Updating the Résumé
Depending on when you last updated your résumé, the expectations could be quite different. For example, many résumés now have a summary or headline statement in place of former objective statements.
With advances in Microsoft Word, formatting and visual appeal can also make a strong impact on your résumé. Selecting the appropriate font and margin size can allow you to maximize space and increase readability.
Select a Format
There are chronological, functional and combination résumés. Work with a Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW) or American Job Center Representative to determine which format is best for your situation. A brief overview of the top three formats include:
This style focuses on work history, listing your most recent position first and working backwards (reverse chronological order). This style shows the timeline of your work experience and is the most common type of résumé.
- Advancing within present career field.
- Steady work experience with limited or no periods of unemployment.
- Experience relating directly to the work sought.
Functional (also known as Skills-Based)
Focuses on skills and experience instead of work history. The marketing strategy with this style is to use practical (functional) sections as opposed to chronological work history.
- No previous employment.
- Employment gaps.
- Frequent job changing.
- Career changers or those in transition, to focus on skills gained as opposed to chronological work history.
Note: Most functional résumés exclude dates of employment, but this can raise a red flag to employers. It is best to include dates. If jobs were only for a few months, considering just listing the year you were employed. (Ex. “2013” versus “March-May 2013”)
Emphasizes skills, experience and chronological work history. This style is divided in two parts. The top third uses functional sections to market relevant qualifications and/or career accomplishments, while the remainder focuses on work history.
- Career changers or those in transition, to emphasize transferable skills.
- Applicants with strong work histories that want to provide an overall picture of skills, experience, and accomplishments.
- Combining skills developed in a variety of jobs or other activities.
Top Résumé Strategies
- Limit dated experience to the last 15-20 years. Recruiters and hiring managers tend not to view experience past 20 years as so much can change. If you want earlier experience highlighted on your résumé, consider adding a functional section without dates, such as a summary or accomplishments section, to include these details.
- Limit the résumé to two pages. If you are changing careers, one page may suffice, depending on your experience. The goal is to be concise and make the résumé easy to scan quickly. You can provide your LinkedIn profile URL to invite the reader to learn more about you.
Note: If you are providing your LinkedIn URL, make sure your profile is complete and matches the target position of your résumé. Your LinkedIn profile should not repeat your résumé, but complement it.
- Emphasize skills for the position. Use the job posting as a guide to develop the language for your résumé and include any relevant computer skills. You may need to modify your résumé for each job. Using the same résumé for every application may not yield positive results.
(For more on matching your skills to a position and determining your “fit” for the job, check out “How to Stop Screening Yourself Out.“)
- Describe career accomplishments. The résumé is your marketing tool to highlight your career history and capabilities. Do not wait for the interview to share your biggest accomplishments.
Think of your accomplishments in terms of the S-A-R method- explain the Situation, Action you took, and the Result of that action.
Chronological sample of achievements (incorporated into work history):
Functional sample of achievements (in its own, dedicated section, placed within the top third of the résumé):
- Address gaps in work history. Explain what you did during the gap. This could include volunteer work, training programs or describing the skills you developed. The goal is to briefly explain the gap so the recruiter or hiring manager won’t make assumptions. Avoid providing personal information.
When writing your résumé, keep in mind it may go through various stages. Work with a résumé writer or job coach at an American Job Center near you to get started. Browse samples from résumé books and make notes to yourself about how you want that style to work for you. Print out job postings for positions that interest you. All of these steps will help you develop a résumé that will present you well and impress hiring managers.