The resume's strength and usefulness in the selection process comes largely from the fact that it is a standardized, traditional form of self-presentation. Most people in organizations are accustomed to looking at resumes, expect to see them from job candidates, and find them helpful in screening, interviewing, and comparing candidates. If you are asked for a resume and reply that you do not have one or do not believe in them or produce something that bears little resemblance to a resume, you will look unprofessional or obnoxious, unless you are a damn good talker. My advice is to create a resume that sticks closely to standard formats, and to supplement your resume with strong cover letters and effective phone calls.
Creating A Resume
Resume Rule 1: Keep your resume brief, its layout simple, and its type faces readable: make it visually easy to scan. As you design your resume, remember that it is meant to: (1) be read quickly, (2) give an overview of your career (i.e., any aspect of your life relevant to the work you are seeking), (3) facilitate comparison of candidates, (4) supply topics for further discussion in interviews, and (5) serve as an extended self-introduction. It is not meant to get you a job. Final candidate selection depends more on interviews than on resume, so you do not have to squeeze every facet of your work life into your resume. If you can fit your resume on a page, great, but do not cram your material on the page using skimpy margins and small type. Better to go with two pages than to create one page that will strain your reader's eyes and patience.
Resume Rule 2: Do not include Personal information on your resume.
Your resume should not contain any information that should be irrelevant to the selection process, like your marital status, height, weight, age, number of children, and religion. A surprising number of people still put such information on resumes, even though employers are barred by law from considering it in employment decisions. Some people include it simply because this kind of information was once standard on resume others include it because they think it will work to their advantage.
Beware, however. Even if you think, for example, that being married will be a selling point (and in some organizations, it may be, especially for men), do not include your marital status on your resume. First, you simply do not know how any given reader will react to your married state. Some may view marriage as an impediment to long hours, travel, and job commitment rather than an inducement to stability, loyalty, and productivity. Second, you will look unprofessional because such information is no longer considered appropriate on resumes.
Resume Rule 3: Use a basically chronological pattern of organization but introduce elements from other resume formats as needed to suit your particular situation, Information on resumes is traditionally arranged in reverse chronological order under broad headings such as "Experience" and "Education." Dates are presented in a prominent place-often at the left margin-to enable readers to get an overview of your career quickly. The chronological format is sometimes termed an obituary resume because it focuses on the past, describing work in terms of start and end dates, job titles, duties and responsibilities, and employers' names and addresses.
To avoid the static tone, backward-looking focus, and emphasis on smooth career transition of chronological resumes, some experts recommend using a functional format. At their best, functional resumes feature skills, qualifications, and accomplishments and focus on what candidates will be able to do for prospective employers, rather than on what they have done for past employers. Unfortunately, functional resumes have a bad reputation in the business world. Many people use them precisely because they obscure gaps, discontinuities, and anomalies in careers, which make readers immediately suspicious of resumes in the functional format.
Standard information tends to be harder to find in functional resumes, which makes them more difficult to evaluate and to compare with other resumes. I've read some functional resumes two and three times carefully without being able to get a clue, for example, about how many years of experience the writer has in a particular area. When readers face dozens or hundreds of resumes, any that are not immediately intelligible tend to go onto the "no" pile early in the selection process. The emphasis on skills and accomplishments in functional resumes often comes at the expense of more factual and verifiable information about where and how long the candidate has used given skills and the contexts in which accomplishments were forged.
Functional resumes find favor among candidates who actually have little verifiable experience and expertise or whose experience lies primarily outside the field in which they are seeking work. Because of the strong suspicion of functional resumes, however, such candidates simply throw themselves a second strike by calling attention to possible weaknesses through use of a functional format. The functional format first became popular during the 1960s and 70s, when many women decided to re enter the work force after years of raising children and managing households. Women in this situation perceived themselves (realistically, I'm afraid) as being at a disadvantage compared with candidates whose work careers stretched without interruption from graduation to the present.
How were these women to communicate the skills, knowledge, and characteristics acquired during years of work outside corporate settings-at home, in community organizations, and in local schools-through the rigid format of a traditional, chronological resume? The functional resume emerged as the answer.
A better answer at this point for nontraditional job seekers is to use a basic chronological pattern with modifications. Think of the chronological format as a frame into which you can fit any kind of experience. One of the most impressive resumes I've ever seen was prepared by a woman with a master's degree in education who spent 15 years raising two sons, managing the finances and day-to-day operations of a household that included her semi-invalid father-in-law, and participating in various community activities. She described each of these areas of experience in a separate entry, following the conventions of chronological presentation. Within each entry, she described her work in terms of transferable skills such as ability to define objectives, solve problems, give directions, re cover from setbacks, maintain composure in stressful situations, manage time, set priorities, coordinate the activities of others, and tolerate interruptions. The resulting resume conveyed a sense of humor as well as a wealth of other managerial skills.
Another departure from the traditional chronological format is the targeted resume. This format is designed to highlight qualifications for a particular position in a particular organization. It generally follows a broadly chronological pattern but emphasizes experiences most directly related to the requirements of a specific opening in a given organization or kind or organization like a large bank, a public university, or a new biotech venture. Experiences not closely related to the targeted position may be listed without elaboration, listed in a separate section devoted to "other experience," or omitted entirely.
In some respects, every resume should be targeted, emphasizing experience and schooling most directly relevant to the kind of work you seek. I urge you, however, to think of your cover letters as the documents designed to relate your background to particular positions in particular organizations. If you try to do specific targeting in your resume, you will have to do a new version for each job you seek, and you may face a credibility problem. Readers are apt to wonder how accurate a picture your resume presents if it is obviously a picture cropped and retouched to match a particular job. You may also define yourself too narrowly and miss out on other opportunities in the organizations you have targeted.
When readers are impressed by your resume but cannot hire you for some reason, they will often circulate your resume to others. A well-targeted resume may turn into a liability in such situations.