Information, helpful advice, and commentary about topics relevant to relaunchers.

Resume Types - Which is the Right One for You?

I’ve been a career coach for almost a decade and during that time, I’ve read, reviewed and evaluated hundreds and hundreds (That’s not an exaggeration!) of resumes. In recent years, I’ve included resume writing as one of the services I offer via my coaching consultancy, Ascension Careers. So, I feel pretty confident in my “bona fides” when it comes to offering resume advice and guidance.

Everyone wants the pain of a job search to be over as quickly as possible, so they want all facets of their candidacy to be persuasive. Meaning they want pointed interview responses, pithy elevator pitches and absorbing LinkedIn profiles. Oh, and there’s one more thing they want – a compelling resume – one that makes a hiring manager say, “I want her and 10 more just like her!” Well that’s a lot to ask of a resume, particularly when a manager’s initial resume review is typically under 10 seconds. 

In reality your resume is doing its job if it gets you interviews. However, that’s still a heavy lift – structuring your resume so that it has the best chance of a) being noticed, b) being read from beginning to end and c) getting you an interview requires thoughtful content and design. While what you say (the content of your resume) is critical; how you say it (the design of your resume) is what’s going to get you from a six-second read to a more thorough and complete read. Therefore, your resume’s format needs to be easy to scan and simple to interpret. So, let’s walk through formatting options for your resume and determine why, how and when to use each option.

Option #1 - Reverse Chronological

Why it worksIt’s the traditional format that readers know. Therefore, a hiring manager knows what to expect and where to expect it. One upside of this format, a reader doesn’t waste precious time searching for and understanding your career progression. Moreover, it highlights your most recent and presumably your most significant career accomplishments. The reader has a chance to get to the good stuff even when she does a quick, abbreviated review.

How it works – Start with your most recent “job” and work backwards. Ideally, your resume will include the most recent 10-15 years and be written in a way that highlights the impact you made on an organization.

When to use it – No matter the situation, you won’t go wrong with this format. Feel free to use it for any type of candidate and any type of position.

Relauncher specifics – Employers want to know that your skills haven’t been idle during your time away from the paid workforce. Therefore, this format is still appropriate for you. It’s acceptable and necessary to treat volunteer work, freelance projects and pro bono consulting as jobs and include them just as you would for any other positions. 

Option #2 - Functional

Why it works – Functionally formatted resumes allow a candidate to showcase relevant skills and experiences. The keyword is relevant. Meaning, if your related experience is from several positions back or if it’s from a personal hobby or if it’s something you did for only a month, this resume format lets you “upsell” the experience and make it more salient to a reader. Essentially, this format reduces the importance of your work history and emphasizes your skillset.

How it works – Describe your core competencies, areas of expertise, specific achievements and responsibilities. Context is generally downplayed, and the focus is on showing the breadth and/or depth of your talents.

Relauncher specifics – This format is appealing because a candidate can “hide” certain aspects of her candidacy. (Like maybe a years-long career break.) However, functionally formatted resumes have a bad reputation for exactly this reason. Instead of hiding, you’re shining a spotlight on the fact that you’re trying to cover something up.  (Oh, and if that something is a career break, there’s nothing wrong with stepping away from the workforce. You shouldn’t apologize for your break either implicitly or explicitly.)  

When to use it – Some “experts” will suggest this format is appropriate if you: are making a substantial career change, have gaps in your work experience or have limited work experience. This expert (me) says “Step away from the functional resume.”  They are a victim of their own success. Their initial popularity was explosive, so they still get mentioned as an acceptable alternative. The reality is that everyone’s suspicious when they get a functional resume. You don’t want a reader to spend the few precious seconds she has trying to unlock a mystery.

Option #3 - Hybrid

Why it works It’s the best of both worlds. You pick and choose the hardest-hitting aspects of your candidacy (as you would in a hybrid format) while still using a familiar layout (no reader time wasted deciphering what’s on the page). Hybrid resumes are successful because you quickly “topline” and then provide detailed support. 

How it works – Hybrid resumes are all about directing a reader’s attention to what you want her to know and following it up with what she expects. Let’s clarify, here’s a hybrid outline:

Contact Info – How the company can get in touch with you.

Professional Summary – A few sentences highlighting your skills and career progression.  
• Relauncher tip - it’s a sneak peek and it should make a reader want to know more.

Competencies and Skills – Tells the reader the talents you’ll leverage when you’re part of the team.  
• Relauncher tip – if a reader stopped here, she should have a good sense of how you’d contribute.

Career Highlights – Two to four achievements written in bulleted form describing noteworthy career moments.  
• Relauncher specifics – Say your most impressive work is from 12 years and three jobs ago – no problem, this section is where you put it. Not only is it included on the resume, it’s prominently placed.

Work Experience – This is self-explanatory. 
• Relauncher specifics specifics – It’s okay to be expansive with your definition of “work." Include volunteer activities, freelance and consulting jobs.

When to use it – I recommend 100% of the time!

Good luck and happy resume writing!

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