An examiner.com reader recently contacted me seeking advice about the level of detail needed for a resume. Having not updated a resume in some time, she first looked to her friends for help. One suggested that prospective employers did not want to be burdened with too much unnecessary detail. Another friend highlighted the importance of including as much detail as possible. With these conflicting points of view, she wondered about the current trend for detail in a resume.
Which friend was right?
The short answer is both friends are right. In some circumstances, you should include a detailed work history in your resume. In other situations, you should worry less about those sorts of details and instead focus on skills and abilities you have developed over the years (regardless of whether they learned in the workplace).
The amount of detail is not nearly as important as including the right detail on your resume. Perhaps it has been awhile since you were in the market for a job. If that is because you have spent a long time in one place, you should have plenty of detail about your accomplishments to include. If instead, you have been out of the workforce for some reason, then you should think about detail in terms of listing your abilities rather than your previous accomplishments.
Employers want to be able to glance over the page and get a sense of what you've done and what you are able to do. You should provide enough content to provide exactly that.
Do you have a consistent work history?
If you have a rich work history, go with a chronological resume, and list your work history for the last 5-10 years from the most recent to furthest in the past. You should include the basic information, such as the name of employer, dates spent at each position, and the city where you worked. For each position, list a few things you achieved, whether they be one-time goals, or daily requirements of the job.
Much more of your focus should be spent on these achievements you accomplished while at each position. These don't need to be life-altering, service-medal earning achievements to impress a hiring manager. Simply doing a good job, and completing required tasks are what show an employer your abilities. Whether you are sweeping floors or performing brain surgery, you are doing your assigned tasks and doing them well. That is the key to demonstrating your value as a potential hire.
Has it been several years since you've needed a resume?
If, on the other hand, you have been in only one job, or out of the workforce for some time, then consider a functional resume. They are less-often used, but no less accepted. In this form, you should focus on your skills and abilities. Describe the types of things you have learned to do. Include "hard" skills such as technical training, specialized degrees, computer skills, or other things related to doing job tasks. In addition, list your "soft" skills - traits that are well-received in the workplace and out of it. Things like public speaking abilities, researching abilities, writing abilities, timeliness, organization skills, friendly demeanor, customer service skills are valuable to prospective employers.
When listing skills, simply label them as "Professional Skills" and arrange them so that similar items are together on the list. Sometimes an employer scans these lists for a certain word, and if they find that word, you want them to see the skills you possess that are related.
Final Advice and More Information:
If you are trying to determine the right type of resume for you, consider this article or try finding some examples of chronological and functional resumes and examine which one can showcase your skills and career development history best.
Either style is appropriate, but choose the one that you think makes your background look most impressive. For more tips on resume writing, take a look at these articles.