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Chronological vs. Functional: Which Resume is For You?
                by Laura Edwards, ExecSearches Resume Reviewer

           The purpose of a resume is to land an interview. Nothing more, nothing less. It need not exclaim to tell a potential employer why they must hire you this instant, but rather, get your foot in the door to tell that story yourself.
           Resume formats vary in all shapes and sizes. The most common formats – outside of the academic resume – are chronological, functional and what I like to call the combination platter. Determining which one is right for you is as easy as deciding where you have been and where you wish to go next.

First Things First

          The most common format is the chronological resume. It presents your work history in reverse chronological order, starting with your current position and working its way back to the job you landed with your first interview suit.
          Chronological resumes are most appropriate for candidates with stable, solid career progression through one or, at most, two fields. If you started off your career as a circus performer, this is probably not the format for you. .
          This format highlights growth and maturity throughout an organization or career. It is the format employers see most often and provides an easy-to-follow structure for interviews. On its face it looks like the simplest to prepare, but like all resumes, it’s a toughie. It can also be poison to candidates crossing into new fields, leaping sectors or returning to the workforce after an extended leave.

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

           Functional resumes allow candidates to flaunt the skills of their choice and the experiences of which they are the proudest. This format gives candidates the luxury of combining a lifelong dedication to community service into their for-profit achievements when switching career tracks. And, as an added bonus, they work well for candidates who want the world to forget about their brief professional dalliance with interpretive dance.
           This resume format focuses attention on skills and achievements, rather than place of employment, which make it ideal for mid-career changers or recent grads.
           But lest you think this is the perfect format for you, beware. Many employers are made immediately suspicious by these resumes since they are also often used to hide spotty employment records. Others just don’t want to do the work necessary to put together a complete picture of you.

The Combination Platter

          Candidates who want the advantages provided by both the chronological and the functional resumes – much like restaurant patrons who don’t know what to order – opt for the combination platter. But, much like ordering the combination platter in a restaurant, most recruiters feel they have gotten more than they asked for and end up with indigestion.
          Use this format at your own risk. While some find it to be the perfect marriage of form and function, others get turned off by having to dig for information. These longer resumes tend to be overly repetitious and confusing and should only be tried at home with a strong editing hand nearby.

When deciding which format to use, ask yourself these questions:
  1. Are you looking to change careers, focuses, or industries?
  2. Have you switched jobs too often?
  3. Have you not switched jobs often enough?
  4. Is your resume opening enough interview doors?
  5. Are you a first time job seeker?
  6. Are you seeking a promotion within your organization or a more senior position within your field at another?
  7. Are you just returning to the workplace from maternity, family or medical leave?
  8. Are you relocating?
  9. Have you just finished a graduate degree?
  10. Are you applying to an older or more conservative human resources director?

Whether you are starting from scratch and need strategic advice, or simply need to polish your resume and cover letters, the search professionals at can help. We provide highly individualized service, in a very cost effective manner.