Types of Resumes

There are three basic resume types: chronological, functional, and a combination of those two types. Which one you should use depends on your situation and where you are in your career. Generally speaking, chronological resumes are the most popular, listing your job experience in reverse chronological order; functional resumes focus on skills; and combination resumes include both your job experience and skills.

Chronological Resumes

Most job seekers use a chronological resume. It follows a very simple format. It lists each job you have had, in reverse chronological order. In writing one, you would start with the most recent job and work your way backward. While chronological resumes are the most popular, they aren't the best choice for everyone.

Someone who can demonstrate a solid history in a particular field of work can use a chronological resume. In order to use this type of resume, which highlights your work history, you must have been employed in the same field for a substantial period of time.

In addition, you must be able to show that your career has grown during that time — your work responsibilities have increased, for example. This is particularly important if you are seeking a position that is a step above the most recent one on your resume.

What kind of paper should I use for my resume?

Choose a neutral color like white, off-white, cream, or light gray. Use a solid color — no dots, lines, or watermark that will detract from the content of your resume. It's not necessary to use very expensive paper, but don't use anything too thin or flimsy.

A chronological resume is not a good option for someone who does not have a solid work history. If you have moved from job to job, or if you haven't had a job in a while, don't use a chronological resume. If you do not have experience in the field in which you are looking for work, this resume type isn't a good option either. For example, if you are a career changer or a recent graduate, you should consider using a functional or a combination resume.

Functional Resumes

Unlike a chronological resume, which emphasizes your experience, a functional resume focuses on your skills. If you use this type of resume, you will list your skills or groups of skills that are pertinent to the job for which you are applying. You will follow each one with a list of accomplishments that demonstrate a proficiency with that skill.

A functional resume can benefit a job seeker who doesn't have a solid work history. It is a great tool for someone who is entering a new field or returning to work after an absence. If you picked up skills through experiences other than paid employment, for example from volunteer work, you can play up those skills on a functional resume.

Even if your work history is spotty, it is possible that you learned some skills on the jobs you had. Ask yourself, “Do I have skills that are relevant to the job I want?” If you have the skills that an employer is seeking and you can demonstrate your proficiency in them, you can use a functional resume.

A functional resume is not a wish list of skills that you think you have, you want to have, or you think an employer desires. If you don't have relevant skills, you shouldn't use this type of resume. You must be able to show proof of ownership of the skills you are claiming to have. If you can't prove, by listing accomplishments that demonstrate them, that you have these skills, you will have to choose another type of resume. You may even realize that you have to develop these skills or perhaps look for a job that is more suitable for you.

Combination Resumes

A combination resume takes pieces from both the chronological resume and the functional resume. It emphasizes your skills while also highlighting your job history. On a combination resume, you will list your relevant skills, along with accomplishments that demonstrate each one. You will follow that with your work history, listing jobs beginning with the current or most recent and working backwards in time. You will not include a description of each one.

You may have had a job at some point that was totally unrelated to your career. It may have been something you took on to make ends meet while you continued to look for more suitable work. You may consider leaving this job off your resume. If you do, though, make sure you title your “Work History” section “Relevant Work History.”

A combination resume gives you the opportunity to play up your skills while also proving that you have a solid work history. You may ask, “Why would I use this type of resume instead of a chronological resume?” Let's say your job titles do not adequately describe the work you did or the skills you used to do it. A combination resume could help the person who reviews your resume focus on the relevant skills you can bring to the job rather than the irrelevant job titles you had.

Just as you wouldn't use a chronological resume if you didn't have a solid work history, you shouldn't use a combination resume in those circumstances, either. Use a functional resume instead. If you can't demonstrate you have skills pertinent to the job for which you are applying, you're best off using a chronological format; neither functional nor combination is the right resume choice for you.

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