Many job seekers are aware of only one type of résumé format: chronological, in which your work history is presented in reverse order. But just because this style is the most popular doesn't mean it's the best option for you.
Employers prefer this type of résumé over others because it provides an easy-to-follow snapshot of your work experience. A chronological résumé is a good option if you are pursuing a position in a field in which you have a solid and consistent record of progress. Using this format, however, can be detrimental to your job search efforts if your most recent work experience does not relate to the job for which you are applying.
A chronological résumé also can be troublesome in the following situations:
If you feel a chronological résumé is not right for you, consider these other options instead:
The Functional Résumé
The functional résumé is organized around your skills, experiences and accomplishments rather than on specific jobs you've held. It omits (or only mentions in broad terms) your previous roles and dates of employment. Overall, a functional résumé warrants considerations if:
The chief advantage of a functional résumé is that it enables you to give prominence to those aspects of your background likely to be of special interest to would-be employers, such as experience in a particular industry or time spent working overseas. This format also shifts the focus away from aspects of your background -- long periods of unemployment, for example -- that might hurt your chances of getting by the initial screening process.
The major disadvantage of functional résumés is that many employers view them with suspicion. While your strengths and accomplishments are important to a potential employer, most want to know what specific job you held that enabled you to demonstrate the skills you're describing. They also want to know how recent that experience was and, if possible, see some continuity.
The Combination Résumé
The combination résumé incorporates the best features of both chronological and functional résumés. Generally, it leads with a description of your functional skills and related qualifications, followed by a reverse-chronological employment history. The combination résumé may be a good choice if:
The principal advantage of a combination résumé is that, like a functional résumé, it enables you to establish early on what you have accomplished in your career and what skills and attributes you can offer a potential employer. But because you also will include a description of your work history, you can diffuse the suspicions that may arise when the information is omitted.
The disadvantage of a combination résumé is that some employers -- those who prefer chronological résumés -- may assume that you are attempting to conceal certain aspects of your background. This is not a significant disadvantage, however, as combination résumés are becoming increasingly common.
Ultimately, there is no one right format that you should use when writing your résumé. It might make sense to choose a certain layout for one prospective employer and a different one for another in order to best showcase your skills. But no matter which format you use, make sure your résumé looks professional, provides proof of real results and is targeted to the company's needs. The extra time you take to customize it will pay off by generating more interest from hiring managers.
Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices throughout North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. For more information about our professional services, please visit www.rhi.com.
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