Q+A: Resume format and functional resumes

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q: Is there “one” format for resumes or does anything work as long as its clear and easy to read?

A: Don’t get boxed in by a resume template  you should format your resume to suit your situation. Your resume has to make the hirer see quickly that you are a match for their needs and want to meet you. Actually, in this competitive climate you have to be better than a match. The format should make this possible. In the words of a recruiter I spoke with: “The focus and thread through the experience needs to be clear and concise.”

The format you decide to use can depend on the type of role you seek and your level of experience. A junior level candidate would not have all the “key words experience” of a more senior candidate, but still needs to tell a compelling story of what they do offer. A technical producer or information architect would choose to focus on software and site technical skills, where a creative candidate would focus more on the types of projects, indicating their contribution and providing links to online samples. Marketers should get specific on areas of special expertise.

This content is what the resume is about first and foremost. The format you present in needs to be a quick easy-to-read communication that hits all the buttons appropriate to the position in question.

Q: I have heard negative things about functional resumes. Is there a time where someone without anything to hide use a functional resume?

A: A recruiter told me: “I always question the functional resumes. I prefer to see those who are transparent and clear about what they’ve done and where they’ve done it. It may make sense for career transitioners, those who have minimal experience in their chosen field. In these cases, it’s important to take the necessary steps towards experience to get back on a career track displayed in a chronological resume format.”

So try and present a chronological story, but remember that with layout and careful writing and smart choices you can emphasize your functional skills and experience even within this format so that the overall impression is the one you want to give.