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Selecting a resume format

To get yourself noticed it is important to use a resume format which will best represent you in the jobs market. There are any number of ways of laying out a resume, but these can in fact be reduced to 5 basic examples: chronological resume (traditional approach - superseded by the performance resume), functional resume, performance resume (an updated form of the chronological resume), targeted resume and alternative resume. Each of these formats has its advantages and disadvantages (see below).

In general the performance resume works best for most people, assuming that you are staying in the same field. If this format is unsuitable for you then you could try either the functional or targeted resume formats and see which reads/looks better for you. Even if you create a performance resume for yourself, there are times when a functional/targeted resume may help you secure an interview when a performance resume would fail.

Performance resume

In a performance resume your employment history is shown in reverse chronological order, with your most recent job first. Job titles and company names are strongly emphasized and duties and achievements are described under each job title. You should use a performance resume when you are seeking a job which is directly in line with your past experiences or your last employer was a household name. The only difference between a chronological resume and a performance resume is that the performance resume highlights a list of your major achievements near the start of your resume.

Advantages:
  1. If you are planning to stay in the same field/work area.
  2. If you want to showoff your promotions.
  3. If the name of your last employer is highly prestigious.
  4. Most people prefer this format to the other formats listed here because it is easy to see who you have worked for and what you did in each particular job.
Disadvantages:
  1. If you are planning to change career direction.
  2. If you have frequently changed employer.
  3. If your work history has been patchy in recent years, either through unemployment, redundancy, self-employment, ill health, etc.
  4. If you do not have many achievements (you could just leave out the achievements section as in a traditional chronological resume) or your achievements are not in line with what you want to do now - either leave out the achievements section or consider using a functional or targeted resume.

Functional resume

This type of resume highlights the main functions/achievements of your whole career and it can therefore be very useful if you have had a varied career or you are seeking a change of career direction. In this format, job titles and company names are given less dominance or even omitted in some cases.

Advantages:
  1. If you want to emphasize abilities and achievements that have not been used in your most recent job(s).
  2. If you are changing career direction.
  3. If you have had a large number of jobs and you would prefer to describe the experience you have gained in total.
  4. If you want to include voluntary/unpaid experience.
  5. If your work history has been patchy in recent years, either through unemployment, redundancy, self-employment, ill health, etc.
Disadvantages:
  1. If you want to highlight promotions/career growth - you could include this sort of information on the second page of your resume, but it would not be as prominent as on a performance resume.
  2. If your most recent employer is highly prestigious, because their name will not be prominently displayed on the first page. You can get round this by putting their name in both the profile and cover letter.
  3. If your job has only a limited number of functions.
  4. Unusual resume format - may not be liked by everyone.

Targeted resume

This type of resume emphasizes your abilities and achievements which are directly relevant to a specific job target. It is best used when you are planning a change of career direction.

Advantages:
  1. If you want to emphasize abilities and achievements that have not been used in your most recent job(s).
  2. If you are changing career direction.
  3. If you have had a large number of jobs and you would prefer to describe the experience you have gained in total.
  4. If you want to include voluntary/unpaid experience.
  5. If your work history has been patchy in recent years, either through unemployment, redundancy, self-employment, ill health, etc.
  6. If you have several completely different job targets and you need a resume for each.
Disadvantages:
  1. If you want to highlight promotions/career growth - you could include this sort of information on the second page of your resume, but it would not be as prominent as on a performance resume.
  2. If your most recent employer is highly prestigious, because their name will not be prominently displayed on the first page. You can get round this by putting their name in both the profile and cover letter.
  3. Unusual resume format - may not be liked by everyone.

Alternative resume

This sort of resume is suitable for creative careers in, for example, writing, public relations and fashion designers. It is not suitable for senior managers/executives who would be better advised to use the performance resume.

Advantages:
  1. If the job requires exceptional talent in either the written or visual mediums.
  2. If you will be applying directly to the person you will be working for.
Disadvantages:
  1. Not to be used if you are seeking a management position.
  2. If you are planning to apply through normal channels such as advertised vacancies/the HR Department.
  3. This resume format may fail utterly if your ideas are not well received by the recipient of your resume.

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