sound like an ideal compromise, and it is more acceptable than the purely functional format, most hiring professionals and recruiters are not in favor of this method. Also, because it resembles a functional resume in the beginning, many hiring personnel will assume it is a functional resume and read no further. So while it is a step above the functional format, the best method to go with is still the chronological format, the one that best shows the natural progression of your career and how you have contributed and grow in each of your jobs.

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