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Chronological vs. Functional resumes: what's the difference and why does it matter?

Make a great first impression with your resume!
Make a great first impression with your resume!

The traditional resume format is chronological; jobs listed in reverse chronological order, i.e., current position listed first, previous job held, and so forth. Chronological resumes also include full job titles and descriptions along with the respective city and state of each job. The standard fonts are Times New Roman or Ariel, no less than 10pt; no more than 12pt. Text is ordinarily in paragraph style; bullets may or may not be utilized.

"Blah, blah, blah", you say, "how dull." Perhaps. So, you investigate the Functional resume format.

The Functional resume in its purest form does not display dates of employment, city, state, or any discernible order of jobs held, chronological or otherwise. The Functional format is designed to aid those individuals with large, unexplained or spotty gaps in work history. It can hide these flaws, quite effectively, as its main purpose is to highlight your skill set rather than time spent with each position or titles held.

"Sounds pretty good," you respond, "think I may go for the Functional resume, after all."

Alright, but be careful because here's the issue with Functional resumes. Employers are immediately wary of such documents; they are difficult to read, oftentimes, confusing, and aesthetically unpleasant. Additionally, most HR folks are familiar with the Functional resume's ulterior purpose and therefore, suspicious of those individuals who utilize this format.

Chronological resumes, on the other hand, still hold up rather well with most folks in hiring positions, be they potential employers, recruiters, or HR personnel. Granted, it is a traditional format and there isn't much in it allowing for creative expression, so what can you do to make yourself stand out to a potential employer without going overboard and wrecking your chances?

Consider a hybrid: a combination of the two utilizing the best of both formats. Many resumes these days contain an extended summary or qualifications section listing skill sets, talents, software expertise, etc. These resumes also contain all of the pertinent data, such as dates of employment, city and state, and full descriptions of your job responsibilities. Ideally, this combo format allows one to highlight skills and qualifications, downplaying actual employment venues at the bottom of the page. You may wish to simply list your job title, beginning and ending dates of each position, city and state where each position was held, and that's it. Your "job duties" would be absorbed within the summary or qualifications sections of the resume enabling you to illuminate your actual skills and abilities while downplaying a potentially spotty job history.

It may be considered "old school" but I still prefer the traditional, chronological format. I like clean lines and uncluttered text. I also utilize both paragraphs and bullets in my resume formats with an occasional font twist, such as Century Gothic instead of Times New Roman or Ariel. Be sure to use italics and bold features for contrast, as well. Keep in mind, however, that the traditional chronological format works best with a long-term, stable job history illustrating ascending positions of responsibility.

If your work history is less than ideal, I recommend utilizing the hybrid combo format, emphasizing your skill set and de-emphasizing your actual work history. But do yourself a favor and include dates of employment, job titles and city/state of each position.

I realize most folks are bewildered by this entire process. Unless you write resumes for a living, as I do, it is difficult, at best, to know which way to turn.

Fortunately, Atlanta offers a myriad of opportunities for resume writing assistance. If you cannot afford a professional resume writer, check out the many schools in the area which offer resume writing workshops. Your local library contains a number of books on the subject matter. The Georgia Department of Labor also offers free, accessible resources for job seekers. For that matter, the Internet is rife with templates and examples of resume formats, all available at no cost to you.

Your resume is the first impression you will make with a potential employer. And as we all know, you don't usually get a second chance to make a first impression.

For additional assistance with your job search, please visit Meral's website here.



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