Which of Four Resume Formats is the Best?

One fact is clear about the functional resume; most hiring authorities and resume writers don’t favor it. According to a poll on LinkedIn, it’s one of the least preferred out of four resume formats. The preferred resume format is…you guessed it…the chronological resume.

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This article is not only about the functional and chronological resumes. It’s also about two other resume formats: the combination and hybrid-chronological. If you’re not familiar with any of these formats, I’ll explain all of them. Let’s start with the functional resume.

Functional resume

The Areas of Expertise section is the meat of a functional resume. It follows the contact information, Summary and, perhaps, Skills area. This section highlights expertise that is transferable, making a transition to another career doable.

Each of these areas of expertise should be supported with three or four bulleted statements, ideally accomplishment statements. The reader should see, by reading your statements, how they relate to the job for which you’re applying.

For example, if someone is changing from marketing to career development, the following areas of expertise are plausible: Written and Oral Communications, Customer Service, Outreach, and Counseling. Here’s an example of one of the four areas of expertise.

Written and Oral Communications

  • Wrote more than 30 articles—within two years—that were placed in industry-related magazines, often earning the praise of CEO during company meetings.
  • Spoke via phone and in person with customers, VARS, OEMs, and distributors in writing the first “Customer Success Stories” in the company’s history.
  • Wrote the content for the company’s first newsletter and coordinated with webmaster to disseminate it electronically. Received favorable reception for newsletter.
  • Reached out to CEOs and presidents of partner companies to coordinate onsite visits between company’s president.

Following the Areas of Expertise section is a de-emphasized Employment section that consists of company names, their locations, and years of tenure at the companies. Or if you prefer to place the Education section above this Employment History, that’s acceptable, particularly if you’re a college grad.

The fault in the stars

As one of the people who participated in the poll stated, the functional resume comes across as suspicious. Hiring authorities often wonder what the candidate is trying to hide.

In the example above, when and where did the candidate write more than 30 articles? When and where did the candidate reach out to executive-level employees to arrange onsite visits?

Do you think I would gloss over the need for well-developed accomplishment statements? I would be remiss in doing that. Ideally every line on your resume would show value. By providing quantified results with #s, $s, and %s, you’ll impress the reader and be invited in for an interview.

The hybrid-chronological resume

This resume format is slightly behind in the poll of the functional resume. Perhaps it’s because it’s misunderstood; one person who responded to the poll asked what this format is. I understand the confusion but feel that it helps readers to understand the nature of one’s position.

The hybrid-chronological format integrates the functional and chronological for each position. Not everyone can pull it off, but when they do, it works well. I like the diversity of highlighting the areas of expertise while also sticking to a reverse-chronological work history.

If we take the example of the Written and Oral Communications area of expertise, the reader can clearly connect the dots rather than having to find examples of this area of expertise. Written and Oral Communications can be written in bold print as a sub header.

The fault in the stars

One drawback of the hybrid-chronological resume is, again, the reader wondering when, not where, the job candidate achieved a particular accomplishment. For example, most of the accomplishments for written communication might have occurred earlier on in the candidate’s 10-year tenure with the company.

The combination resume

The wonder of writing a combination resume is that you highlight the Areas of Expertise section, as explained above (Written and Oral Communications, Customer Service, Outreach, and Career Development) and follow it with the chronological piece.

If you want to tell a compelling story, this is a resume format that will achieve that. It’s important that the areas of expertise in the functional area are placed in order of priority.

Let’s say you feel that Customer Service is the number one priority, followed by Outreach and then Career Development and finally Written and Oral communications. This is how you will arrange your areas of expertise. Further, you’ll arrange the bulleted statements in order of priority.

The fault in the stars

This can be a longer resume than the other resume formats, so it’s important that the chronological area be presented on the first page. If you’re going to include a Summary, as well as Outstanding Achievements and Skills sections; you’ll be hard pressed to fit the functional and chronological pieces on the first page.

The chronological resume

The almighty chronological resume is one that lacks creativity, in my opinion; but it’s the preferred format by a country mile. Many hiring authorities espouse this format because it’s easier to read. However, as I’ve written above, finding the key points you’re trying to make can be difficult unless you prioritize statements.

Do you think I would gloss over the need for well-developed accomplishment statements? I would be remiss in doing that. Ideally every line on your resume would show value. By providing quantified results with #s, $s, and %s, you’ll impress the reader and be invited in for an interview.

See the differences between the following duty and it’s accomplishment statement:

  • Brought the social media campaign in house.

Now the accomplishment statement that provides the quantified result followed by the action statement.

  • Saved the company $125,000 by bringing the social media campaign in house, while managing a team of 5 on a limited budget.

The Summary of Achievements before it attracts the reader’s attention, enticing them to read further:

  • Generates new client business by at least 25% annually
  • Saves companies $100,000s of dollars
  • Meets Key Performance Indicators (KPI) on a consistent basis
  • Leads teams to earn top recognition

The fault in the stars

The chronological resume can make it difficult to find the key points the candidate is trying to convey if they’re buried in a sea of duties. It’s important to separate the duties from the accomplishments.

This can be a simple fix by starting with the outstanding duties and inserting a sub header titled Accomplishments. Where will the readers’ eyes go? You guessed it; to the accomplishments.

Is all lost for the functional resume?

The functional resume isn’t currently in dead last. This means some hiring authorities and resume writers appreciate this format for its diversity. I have a soft heart for the functional resume, as I landed two jobs using it. Does the fact that I landed the jobs 20 years ago factor into it? Maybe, probably, who knows?

I fancy the hybrid-chronological resume, personally. But the fact that it sits dead last in the poll should tell me something. All I know is that the chronological resume (46%) isn’t for everyone.

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