Resume Writing: 3 Types of Formats

Now that you have all of your information written down from part one, it’s time to decide what format you want to use for your resume. Generally, there are three types of resumes (some sources may say four or more, but functionally, they are just variations of these three):

1. Chronological
2. Functional
3. Combination

The type of resume format you choose will depend on your education and work history, and in some cases, the type of job you are applying for.

CAUTION: While it is tempting to write just one resume and use it for every job you apply for, make sure that your resume format and the information in it is relevant to the job. Keep in mind that you may have to write a completely different resume later–and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Let’s talk about these in detail:

1. Chronological

This type of resume is exactly what it sounds like. It arranges your work history chronologically from your most recent position in reverse order to your first job. (This is where writing down all of the dates of your previous jobs comes in handy!) Your educational background is also listed in a separate section in the same manner. This type of resume is the most traditional format, and works best if you’ve had a stable work history. It makes it easy for prospective employers to get a snapshot of where you have worked and for how long. In some cases, you may also want to add a short list of your job duties and responsibilities under each section to neatly tie in your experience to your work history. Here is an example of a chronological resume with short descriptions after the work history:

Also, if you’re like me where you work in two completely different fields, it’s alright to narrow your resume to the field you are working in. For example, I’m a lawyer as well as a music minister. I have one “legal” resume, and one “music” resume, and I submit the appropriate resume for the job I am trying to get. Because I worked in both fields simultaneously, my work history on each resume does not have gaps, even if I leave out the music-related jobs from the legal resume. If you have a long work history with lots of unrelated jobs, but your work history is not diminished by taking those jobs out, don’t be afraid to do it. You can mention those other jobs at your interview if it helps, or you can add a quick summary to the skills and experience section. The point is not to detract the employer’s attention.

Works best for:
  • People with stable work histories with little or no gaps between jobs.
Not recommended for:
  • People who are new to the workforce who have little or no experience.
  • People who change jobs too frequently. (This may be a sign of a problem, rather than a good trait.)

2. Functional

Functional resumes are meant to show off your skills and achievements rather than focus on your work history or educational background. Your work history and education is still included in this type of resume, but it is not the main focus. The point is to show off the skills that you learned at your other jobs, and to explain how they make you qualified for the job you are applying for.

Works best for:
  • People with gaps in their work history.
  • People who are changing career fields.
  • People who change jobs often.
Not recommended for:
  • Jobs that require certain prerequisite jobs or education before hire. If your prospective employer will only hire people with 10+ years of previous experience an HR director, it is better to show this through a chronological resume than a functional resume.

3. Combination

A combination resume lists your skills and experience first (like a functional resume), but then lists your work history and educational background in reverse chronological order at the end (like a chronological resume.) This type of resume can effectively tell the employer what skills you have that make you a good candidate, but it also includes the work history that many employers want to see.

Although this type of resume seems to be the “best of both worlds,” it may not be as effective as you want it to be. Employers usually have to go through stacks of resumes to decide who to hire, and if your combination resume is too long, or if the employer has to try to figure out how your skills match up with your work history, this could cause the employer to become frustrated and move on.

Notes:
  • Some resumes will have “Objective” at the top. An objective is a short explanation of what you want to achieve, or your employment goals. While this can help show that you are familiar with the field and you know what you want to do, this is not a necessary part of a resume. Generally, if you have a skills and experience section that is tailored to the job, an objective is unnecessary because the format of your resume makes it clear that you know what skills are relevant for the position. Make sure that if you use an objective, it fits the job you are trying to get. It is rare that the same objective fits every job.
  • Some resumes include personal information, like interests. This can be good if you are trying to differentiate yourself from other candidates because it makes you memorable, but this section should be very short. Also, be careful what interests you list. Don’t list anything boring–the point is to be memorable. Who cares if you enjoy reading and going to the beach? So does everyone else I know. And don’t list anything negative or controversial. It could set a bad tone if the interviewer doesn’t appreciate your work on certain political campaigns. And don’t list anything that appears to be time consuming and that could interfere with your work. Some effective resumes that I have seen include interests such as: musicians, 1st place in the state fair chili competition, ballroom dancing, and a troop leader.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve decided on a resume format, go ahead and write it out. Click here for a good source for sample resumes. Although I’ve linked to these samples, there is no wrong way to write a resume–just less effective ways. Next month, I will give you tips on how to adjust your resume to make it work for you.

If anyone has any questions, you can comment on this blog post and I will do my best to answer any specific concerns you may have.
About Margaret Flynt
Margaret Flynt is a criminal appellate lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia. She holds a juris doctor degree from Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law and two bachelor of arts degrees from Mercer University. Margaret is no stranger to job hunting and interviewing. She worked her way through college and law school, holding up to three jobs at one given time, in a variety of career fields. Readers can look forward to Margaret’s articles offering practical tips and advice for the most important aspects of finding a job: job searching strategies, resumes and cover letters, and interviewing skills.

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