Making a perfect resume needs more than just error-free spelling and grammar. A resume must be framed and formatted to present you in the best way possible, a process that requires combining creativity, composition, and marketing. If you have an ample supply of professional skills and qualifications but are unable to present them properly, your job application may go straight into the paper recycle bin. A resume is your sales tool; it is your opportunity to introduce yourself in the best light and to obtain an interview for the position that you seek. An outstanding resume gets more than 50% of the job done, and you should never take the task of creating one casually.
Choose the Best Resume Format
A chronological resume is the most commonly used resume format among job seekers. Also referred to as a reverse-chronological format, this style is what most people traditionally think of when they hear the word “resume.” This resume style gets its name from the way the Professional Experience section lists a candidate’s past jobs in a reverse-chronological order. The reason this format is preferred by the majority of job seekers is that it accommodates all industries and levels of experience. The only reasons why this format might not work for you is if you have work history gaps or frequently change jobs. These are two issues that a chronological resume does a poor job of masking and that employers don’t want to see. Other than that, choosing the chronological format is often a safe bet for job seekers.
The main purpose of writing a functional resume is to hide the fact that you have imperfect work experience, or because you’re transferring industries. If you’re reading this page, it’s because you’ve had periods of unemployment, and you aren’t sure how to conceal them on your resume. You absolutely must conceal those periods of time, or hiring managers will think that you are a high-risk hire. If you have periods of unemployment, you must explain those gaps on your resume. The ultimate goal of a functional resume is to make the hiring manager think your work experience is as “normal” as possible.
Combination resumes are designed for job seekers who already have quite a bit of experience under their belts. A combination style heavily focuses on the applicant’s skills and abilities right from get-go. For those applying for a position that requires a lot of technical skills and expertise, using a combination format is the best way to showcase these abilities to the hiring manager.
Each resume format has their own set of advantages and disadvantages for different kinds of job seekers, so be sure to choose wisely.
The Structure of a Resume Format
1. Contact Information
When it comes to writing a resume, this section is as straightforward as it gets. Here are the essentials: Name, address, E-mail, and phone number. If you want to go above and beyond, then try adding a link to your personal website (if it’s professional) or your LinkedIn profile. In regards to styling, your name should be the largest text on the page (20-24pt font is a safe range). Finally, if you have a personal website that you believe will help your case, then be sure to add it in this section.
2. Resume Introduction (Qualifications Summary)
A chronological format allows you to choose between three resume introductions: Career Objective, Professional Profile, and Qualifications Summary. Each introduction comes with it’s own advantages and disadvantages based on the type of job seeker you are. For instance, a Qualifications Summary is great for an applicant with a wealth of skills and abilities, which means it’s helpful to experienced candidates, but not ideal for recent college grads.
For those of you with spotty employment records and periods of unemployment, the Qualifications Summary is an ideal way to begin your resume. It allows you to de-emphasize the specific dates that you’ve worked professionally, because your record may reveal gaps in employment. A Qualifications Summary also has the added benefit of letting you put your best traits and achievements from your work history (and educational history) right at the top of your resume.
3. Professional Experience
The professional experience section is the meat and potatoes of a reverse-chronological format. The goal here is not to provide a list of tasks you performed at your past jobs, but rather to showcase your achievements and how you excelled in previous roles. Best way to make this section more impact is to start each bullet point with an action verb.
Tips: Use these to label your period of unemployment:
- Full-Time Student
- Independent Study
- Full-Time Parent
- Family Management (or Home Management)
- Adventure Travel (or Travels to…)
- Personal Travel
4. Education Section
Unless you are a student or a recent graduate, your education section does not have to be too detailed. Providing the name and location of your university, type of degree, when you graduated, and your GPA (if 3.0 or above) is usually enough. However, if you are still in school or have just graduated, your education section will be a bit different. For example, educational experience is listed before professional experience in a student resume.
5. Additional Skills
Including an additional skills section to your resume allows you to add any extra skills that you did not have an opportunity to add elsewhere. Now of course, make sure the skills you add are somehow applicable to the position you are applying for.