I have shared several tips regarding writing your resume during the last few months. It is hard to know where to start. What experiences and accomplishments should you include for the jobs you’ve got your eye on? What new resume rules and trends should you be following? And seriously, one page or two?

Choose the right resume format.

There are lots of different ways to organize the information on your resume-like the Functional resume or Combination resume. But the good old Reverse Chronological resume, where your most recent experience is listed first is usually your best bet. Unless it’s absolutely necessary in your situation, skip the Functional or Skills-based resume. Hiring managers and recruiters like the Chronological format.

When done right, your resume should showcase your most relevant experience as it relates to the role for which you’re applying. The goal, of course, is to help a hiring manager understand how your unique set of skills line up with their needs and that you’re the ideal person for the job.

No sweat, right?

The Chronological Resume

When someone says the word “resume,” the image that comes to mind is probably a chronological resume, since it’s the kind that job seekers use most frequently. It is the one hiring managers and recruiters see most often. Also known as a reverse-chronological resume, which is a slightly more accurate label, it puts the spotlight on your work experience listed from most recent to least recent.

A chronological resume contains the following components, roughly in this order:

  • Name and Contact Information (should be at the top of any resume format)
  • Summary statement
  • Work history (or relevant work history) Including the role, company, location, and dates as well as details about your accomplishments in that role, with your current or most recent job listed first.
  • Education
  • Awards
  • Skills
  • Volunteer experience

What is a Functional Resume?

A functional resume, sometimes called a skills-based resume, places the focus on your skills and areas of expertise, rather than on the details of your work history. So instead of simply listing your recent jobs and corresponding duties in reverse chronological order, like you would on a more traditional chronological resume.

You should select only the most relevant responsibilities from each of your past roles and combine them to paint a broader picture of your skill set.

Like any other resume, a functional layout features your name and contact information at the top and lists your technical skills, interests, and education toward the bottom unless you’re a recent graduate- in that case, it may be closer to the top.

The difference is that the body of a functional resume highlights your most important skills-such as “administrative experience” or “customer service” – with three to five bullet points that show how you’ve applied those skills in various roles. Then your work history would appear as a simple list below your skills section, where you’d only include your job title, the name of your employer, the city where you worked, and your dates of employment.

Because this layout places the primary focus on your relevant skills, functional resumes allow you to better tailor the content to a specific role you’re hoping to land, without having to worry too much about job titles that don’t sound relevant, gaps in employment, or an eclectic work history.

A good reason to use the functional format is when you don’t have recent work experience. If it’s been a few years or more since you last held a traditional job, you may not want your less-than-recent work history to be the first thing a hiring manager notices when they pull up your resume. Leading with your skills could be a good way to pique a recruiter’s interest before they have a chance to review your dates of employment.

As well this format is great for when you’re making a major career pivot. If you’ve collected an array of transferable skills throughout your work experience but have never used them in the context of a single role, a skills-based resume might allow you to demonstrate how your unique abilities will translate into the next act of your career.

In addition, when you don’t have a lot of actual work experience, Functional resumes enable you to be a little more creative with your work history and allow for some flexibility in the skills you choose to highlight. For example, you probably developed some great research skills as a student or exceptional customer service acumen that time you volunteered for that political campaign.

Lastly, when your work history is all over the place. If you’ve held a string of short-term positions or worked as a contractor using a functional resume may be a great way to organize your experience into a more cohesive story.

Design your resume for skim ability.

I have mentioned before that hiring managers don’t spend a lot of time on each individual resume. So help them get as much information as they can, in as little time as possible by making your resume easy to skim.

Customize your resume.

Creating a customized resume for every job you apply to is no easy task. Especially if your work history isn’t an exact match for the job you want.

If your format is consistent, all you will have to do is highlight your related experience in your summary, change the order of your bullet points and you are good to go for each job that you are applying for.



I can help you determine whether to use a Chronological Functional or Combination resume.

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