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Marketing Yourself: Which Résumé Format is Right For You?

When you’re marketing yourself, an interview is everything. But to be called for an interview, your résumé needs to stand out from the rest. Based on your experience and job search, choosing to design a chronological or skills-based résumé format could be the decision that grants you a callback.  

Chronological Résumé Format

A chronological résumé is a type you are probably most familiar with. Chronological résumés start with your name and contact information and then typically feature an objective or summary at the top. Next comes the candidate’s work history details starting with his or her’s current or most recent job and working backward in time. On a chronological résumé, one’s work history is the bulk of it. Each position should detail the candidate’s skills, responsibilities, and accomplishments at each job. Following work history normally comes an education section, possibly a volunteer section, and any relevant certifications or training.

Pros

    • The most common type of résumé
    • Simple, intuitive, and skimmable
    • Employers are familiar with reviewing chronological résumés
    • Easy to follow because of the chronological flow
    • Highlights a candidate’s most recent (and usually most relevant) work history first
    • Offers a clear outline of one’s career progression
  • Accentuates jobs titles and length of time at each position

Cons

    • May accentuate gaps in one’s work history
    • Will highlight an obvious re-entry into the workplace
    • Most recent experience may not be the most relevant
    • Job titles may not accurately reflect the candidate’s responsibilities
  • Will highlight short stints at multiple jobs

Skills-based or Functional Résumé Format

Skills-based résumés, also referred to as functional résumés, group common skills together. Like the chronological résumé, your name, contact information and an objective or summary are featured at the top, followed by multiple skill groupings or headings. Some headings may include management skills, design skills, customer service skills, and technical skills. Each skill heading should have several bullet points or blurbs detailing one’s competence with each skill. Near the middle of the résumé, the candidate’s succinct work history is provided. Each position should include at least one sentence detailing the job’s responsibilities. Work history is followed by one’s education and any relevant certifications and training that were not mentioned elsewhere.

Pros

    • Highlights skills and capabilities
    • Accentuates transferrable qualities for candidate’s changing careers
    • De-emphasizes short stints at various jobs
    • Minimizes careers gaps and unemployment
  • Highlights skills over position titles

Cons

    • More unique (and possibly unfamiliar) formatting than a classic chronological résumé
    • May be harder to review from the interviewer’s perspective
    • Requires more detail while formatting and designing
  • Doesn’t place emphasis on work history

Combination Résumé Format

A combination résumé is a hybrid of the chronological and skills-based résumé. The combination résumé features relevant skills and accomplishments at the top of the page, but it leaves the bottom half of the résumé for a traditional, chronological approach to showcasing one’s work history. Like the chronological résumé, each position is accompanied by a blurb that outlines the candidate’s responsibilities and accomplishments at each job. A combination résumé does a great job at detailing one’s work history while also highlighting any transferrable skills to the new position.

Pros

    • Intuitive flow for interviewer’s benefit
    • Balances the emphasis on work history and skills
    • Accentuates transferrable qualities for candidate’s changing careers
  • Highlights job titles and length of time at each position

Cons

    • Doesn’t work well for candidate’s with a nontraditional career path
  • May seem repetitive

Choose The Best Type of Résumé For You

Chronological Résumé If:

If you’ve had a traditional career path with few to no gaps in employment a chronological résumé is a great option for you. As long as your position titles reflect your responsibilities and duties at each job, a traditional résumé will properly show off your experience and expertise.

Skills-based Résumé If:

If you’ve had a meandering career path with a few missteps or U-turns, a linear, chronological trip through your past positions is probably not the most effective way to tell the story of your career. A skills-based or functional résumé will be better apt to communicate the expertise that you have. If your primary functions at previous jobs are not relevant to the current job you’re applying for or not immediately clear from the job titles you held, a functional résumé will allow you to showcase transferrable skills.

Combination Résumé If:

If you find yourself somewhere in the middle, a combination résumé will be able to accentuate your experience as well as any transferrable skills. Also, if you’re finding it hard to aptly describe your role in each position, the combination résumé will relieve you of this. You can easily add a section of transferrable skills followed by your most recent, relevant job experience.

Choosing the best résumé format for your particular situation will help to highlight all the positive qualities you wish to present before your interview. Each job application deserves your utmost attention when it comes to tweaking your résumé and cover letter, as this is your first introduction to your future employers. To learn more about best practices for your LinkedIn page or creating your résumé, browse the archives our Department of Marketing blog.