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Which Resume is Right For You?

Back in 2011, I shared with you my resume journey. During that time, my resume underwent one of the largest transformations in its history. I still remember my very first resume. It was built using a Word template that was inefficient at best. But, I was young and didn’t know any better than :-). Since then, my resume undertook a journey that has led it to where it is today.

Of course, a resume is just a tool, and I haven’t lost the pieces through the journey. Now I have different resumes for different purposes. So with all these resumes, the question becomes, what kind of resume is right for you? The answer is, the one that fits your needs at that time. Resumes can take many forms. So let me tell you about four that will get you started on your resume journey.

The Chronological Resume

There are many advantages of the chronological resume. The most common advantage is its ability to meet expectations. Chronological resumes have a long history as the accepted format. This history makes it preferred by many traditional HR Managers. As Jonathan Milligan, an Executive Recruiter/Career Coach, states “most hiring managers are going to want to see a chronological resume.” When most resumes get a mere six-second cursory glance before being accepted or rejected, meeting expectations can certainly help you get your foot in the door. Of course, there is something to be said about transcending expectations—more on that later.

Expectations aside, the chronological resume does have some practical advantages. The chronological resume outlines a progress of skills. As shimmeringresumes.com points out “if your work history demonstrates increasing responsibility and professional growth,” the chronological resume will clearly highlight this. Furthermore, if your work experience includes large and well-known companies, a chronological resume will emphasize those big names.

The Functional Resume

Despite its strengths, the combined components of my chronological resume still lacked a clarity of purpose. It doesn’t always tell a good story about who you are, what you’ve done, and what interests you. In an age where most people will have multiple careers, and possibly many different jobs, a functional resume can bring serenity to the chaos. The center point of the functional resume is a shift in how you represent your professional achievements. Instead of placing accomplishments under specific positions, they are organized into logical sets that identify where they fit in the big picture.

This resume style is particularly valuable to someone whose job titles do not clearly identify his or her skill sets. In my resume, you can see more clearly what I’ve done in project management, curriculum development, and user-centered design. Each of these is critical in my role as an instructional designer, but would be hard to pull out from the various positions I’ve held. In the words of learnhowtomakearesume.com, skill sets go “directly to the point” by showing the recruiter what skills you have in those areas. When targeted to a specific job, this can more directly show how you fulfill the qualifications for that position. And when you are making a career shift, this can help highlight the skills you have that will help you in your new career pathway.

Unfortunately, the functional resume does have a weakness. You can use this resume to hide gaps in your skills. Since skills are not directly tied to jobs, you could include skills that have been dormant for more than ten years. Consequently, recruiters sometimes treat functional resumes with mistrust. As Kathryn Vercillo from the Yellow Brick Road explains, “the most common reason to use this format is to hide employment gaps” so potential employers will often see this as an attempt to hide a flawed work history. While I don’t agree with the sentiment, it’s important to understand the preconceptions people may have if you choose to go the route of a functional resume. You can see I’ve faced that in three ways:

  1. My digital resume offers a quick switch from functional to chronological format.
  2. My functional resume also includes indicators to show where I’ve used certain skills.
  3. And, I still have a chronological resume ready to print for those that might prefer that format.

The Creative Resume

Functional and chronological are not either-or. They can be combined in creative ways to make a resume that are tailored to your experience and the position for which you are applying. Enter the creative resume. This is an amorphous field that ranges from resumes that clearly came from a graphic designer, to resumes that combine features in new and unique ways. Your resume should be an extension of the professional you, and should have personality just like you do. And if you do it well, your resume can knock the socks of potential employers.

Do a search for creative resumes and you will be impressed. There are a lot of great designs out there, many of which are beyond my skills to produce. But a lesson can be learned from this creativity. A creative resume can put character into your resume and allow you to really stand out.

The Targeted Resume

But, resumes are not static things. A resume should be as fine tuned to each job as a cover letter. Stay free and loose with your resume. Keep a master of all your content, but be free to make copies and cut and add information based on the position you are applying for that day. By creating resumes targeted to specific positions, you can give a more complete picture of where you fit in that company.


So, take some time to examine your own resume. Think about how you show your abilities and experiences. Remember, the goal of this document is to convey information. So look at it from the perspective of what the reader will learn from it on a six-second glance and from a more detailed study. And once you’ve gotten something you like, come back here and share it for some free feedback.


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