The battle goes on between those who prefer either "chronological" re'sume's or "functional re'sume's."
A re'sume' is a marketing tool. Research indicates that employers spend approximately 10 seconds on each re'sume' in the initial screening process and they do not read--they scan.
To determine which format you should use to get your best shot in 10 seconds, write your specific target audience on the top of a blank sheet of paper (for example, editorial position in a trade association). Directly below, list your most recent job titles. Now step back. What do those titles say to a re'sume' reviewer? Do they clearly show editorial skills and a consistent editorial career path?
If your career track is obviously consistent and progressing, you should choose a chronological format. But if you are like most of us, your job titles are probably nebulous and do not show clearly what you have done. In that case, a chronological re'sume' is the kiss of death.
For example, a recent college grad or someone reentering the work force may have great work experience but poor job titles. Although well-qualified for the target position, these qualifications may be overlooked in a chronological format.
A real case in point is a recent college graduate from a major university. Although she graduated with honors and managed all aspects of meetings attended by more than 4,000 students, she worked as a secretary/receptionist for nearly a year because her nicely laid out chronological re'sume' was doing her no favors. In spite of her qualifications, she was turned down consistently for entry-level positions in meeting management and told she was not qualified.
Within two weeks after changing to a functional format, she became an assistant meeting manager. Interestingly, she was told by another association meeting manager that she was "overqualified" for an assistant's position.
Similarly, an individual with extensive work experience should choose a functional format. Typically, these people have several years of experience in a few jobs (which reviewers may interpret as lacking ambition and possibly too old) or have many jobs in a short period of time (which reviewers often interpret as unstable and job-hopping). A chronological format focuses the reviewer on where you've been and will virtually blare negative messages to the reviewer. Although there may be plausible reasons why career paths have proceeded in those directions, the candidate will never see the inside of the interviewer's office.
In general, a chronological format is most appropriate for job-seekers who have consistent, progressive career paths and wish to remain within the same career area. A functional format works for job seekers whose career paths are not immediately obvious to the 10-second scanner of re'sume's. That format is also helpful for those with very limited or very extensive work experience: The focus is on what they have done rather than where they have been.
And now for a few details about re'sume's, especially functional re'sume's:
* Objectives: Many applicants make them too general such as, "a responsible, challenging position in upper-middle management leading to a higher level of responsibility in the near future in an organization that requires flexible people." (Who isn't looking for responsibility and challenge? What is upper-middle management? What organizations want inflexible people?) Or the objectives can be so specific that they eliminate you from jobs in which you would have a genuine interest. Job objectives vary from job to job and are appropriate in cover letters only.
* Skills: Stay away from "foggy" skill areas like "team building," "interpersonal skills," "organization," etc. Be more specific, such as "membership development" for an association, or "customer sales" for a corporation.
* Employment History: Many people assume that a functional re'sume' does not have an employment history. Wrong. All credible re'sume's should indicate where you have worked and when. Whether that is the focus of the re'sume' is the real question.
Interests: Employers hire because they are convinced that the candidate can produce results. Some volunteer activities may help you build your sales case and should be included, but don't waste paper and time to sell trivia.
* References: Do not include them on your, re'sume' but provide them on request. References are privileges, not rights; don't wear them out. You will probably distribute 100 or more re'sume's before you get that dream job, and you may need to tailor your references, depending on the target job.
* Appearance: Your re'sume' should attract the reviewer's attention and make you memorable. Unless you are in graphics, this should be a strong statement about your conservative business sense. Don't be remembered for the wrong reason.
Twenty years ago, chronological re'sume's met the need, as most individuals did not change career paths or organizations frequently. With increasing technology and mobility, most of us will make five or six career changes. Although we may change careers, most of us will only transfer our skills, which are what make us employable. We can make these transitions easy or hard, depending on how clear our marketing is.
Like the clothes you choose for your interview, your re'sume' is a marketing tool that should help you put your best foot forward. Design your re'sume' like the Scandinavians design housewares: Let form follow function.