Choosing the Best Format for Your Resume

The format of your resume creates the first impression about you, even before the hiring manager or recruiter has read one word of your text. First impressions count!

© alexskopje -
© alexskopje –

The wrong format creates a negative tone in those first crucial seconds, when the whole idea is to create positivity, engagement and excitement.

While there are three basic resume formats you may be using, there is really only one correct choice.

1. The reverse chronological resume – do not use

This used to be the standard resume format, where you list your work experience commencing with the most recent employer and position.

2. The functional resume – do not use

This was the resume of choice when I first started writing resumes in the early and mid-90s. It is a skills-based resume listing accomplishments by category or function, such as leadership, process improvement, re-alignment, etc.

On a second page, you provide a brief summary of your career history and additional accomplishments.

3. The combination resume – this is the industry standard in 2014

This is the recommended format for your resume today, and it combines the other two formats.

Here is how to lay out a combination resume:

Position your name, degree and (if applicable) industry designation at the top of the page. Then, provide your contact information, including your residential address, email, phone number, LinkedIn profile address, and your Twitter, Skype, Facebook and Google+ address if applicable and business appropriate.

TIP: Save space for more crucial details by combining your ID information within one or two lines.

The next section is one I call the projective section (combining the objective and profile sections from older resume formats). This is the most valuable real estate “above the fold” of the page (using newspaper publishing lingo), and where you sell yourself to seduce the reader and make an impactful first impression.

Use this section to describe both soft skills and hard functional skills, in a way that reinforces your personal brand and delivers a compelling message.

Finally, provide a reverse chronological list of your work experience, using the STAR story format to relay accomplishment-based career achievements.

To see examples of combination resumes that get real results, visit Elite Resumes.

Mind the gap

You generally have 5-15 seconds to grab someone’s attention and sell yourself in a resume. One of the first things a hiring decision maker will do is scan the dates of your work experience section. If there are any career gaps, be sure you address these directly and succinctly.

Were you off work for parental leave? Were you on sabbatical and travelling in another country? Were you caregiving for an ill family member? Discuss what you learned or accomplished during that time, and why this will have a positive impact on their organization when they make the right decision to hire you for the position.

The line you never have to include again

References available upon request.

Throw away this outdated text and save the space in your resume for more important things. It’s assumed now that you will come to the interview prepared with a handout of references to leave behind.

Tip: Be sure to use the same fonts, colours and formatting in your reference document as you do in your resume, cover letter, thank you letter, biography, and other resume portfolio material. Maintain your personal branding in every setting.

Don’t let the wrong resume format eliminate you from a potential position for which you are the perfect candidate.

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