Resume Formats: Chronological vs. Functional Resume Styles
Too many people make the mistake of thinking that a resume's purpose is to get them a job. Actually, resumes open and close doors. Their main purpose is to make an employer interested enough to invite you in for an interview.
But how do you create that interest when you don't exactly fit the mold? Just as people come in different sizes and shapes, so do resumes.
The chronological resume seems to be the most popular format used. This type of resume usually contains an objective and/or career summary statement and a chronological listing (from most recent to past) of all your employers along with related accomplishments. Educational information is included along with certifications and special skills.
This type of resume may be fine for someone who is experienced, but if you are switching careers or are just entering the workforce, this type of resume will most likely help you wind up in the "no" pile. So how do you showcase your talents if you can't lay them out like everyone else?
Take the time to develop a strong functional resume. Functional resumes highlight your abilities, such as hiring, managing or coaching, rather than your chronological work history. You'll still need to summarize your work history, but this is usually done at the bottom of your resume. Don't panic. By the time the reader has gotten to that point, he is usually sold on bringing you in for an interview.
Most books on resume writing contain sections on how to write functional or skills-based resumes. Go to your local bookstore or library and thumb through some books. Then make your selection.
One of my favorite books on this topic is an oldie but goodie. It's old enough to be out of print, but you can still find copies online or at libraries. The book is titled Go Hire Yourself an Employer by Richard Irish. It just goes to show that solid advice is just that -- solid.
Who Should Use a Functional Resume?
A functional resume is particularly useful for people who:
The reason functional resumes work well in these situations is that many of us have acquired skills while working that are very transferable. For example, if you have worked as a retail manager, chances are you were responsible for hiring, training, coaching, evaluating and handling employee relations issues.
If you were to submit this information in a chronological resume, there's a good chance a hiring manager (or computer) might skip right by you, because you did not hold the title of human resources manager, even if 50 percent of your day was spent dealing with HR-related issues.
It all comes down to how you package yourself. You can give employers the same information, only in a new and improved package. This is bound to get you more interviews, which will increase your chances of landing the job you want.
If you need more help, get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's partner TopResume.
Don’t stick to a template
You could easily Google “cover letter template” to get some ideas on how to write it. Don’t.
“You need to think about your audience,” said Kristen Fitzpatrick, the managing director of career and professional development at Harvard Business School. “Who’s reading it? How do you capture their attention enough so they move you from one pile to another?”
This is your time to show your communication skills and your personality. You must make the case that the other 99 percent of applicants don’t have what you have. Following a template, or otherwise putting little effort into making your letter stand out, suggests you’re just another applicant.
Don’t rehash your résumé
Focus on the organization you’re writing to and the job description of the open position. If you nail your cover letter, the hiring manager will end up reading your résumé anyway, so don’t waste precious space duplicating it by going down the list of where you’ve worked.
“It’s to complement your résumé, not repeat it,” Mr. O’Neill said. “Cover letters where you’re just rewriting the content of your résumé aren’t effective.”
Instead, you could list some specific examples of projects you’ve worked on, and explain what you learned from them and how that knowledge would apply to the open position. Or you could offer some new ideas, showing from the start that you understand the company’s goals and would bring creativity.
(Related: Getting past the first cut with a résumé that grabs digital eyes)
Don’t state the obvious
Read your letter again, and zap any clichés or platitudes that don’t say something meaningful about you, the position or the company.
As an example: Don’t say you’re a “hard worker.” Everyone says that, and it would be easy to lie about if you weren’t, making it a meaningless sentiment to include. It merely takes up space that could be better spent on something that actually sets you apart from the other candidates.
“It’s not even worth saying,” Ms. Fitzpatrick said. “You’ll show you’re a hard worker by going above and beyond in writing a letter.”
Do your research
This requires going past the first page of Google results.
You could go to a library to sift through professional databases that might have more information, or get coffee with someone who works at the company you’re applying to. Show a familiarity with recent projects, acquisitions and public statements. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but a few sentences to show you’ve put time into it could go a long way.
If you’re not preparing for something as crucial as a cover letter, why would they trust you would prepare for an important meeting?
Focus on what you can offer them
A lot of applicants spend too much time talking about why they love the company, Ms. Fitzpatrick said.
“How many letters does Apple read that say, ‘I couldn’t live without my iPhone’? Probably a lot,” she said. “So you want to show you are unique and you’ve done your research.”
You do want to make it clear that you respect the company and explain why you’re interested, but the focus should be on what you can do for them.
“You want to avoid too many ‘I’ statements — ‘I know this,’ ‘I did this,’ ‘I can do X, Y or Z’ — because that’s too much about what you’re going to get out of this opportunity,” Mr. O’Neill said.
The company isn’t posting a job for charity, or to improve your life; they’re trying to fill a position they consider essential. Convince them that you’re the one who would most help them, not that you’d benefit most from it.
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