The Ins And Outs Of Resumes

Boy, I never thought that resumes could be so time-consuming, thought-provoking, and frustrating. One of my friends told me it doesn’t really matter too much what you have on your resume, but I think a strong format and clear, concise presentation of info could help.
— Connie E.

When jobs were in excess, the old standard for resumes was “just put it on paper.” You listed your jobs, a bit about your responsibilities, maybe a highlight or two, your education, and you were good to go. Keeping the resume to one page seemed to be part of that methodology as well. After all, you could share everything else in the job interview. That was OK thinking in the past, but now getting an interview is becoming harder and harder because employers are receiving hundreds of resumes for every job posted. There is no guarantee you will be able to share the rest of your story. And for many, that is precisely where the problem lies–not getting interviewed because your resume doesn’t share the critical information an employer needs to put you in the “maybe” stack instead of the “no” stack.

Understanding the purpose of your resume is perhaps the most important first step in determining what goes into your resume. Your resume is not a tool for getting a job. It is a personal marketing tool for getting an interview. It introduces you to prospective employers and their screeners. What is included in your resume helps employers and screeners determine if they want to interview you. If you were introduced to someone in person and they asked you about your management experience, and you replied by telling them about your education in zoology, they would probably dismiss you. If they asked about your research background and you instead talked about your 15 years as a CPA, they would zone out. If they wanted to know about your ability to multi-task and you shared your experience working on a single-task manufacturing team, they might just walk away. The same is true in reading your resume. It will inevitably go to the “no” stack if you highlight or emphasize skills, knowledge, and experience that do not relate to what the employer and screening team feel is useful or representative of the skills needed for the job. On the flip side, you can earn your place in the “maybe, let’s interview and find out” pile if you submit a resume that not only speaks to the job, but also helps your best assets stand out.

Your resume is really a tool for you – your canvas to identify what you can do, to clarify what you have accomplished, to transition your language and thinking into terms understandable to future employers, and to ensure that what you want employers to know about you is clear. Although many career development authors are still writing about the quick, down-and-dirty resume, that type of resume generally only works well for people on a linear path in their career with opportunities abounding. For most people, however, writing a resume takes many rounds of self-exploration and then a few more of finding the right words to express your needs, interests, and passions. Additional time is often needed to then translate thoughts about your own well-being into concepts that help an employer see the benefit in hiring you. Specifically, you will want to think about which resume format is most appropriate for you, how you want to introduce yourself in the resume, where your education and experience should be placed, and whether any extra information would be helpful in marketing your skills, knowledge, and experience. You have choices in developing your resume and being aware of those choices is important.


What will your resume look like?

Chronological Resume. The most typical resume format is the chronological resume. Experiences are listed in reverse chronological order with the most recent experiences first. This resume format is best used by people who are moving up a career ladder within a given field or industry.

Functional Resume. The functional resume is sorted by skill sets rather than by dates. This resume highlights the skills most important to the next job or career you want to pursue and provides specific examples of how you have used the skills in the past. Functional resumes are best used by people transitioning into new careers, those with gaps in their resumes, or people who are entering their first real job experiences. Recent graduates with limited work experience find this type of resume particularly useful.

Blended Resume. The blended resume is sorted into skill sets like the functional resume is, but it also includes a more detailed chronological listing of experiences. Blended resumes work well for people transitioning into new careers; those with gaps in their resumes; and people who are entering their first career-based jobs, but who have a variety of work and volunteer experiences that provided significant experiences.


How will you introduce yourself to the screener or potential employer?

No Introduction. Without an introduction, a prospective employer or screener will immediately begin reading about your experience or education and you will need to hope that what they read compels them to read further. Although favored by some universities and resume writers, this format can be likened to starting a conversation with someone you don’t know without introducing yourself. For some employers it signals a lack of focus or direction.

Objective. An objective identifies you as a person with a plan, a direction, and a focus with measurable outcomes. It serves as an executive summary of who you are and what work you feel you can best perform. Using an objective indicates that you know in which arena you would like to be working. Caution: the old objective of telling what you want out of a job is dead. Up-to-date objectives focus on how you will help an employer meet the needs of the organization.

Profile. A profile shares your work style, passion for an industry, area of work, or cause. Like an objective it is an executive summary for your resume. It often details what moves you forward and serves as your compass. People who use profiles are defining the type of environment or industry that they would like to be a part of rather than a specific job.


What significance does your education play in your career?

At the Top. Placing education at the top of your resume or after your objective or profile indicates that learning was the most recent significant event in your career. Recent graduates with limited related work experience tend to place education in this location on their resume.

In the Middle. Placing education after skill sets, experience, or highlights is a standard location for education. It identifies the importance, but does not bring special attention to education. This is often helpful when your degree does not match the type of work where you have considerable experience.

At the End. Education at the end of a resume brings attention to the value of your specific degree, degrees, or certifications, while indicating that it is not the most recent significant value on your resume. Individuals with advanced degrees or those who have enhanced their skills in a particular specialty for a given job benefit by placing their education at the end of the resume.


Given your experience, how can you best demonstrate that you can meet or exceed expectations of a given job?

Skills or Highlights Section. Creating a skills or highlights section as in the functional or blended resume allows individuals with a variety of skills to respond directly to job postings. Individuals in career transition, recent graduates, and those with gaps in their resumes find explaining experiences in a skills or highlights section valuable.

Previous Jobs. This is the standard resume format. Individuals moving up a career ladder who can easily be recognized by the screener or potential employer do well listing their experiences in reverse chronological order.


Would adding additional sections to your resume help a screener or potential employer envision you in the job?

Additional Skills. Additional skills can include anything that is not a primary responsibility, but still supports the job. Having nursing skills or computer software skills might enhance the resume of a person seeking a marketing position in a hospital, for example, yet for some reason might not be highlighted in other parts of the resume. You might consider adding an additional skills section to your resume if you have experience that supplements the type of work needed for a given job.

Civic or Community Involvement. Individuals involved in city or state organizations, schools, local chambers of commerce, or other community and civic organizations can consider including a section that describes their commitment. Generally this section is only added if more content is needed in a resume or if a desired career transition is supported by this work.

Honors and Awards. When an honor or award does not relate directly to your accomplishments or desired work, but is still significant, this section can be added to the resume. This often is the case for people who are working toward a career transition.

Military Service. Individuals who are several years out of the military and are not using a military resume have the option of adding this section or of including military information in other portions of their resume. The decision should be based on the significance of military service to the job requirement.

Volunteer Experience. Individuals who have volunteer experiences that do not directly relate to skills needed for a job, but who are within the desired industry often find value in adding a volunteer section.

Special Interests. Individuals who have some extra room on their resume and want to share a more personal side of themselves can consider adding a special interests section. Anything recorded in this section should relate to work. This is not the place to add personal interests that have no connection to the desired work.

Resume writing isn’t really about the writing itself or about putting words on paper. It is about the thought you put into your writing. It is about the sorting and sifting of your experiences. It is about identifying and understanding the skills needed in every job for which you apply and in every career you pursue. It is about understanding yourself and helping others to understand you. The resume is simply a tool to get you an interview, a piece of paper on which you show what you know about a job or career, and how you can meet, or even better, exceed the requirements.