What is the Best Format for a Resume?

Creating your own resume probably causes more pain and grief than any professional document you’ll ever produce.

Not only is it hard to identify your own marketable skills, you also want an attention grabbing resume to appeal to potential employers. What a pain.

One of the first questions most people ask when creating a resume is what format is the best for their resume: Chronological or Functional? Each format has their benefits and drawbacks. Let’s take a quick look at these!

The Chronological Resume is the traditional format to a resume. Much like any job application, the Chronological Resume lists out the jobs you’ve had, going backward from now to whenever you started your professional career. It’s great at telling the story of what you’ve done and where you’ve been, but it’s not that great at outlining your strengths. The reader usually has to dig deep for those. 

The Functional Resume, on the other hand, focuses on your education, honors, skills, and achievements. Little information is given on your work history, except for where and when you worked, and your title. The Functional Resume excels at highlighting your accomplishments, but it doesn’t provide much information on where you performed your duties. Because your skills are not attributed to specific employers, you may look like you have something to hide.

So which is the best format? I say, neither of them! 

Look, you’re here to get a spectacular job and make a major impact with your resume. Don’t be shackled by some pre-defined resume format guidelines. Break the rules, stand out from the crowd, and communicate your value quickly and efficiently. 

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Your Summary – Start your resume off with a professional summary, otherwise known as your Elevator Speech. (Protip: Don’t start it off with a Career Objective. That’s so 1985!) Give what you do, how long you’ve done it, the industries you’ve worked in, and a quick statement of what makes you different. Three lines should do it! This has its roots in both the functional and chronological formats and it’s a great way to start things off. 
  2. Your Skills – I like to list 9 skill keywords in three sets of three. This is one of those secret resume optimization techniques we professionals use. Where do you get these skills? The job posting, of course! Find the keywords from the job posting that match your skills and list them. This list will fulfill your Functional Resume cravings and show that you can do this job!
  3. Your Education – Every job posting wants to know what your educational background is. Answer them. If the length of your experience will complement or take the place of your education, not to worry, you’ve already answered that in your summary. If you have some exceptional college honors, mention them here. If not, don’t worry about it. You’re doing great!
  4. Your Employment History – List the name of the employer, give a brief description of that employer, then list your titles, one by one. Under the title, give a brief paragraph outlining your responsibilities and your everyday tasks, similar to what you would find on your job description. Under that, bullet-point your achievements. Now, here’s the trick; measure those results. Give them a number. Sales improved by a certain percentage. You saved the company a certain dollar amount. This approach will tell your chronological employment story and give the functional attributes for each job. 


And there you go! You have the best of both the chronological and functional worlds! Go forth with your hybrid resume and conquer the job you deserve!

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