2 Professional Resume Formats – Are You Using the Right One?

Analyst, Global Technology – New York, NY

Research Assistant – Washington, DC

Strategy Sr. Manager – New York, NY

Master Servicing Data and Reporting Analyst – Chicago, IL

Senior Associate Consultant – Boston, MA

Hedge Funds Analyst – Tampa, FL

More jobs we think you’ll like…

What Resume Format is Right for You?

The two types of resume formats are very different. Chronological format details the job history in reverse time order, starting with the most recent position and working backwards. This format is the one that most recruiters and hiring managers prefer.

1. Chronological Format

Employers need to see details about your work history and experience, but they don’t need to know everything. Keep information germane to the goal of attaining an interview. Eliminate information that is not related and will not have direct impact on winning the interview.

Benefits to using a chronological resume include:

  • Shows your results. The reader can specifically see when and where a candidate achieved results. The guess work is eliminated.
  • Shows your range. A chronological format highlights flexibility. Many job seekers have held varying positions over their careers, often in different functions and roles. A good strategy is to showcase that diversity.
  • Shows your record of success. The progression of a candidate’s career, records of promotion, and increases in responsibility are shown clearly. These attest to a candidate’s performance record and drive to succeed.

Some job seekers worry about employment. Small gaps in employment (a year or less) are common these days. Lay-offs, mergers, acquisitions impact nearly everyone’s lives. Handled strategically, they can be minimized in a chronological resume.

2. Functional Format

Also known as a “skills resume” it has the content arranged according to performance type and function. A human resource professional for example, might divide his/her skills into categories such as Employee Training, Benefits Management, and Workforce Development. Under each category, the relevant information would be listed or described.

A brief work history listing comes at the end of the document listing job title, employer, and dates. I’ve seen some functional resumes with no employment dates at all. That is a big mistake.

A functional format is generally chosen when attempting to make a career change or to minimize a career blemish. Often, the functional format is used when a large span of time is missing from the work history.

Problems associated with the functional resume:

  • Where’s the information? Recruiters and hiring managers dislike hunting for information. They want to see past performance, and understand your background.
  • What’s the context? The functional format takes away all frames of reference. A candidate might claim attaining a record breaking sales contract but the reader is unable to place that in context in terms of time and employer. Was that success in sales recent or ten years ago? It’s difficult to tell in a functional resume.
  • What’s the problem? Recruiters and hiring managers know that the functional format is often used to try to cover something up. The functional format serves as a red flag — “What is this candidate trying to hide?” The use of the format to overcome a detriment actually serves to draw attention to it.

Today’s job seeker is wise to stick with the chronological format as it provides the necessary information to urge the reader to contact the candidate for an interview.


  1. Rdefazio says

    The format of a resume is indeed a problem, but the problem I see is very different from that discussed.  What I have seen is that recruiting software that attempts to parse resumes which can include photographs, images, a variety of date formats, different ways of presenting job titles and employers, and generous portions of descriptive text often fails to parse it correctly.  It makes the task of resume submission onerous, tiresome, and needlessly repetitive.  This is especially true considering that the resume itself is never read until midway through the recruiting process.  Up to that time, a computer-generated digest of the resume contents is forced through the initial search filter.  This means that what the recruiter sees as the filtered list is actually a list that the computer has come up with, not a human.  Reading the resume as the first order of business is simply not done.

    Since this is the case, I think it would benefit everyone if resumes were required to be submitted using XML.  A free resume preparation tool could be created that would produce XML-based resumes that could be read accurately by every resume engine, and the application programmer’s interface (“API”) or software development kit (“SDK”) could be produced by a consortium of recruiting firms and software companies to ensure that it takes into account the needs of recruiters.  Job seekers would use the tool to prepare a resume that could be submitted and processed correctly, enabling seekers to move through the application process rapidly. 

    Further benefits to be derived from standardizing the presentation of factual information on resumes would be the automatic exclusion of candidates whose qualifications do not match the job or who live outside the geographic area that is acceptable to the employer.  Job seekers would be able to identify more rapidly those positions that actually match their skills and experience. 

    The corollary to standardizing the resume is to standardize the definition of job listings.  Job titles within a company can be anything that a company would wish them to be, but when employers intend to compete for talent, there should be a way of comparing apples to apples.  What does “Product Specalist I” really mean?  Does it mean a product manager or just someone who answers the telephone?  The role of the recruiter should include the requirement of interpreting company jargon into standard vocabulary for purposes of recruitment.  He already does that when he does live interviews, and there is no reason that he cannot do it in print. 

    An this finally gets me to the heart of the matter.  So often, employers bypass recruiters and simply list their open positions on a website, or worse, the form a relationship with a recruiter who takes company text and pastes it into a couple of boxes on a web form.  What results is definitions that are fuzzy, descriptions of work requirements that are often in geek speak, or worst of all, company acronyms that are understood by no one other than those who work at the company already.  The reason for the last method is pretty transparent: go through the motions of doing a public search and then hire the person in the company that they intended to hire from the start.  Clumsy wording, inaccurate descriptions, search words that are meaningful only to the recruiter but not at all on the top of the job seeker’s list of important words, etc. make today’s method of job placement a contributor to unemployment, not a solution.

    Some recruiting companies focus on office space that looks like it was lifted from the the Senate Office Building in Washington.  Others focus on mean, lean websites that give the impression of a highly efficient operation, and others are just bucket shops where the recruiters are burned out after six months and only make about $30,000 per year.  It would be refreshing if the industry would get its act together and start acting truly professionally, establish standards for data both from employers and job seekers, and stop being unwitting obfuscators that help the unemployment numbers rise as a result of their current disorganization.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>