“One size fits all” may work for ski hats or rubber gloves, but resumes must be made to order. Depending on your stage of life, type of job or work history, your resume should be customized for the job, showcase your talents and shout out, “I’m the one!” While they all have standard features, such as an opening summary statement, work history, education and training, resume content and formatting can change to best suit the job and application method.
This is the most common format and preferred by most employers. It’s easy to see progression from one job to another and locate important information. Be sure your chronological resume begins with your current or latest job—not your first one mowing lawns when you were 12. Chronological resumes make it easy to see gaps in employment that can be red flags. Always put your work history first, followed by your education, additional professional or technical training, awards or certifications, and professional or civic organization memberships. No need to put “References available upon request” on any resume. If they’re interested, they will ask.
Functional resumes group like work experience together from different jobs into categories rather than by the job itself. If you’re getting back into the workforce after raising children or a long sabbatical, a functional resume is a good way to bring relevant experience to the forefront. It works well if you’re changing careers and want to showcase particular skills or experience gathered over a variety of jobs. Be aware that employers are skeptical of functional resumes without dates to show progression or lapses in employment.
The High School Graduate Resume
Yes, high school graduates should have a resume to apply for a part-time or summer job or that first job after graduation. One page should do it, beginning with any work history, including paying jobs, volunteer work, internships, apprenticeships or other professional or technical work. Each entry should have a list of duties and any type of leadership, team or project work. Include any honors or leadership positions and a section on computer/technical skills, and all the software and hardware they are familiar with. Tech-savvy graduates bring valuable technical skills to use on the job and share with older employees.
The College Graduate Resume
Much like the high school graduate resume, expand on jobs and any work-related or professional experience gained through campus or community organizations. Include your graduation date, degree(s) earned and your GPA if it is 3.0 or higher. A beginning summary statement should emphasize academic achievements, work experience, areas of interest and a statement about the person’s work ethic, values and ability to work with others. Stay away from “Objective” statements listing a specific position or entry level, since they can limit your chances for consideration.
Be Internet Friendly
Regardless of format type, if you submit your resume online or by email, it has to be “internet friendly.” Otherwise, all that beautiful formatting, underlining and graphics on a hard copy will be lost once it’s submitted online. What’s worse, instead of bolding or underlining certain words, the system may print the actual coding which is usually transparent, making your resume look like a jumble of hieroglyphics. You can remove all special formatting for an electronic version, or save your resume as a rich text version (*.rtf) or plain text (*.txt) for online applications.
To improve your chances, always follow an online application with a hard copy mailed to the hiring manager or human resources with a cover letter. Besides giving them a resume they can read, you’ll stand out from the hundreds of applications submitted online.
Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, spent over seven years as a human resources director and is a career coach, consultant and freelance writer focusing on how to land your dream job in a tough employment market.