Are all resume formats created equal?
January 5, 2012 5:54 AM   Subscribe

I've been unemployed since the end of September. Recently, I've had two separate people (one (a recruiter) whose opinion I respect, and one (a woman at unemployment) whose opinion I find suspect) tell me that they would never consider anyone who submits a functional style resume (which is what I use). Do you hire people or work in HR? What do you think?

I use a functional resume because it best highlights and combines my pretty diverse work history, and it enables me to highlight my (rather old now) training and development experience. Yet both these women said to me that they would never consider anyone with a functional resume, because they feel it's an attempt to hide something or be deceptive.

During prior job searches I've always had great luck getting interviews, using just exactly this style of resume and a well written custom cover letter. This time, not so much, and although I've been blaming this on the economy I'm starting to wonder if my resume is at fault.

Thoughts? Do I really need to change back to a boring chronological resume that doesn't really serve my job history and background well?
posted by anastasiav to Work & Money (41 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
A friend of mine at a company I used to work for did a lot of our recruiting and when I was laid off I asked him to look at my resume. I had just heard about functional resumes and gave it a shot and he told me to scrap it because of exactly what you said above - it makes people wonder what you're trying to hide. I guess in some ways that's accurate (using one is definitely trying to spin work history in a certain way) but even though I think that's a bit silly I've gone back to the chrono style.
posted by brilliantine at 6:04 AM on January 5, 2012


It's a little weird, and many fewer people will upgrade you for using it than will downgrade you. Use the cover letter to serve the purpose of highlighting your diverse work history, and stick to the boring old chronoformat.
posted by Etrigan at 6:05 AM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Most recruiters and HR people I know view the resume as a way of communicating exactly what you've been doing with yourself. It's okay to put education and work experience in difference categories, but the category with the most recent entry should be first, and both categories should be organized chronologically.

If you want to tell a story about your work experience, that's what cover letters are for. They aren't supposed to be pro forma, they're one of the only chances of communicating essential information to a prospective employer you're going to get. Try to keep it under a page--hiring staff go through way too many of these things--but that's the place where you would want to "highlight and combine [a] pretty diverse work history" or explain an apparently gap in one's resume. Not in your resume itself. Resume's are just the facts, ma'am.
posted by valkyryn at 6:11 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I think this is especially true in today's economy, because employers are 1) starting to show a preference for the currently-employed over the unemployed, and 2) they're looking for people who have never been fired or have gaps in their employment history. Functional format resumes conceal both of these bits of information.

surely that's what the interview is for, to air concerns?

Actually... no. Not in my experience, anyway. If there are concerns, you don't get an interview. An interview is for evaluating the personal presentation of a person about whom there aren't any concerns, i.e. you've checked all the right boxes and not raised any red flags, but we still want to make sure you aren't socially impossible, have a third eye, etc. If there are things in your resume that might cause concerns to a recruiter, or if you just want to put a different spin on things because you're changing careers or something, you absolutely need to deal with that in your cover letter.
posted by valkyryn at 6:17 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


It sucks that people tend to look at resumes suspiciously just because they look different - surely that's what the interview is for, to air concerns?

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of applicants for most positions these days. HR people are desperate for reasons to whittle that pile down to three or four interviews. If there are concerns with one person, there's no sense in adding him or her to the interview stack when you have so many others that presented themselves in ways that didn't concern you.
posted by Etrigan at 6:17 AM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Your resume is a marketing document, which should be governed by trends and changes in the job market as they relate to your getting a job. A resume is not a static document which reports your work history in a special order, but more importantly, a resume tells a potential employer your work history in the way they most want to hear it. That means that in a bad economy, you're up against people with more standardized resumes when HR reps are reading hundreds a day... yours won't stand out in a good way, it will be just odd enough to land in the circular file. If your resume is not getting you results, it's time to change it.
posted by juniperesque at 6:20 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, I DO see a lot of resumes of this style from people who are ex-military, and possibly career ex-military. I think it's a useful style in this case; in my job I'm not hiring them to lead a company and take a hill, but their ability to do Windows sysadmin on some military MIS system may actually be relevant.
posted by scolbath at 6:21 AM on January 5, 2012


For what it's worth, I never had any luck with a functional resume even *before* the current economic situation. I came to believe that they'd been invented by the sort of people who gave advice on how to write resumes and that the idea was not necessarily a bad one, but that the people who hire are expecting a certain something and that isn't it.
posted by gracedissolved at 6:25 AM on January 5, 2012


Well, this is depressing. Thanks for the answers so far. The idea of re-writing my resume into a chron format feels just sickening, though, since I don't think it's a good showcase of who I really am as a professional.
posted by anastasiav at 6:26 AM on January 5, 2012


The only time I can see functional being worth using is if you have had, in principle, one employer or one career path. If you have worked within say, NYC School System your entire career, and have progressed through a number of roles and at a number of schools, but in a way that I am going to consider logical enough (as a member of the same branch) then yeah, you could get away with skipping the details of who, where, when, and stick only to what.
Otherwise, it's a no from me. You are making me do too much work when I do my first eye-through the pile of, yes, hundreds of applicants. Many of whom are completely unqualified, like completely.
posted by Iteki at 6:31 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


scolbath: "For what it's worth, I DO see a lot of resumes of this style from people who are ex-military, and possibly career ex-military. I think it's a useful style in this case; in my job I'm not hiring them to lead a company and take a hill, but their ability to do Windows sysadmin on some military MIS system may actually be relevant"

When I was in my "Transition Assistance Program" (preparatory course on job seeking) just before separating from the Navy, the instructor heavily emphasized the Functional format, and implied that HR people preferred it over the Chronological.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:33 AM on January 5, 2012


anistasiav: I don't know how strict the US is on format etc, but you could try bunching:

Work experience

Senior Weaver Baskets'R'Us 2009-2011
Junior Weaver Bobs Baskets dec ' 01 - may '02


Chip Frier Sallys Steakhouse 2005-2009
Glazier Windowrama 2003-2005
Sales Sell4less jun 02 - 2003

Or similar. Or have everything chronilogically, but only a one-line description to the less relevant jobs, or even grey them somewhat, so they are still legibile but deemphasised.
posted by Iteki at 6:36 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You are making me do too much work when I do my first eye-through the pile of, yes, hundreds of applicants. Many of whom are completely unqualified, like completely.

So, I just want to be sure I understand what you're saying: I've been in three jobs over the past eight years, each of which had very diverse combos of communications, administrative, and fundraising tasks. It would be easier for you to look at that jumble of of responsibilities in a chronological format than it would be for you to have my experience grouped by task? Why is that?
posted by anastasiav at 6:36 AM on January 5, 2012


I would listen to the two women who you have talked to. I hire people and despite there being no reason why a functional resume should hurt you, it probably would. It does look like you are trying to cover up something (getting fired, lack of experience, knowledge of how to compose a traditional resume, etc). Of course this is not the case; but there is my honest opinion.

Listen to Iteki - getting hundreds of resumes is the opposite of fun. I need a reason to pick YOURS. Having to switch gears to understand a different format and settle doubts is not the way to do it.
posted by amicamentis at 6:37 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


It would be easier for you to look at that jumble of of responsibilities in a chronological format than it would be for you to have my experience grouped by task?

That's what the cover letter is for. Resumes are for showing your more-or-less complete history, while your cover letter tells why a particular line of it should matter more to the HR person.
posted by Etrigan at 6:41 AM on January 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm going to give a slightly different answer which may help you before you rewrite it. In this case,I don't think polling a random group of people (who are probably working in very different industries) from the internet will answer this question. It tells you what people in their field do.

If you are trying to get employment in a targeted field then I would lean towards what your recruiter suggests, although I would talk to other ones, too. Better yet, I would poll people who work in your field right now as to what they use/used and prefer. I would reach out to these people as it is because...there may be other things you are missing from your resume/CV (in some industries, 1 page is needed vs several pages in other industries-- or what are the hot trends, etc.?)

I've had jobs in very diverse fields and in the last few years only wanted to remain in one industry- a lot of the other jobs/job history would not be relevent and would just take up space. A recruiter actually told me to use a functional resume and showed me how to write one (along with the fact that it should be several pages long, but again, per my industry) -- for my industry it was important to emphasize research experience, teaching experience (at the college level or above) and science training...other industries/experience no one cared or needed to know.
posted by Wolfster at 6:41 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I work for a big organization. Our HR wants CVs chronological to fit into their template. I never see the original CV, just the dump out of the HR database. Cover letters, I do see, and read. In cases like ours, the cover letter is the way to highlight your skills.
posted by bonehead at 6:50 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you've only had 3 jobs then yeah, let me look at it in the same way I am looking at the rest, present your data the way my brain is already in gear for. I (probably) won't change gear for you, because there's another hundred just like you. Full disclosure, I don't hire, but I work with helping people create their jobseek documents.

The way I explain it is like this. Think of Law and Order or something. Your CV is like your rapsheet, it's just the facts, the where, why, when, whats. No analysis there. In your letter, you make your opening arguments, with your supporting document (cv) as exhibit 1.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, as you will soon hear, I am uniquely qualified for this position. I have always been very interested in basketweaving (see exhibit 1), and was very glad to return to work with it for the past 3 years, having first picked up some valuable client-facing skills in the restaurant sector, and strengthening my fine motor skills as a glazier (see exhibit 1). This has made me a force to be reckoned with in the basket weaving community, and I strongly believe the diversity of my work history gives me a unique skillset that will provde your customers with X, Y and Z.

Anyone can say "yea, I am really stress tolerant" or "I am a socially adept", you want to be using your letter, backed up by the facts of your cv, to make the indesputable argument that a person who has managed a client retention rate of 87% in the first year is an unbreakable people person (or whatever your equivelant). You can claim what you like in your letter, but I will want to be able to probabilty-check it against your cv.
posted by Iteki at 6:55 AM on January 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I agree with Wolftster, it depends on the industry and the culture of expectation regarding resume design. It is all about the audience analysis.

The cover letter and the resume are to complement each other. Your cover letter is very key and should communicate what you bring to the table. The two documents needs to support each other. If you say in your cover letter that you have experience, "Z" then I would expect to see that in the resume.

There are only three hard laws of resume design:

* no lying
* no bad grammar or editing
* no unclear message or muddling

Everything else, is dependent, on the audience analysis. What do I mean by audience analysis includes:

* researching the firm and what it does
* research the firm's keywords (vital)
* research of industry standards for that genre of document including keywords

Apply document design principles because poor visual organization irritates the reader and undercuts your line about "excellent communicator."

I personally, find nothing wrong with the functional resume, but I work in a different industry that also includes portfolios of work.
posted by jadepearl at 7:01 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some resumes I see do not list dates of employment in the employment history sections (most frequently on functional resumes). I find these both annoying and suspicious. When functional resumes allow me to see the full employment history, I have no problem with them. In our organization (a medium-large technology focused company), HR people screen the resumes and present the top slice to the hiring manager. They primarily screen for key words and length of experience. It is possible that they might skip some functional resumes that didn't allow to determine that your experience with SOA wasn't at least 6 years or something like that. But a resume in a functional style that allowed one to determine the length of your experience with the relevant technologies and provided an accurate picture of your work history would probably pass through to me (or one of my managers) and I would be just as likely to interview you with a functional style resume.

However, it appears reading the responses here that my attitude is not the prevailing one. Given that the best you can get is that people are neutral about unusual resume formats and that some/many people are completely opposed, it seems like a pretty clear case has been made to use the chrono style.
posted by Lame_username at 7:02 AM on January 5, 2012


I hire, and have for the past eight years or so. When I see a functional resume, I assume the candidate is trying to hide something - and frankly, if I'm getting a ton of applicants, I'm not going to spend the time to figure out if that's true or not.

It is much, much, much easier to read a resume in chronological format. Like your cover letter, your resume should be tailored to every job you apply to, so any common themes or relevant experience should shine through for the recruiter.

If you need help reworking yours, feel free to drop me a line - my email is in my profile.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:02 AM on January 5, 2012


(As an aside for anyone who came in here from the military and was told upon transition to use a functional resume: DON'T. I used to recruit a lot of former military personnel, and I have a hunch that you're told to do it this way because the transition staff aren't very good at helping you write your history and experience in a way that resonates with corporate recruiters and managers. There are a ton of outside resources that can help you do this - get any good resume writing book from the library, or look online at university career sites with public postings.)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:05 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


[A couple of comments deleted; OP is looking more for people who hire or are involved in hiring, or similar, not so much people who are having the same problem.]
posted by taz at 7:05 AM on January 5, 2012


I think you could do something of a hybrid; you could begin with the functional style stuff and then have an experience or employment history section where you go through reverse-chronologically. Then you wouldn't have to scrap everything that you have, and you'd have the opportunity to set the message a bit before you jump into the chronology. (Although that's assuming that anything above the chronology gets read, which is... not assured.)

(Personally I detest "objective" sections, as does basically everyone I know; you might be able to save space by ditching that, if you have one. A lot of functional resumes seem to have that on there. Save it for the cover letter.)

I do think there's a certain amount of flexibility in the chronological section; staying relevant to the position you're applying for overrides all other rules. E.g., if you spent ten years doing x, and then 18 months doing y, and now you're applying for a job doing x, I'd make sure that x was at the top of the work experience section, even if that meant dropping y completely or breaking the chronology. But definitely make sure there are dates associated with everything, so that it doesn't look like you're being sneaky.

The use of 'Functional' resumes by people transitioning from the military to civilian employment strikes me as something of a special case. I can see it working there, because to a civilian recruiter, the details of an applicant's military career progression may not be terribly relevant or interesting, depending on how it's presented. So in that case it might make sense to emphasize the functional stuff. But the reason it works is because the recruiter already knows all they care to about the applicant's work history (that they were employed, specifically in the military), so it's safe to jump into the drilling-down-to-skills part. That's very much not safe if you're a regular applicant, since it leaves open the question of exactly what you were doing to get the experience you're claiming. And I'm not even sure it's even a great solution for a military career, versus just making the chronology easier to understand to a civilian.

But I do agree that you should sanity-check whatever advice you're getting against people who actually work in your industry.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:10 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I sift through resumes all the time and I don't care if a person uses functional or chronological as long as I can quickly pick out where they've worked (with dates) and their education. I don't even pay attention to which style it is.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:13 AM on January 5, 2012


I hire people and agree that a functional resume sends signals that there is something the applicant is trying to cover up. In my field it's not unusual to get these kinds of resumes, though, because we have a lot of career-changers and return-to-the-workforce-after-an-absence-ers, and it seems like a lot of times, those people in particular get the advice to use a functional resume to cover up the gaps in their work history or their irrelevant experience. What it means at a minimum is that I have to evaluate those resumes differently and define the questions they raise: why was the applicant apparently not working from 2004-2007? Was this change in jobs a promotion, or lateral? They've worked in four totally different fields - do they even have a career trajectory, or are they improvising?

Often when these questions come up they're enough to easily disqualify the person because there are almost always a pile of linear, clear resumes to choose from instead. I don't want to have to do the detective work to figure out what's going on here. In short, it's too difficult to evaluate the career trajectory of someone with a functional resume.

Contrast that with the person who has a similar work history, but creates a chronological resume. Then in their cover letter they will slide in a mention of "I was out of the country with my partner's work assignment for the past three years" or "I took time off to raise my son" or "I was freelancing" or "...after a major layoff I spent a year volunteering with Boys and Girls Club where I did this, that and the other." They have both answered my questions up front and given me the basic chronological information I need to understand their work history and indicate some sort of trajectory. I understand enough about job types, functions, and titles in my field to get the kind of role people fulfilled in their former work environments without breaking it down by function. Development is development, administration is administration, PR is PR, education is education, with some slight variations. If someone just lays out what jobs they've had and for whom and when, they haven't confused me, they've addressed any perceived weaknesses, and they come across as trustworthy. In their cover they interpret this work history for me and highlight their fit with my available job.

It's the most complete way to present yourself without raising unwanted questions.
posted by Miko at 7:33 AM on January 5, 2012


When I'm reading applications, it's highly likely that yours is the 37th of 100 in a stack that I have an hour to sort through. You get 30 seconds of my time on that first pass, and if I can't figure out immediately that you likely have what I'm looking for, I put you in the "no" pile, because that's easier for me. It sucks, but that's the world we live in. That means that I want a cover letter that lays out specifically how your experience will serve my company and a resume that tells me when, where, and how you got that experience.

If you've had jobs that are "very diverse combos of communications, administrative, and fundraising tasks," you shouldn't just have one resume. You should have at least three, and possibly more, and you should send to each job a resume that highlights the what that job is asking you to bring to the table. I'm in the process of changing industries (for the second time in my career), and I'm actively using five different versions of my resume in my current job search. As a hiring manager, f I'm hiring an admin, I care only a little that you can raise a million dollars, but a lot that you can negotiate contracts with a vendor to save my company a million dollars. If I'm hiring an external relations manager, your admin skills mean very little, but I want to hear all about the communications work you've done. If your chronological resume comes out as a "jumble of responsibilities," I would submit that you need to rewrite it a little each time you apply for a job, with the specific goal of getting this one job in mind.

I disagree slightly with the people above who say that the purpose of a resume is to tell the hiring manager everything you've been doing in your career. The purpose of a resume is to tell the hiring manager the things you've been doing with your career that are relevant to the hiring manager's needs. That means that yes, I want to be able to see at first glance how many years of experience you have and that your roles have gotten progressively more impressive and that there aren't unexplained gaps or discrepancies in your job history. A functional resume would confuse me, and I'd be unlikely to bring you in for an interview if I was confused. But I also want to be able to see at first glance that you have the skills relevant to my specific needs, which means that a lot of the responsibilities you've had may not matter to me. Pare it down to just what I'm looking for, and highlight that.
posted by decathecting at 7:55 AM on January 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


In my last job I did lots of hiring and saw hundreds of resumés every year. I definitely had a preference for the chronological style. I don't know that I ever ruled anyone out entirely based on not having it in the chronological style, but the rest of the content would have to be pretty dazzling for me to schedule an interview: as a few others have stated above, you will have the screeners' attention for a minute tops when they are deciding if you go in the 'yes' or 'no' pile, so you may as well maximize your chances of heading for the 'yes' pile.

And if I could give one useful tip, I would I want to echo Kadin2048's point above, about the sheer uselessness of the 'objectives' section. When I left my old job, I was asked to help screen my potential replacements. I can tell you with certainty that no one else on the planet had a business card that read the same as mine. (Let us say I was a Network Safety Deposit Supervisor, to string a few random words together). Most of the dozens of applicants stated that their life's ambition was to become a Network Safety Deposit Supervisor. Well, aren't you lucky the job was advertised?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:04 AM on January 5, 2012


"It would be easier for you to look at that jumble of of responsibilities in a chronological format than it would be for you to have my experience grouped by task? Why is that?"

Ugh, functional is confusing. I only look at resumes for higher-level executive positions and only after HR has vetted them (so, generally just the finalists), but I prefer chronological. First, I'm familiar with most of the job titles in the industry, so when I see "XM5572 Specialist" I know that that person was managing XM5572 workers, interfacing with a difficult government agency, managing significant workflow, overseeing a fairly large budget while complying with federal reporting rules, etc. I'm not confused by your job descriptions; I understand they come with diverse experience. Whereas when you put "Oversaw budgets and met federal reporting rules" by itself, and I have to go hunting for the jobs in which you did that? CONFUSING.

When I see that you've got a job on there that's NOT from my industry, and I'm not very familiar with, I say, "Hm, what's that?" and slow down to more carefully read the bullet points. So either I'm familiar with your job titles, so I'm aware they come with diverse experience, or I'm reading carefully about the unfamiliar ones.

Also, when someone has been doing a job that wasn't a close fit to what we do most recently, most successful applicants just de-emphasize that in terms of putting just a couple of bullet points, while emphasizing their more relevant work by putting many more bullet points. That works fine, I'm not stupid, I understand that their digression into Basket Weaving for a year provided them with good experience but that skills from their older position in Dolphin Training are more relevant. And the chronological sequence helps me see how their career choices went; it's not unusual at a certain point as people come into management in my industry to see them move in a couple of different directions for short periods before settling into a role (perhaps the one we're interviewing for) ... some of it is "breaking in" to management, some of it is trying some different things to see what the individual is good at, some of it is what jobs are available at the time the person is looking.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:12 AM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've only hired someone once, but the dates were definitely something that we considered. When were the jobs? How long were they? The resume reader wants to know that you stayed at those 3 jobs for 3 years each, not 3 months.

Personally in applying for jobs, I've had more luck since I took out a bunch of details. I'm a young'n so I still show job titles from my teens and to explain working holiday time, but I include bullet points for some roles and skip them for others.

Basket Weaving Manager: bullet points.
Assistant to Basket Weaving Manager: bullet points.
Apple picker
Movie theatre floor sweeper
Junior Basket Weaver: bullet points
Assistant to Junior Basket Weaver: bullet points
Gas station attendant

So you can see how long I've been working, and that I've never been at any job for less than X amount of time, and that I've been doing customer service for ages (relevant to my recent job searches for Basket Sales), but in cases where the job location tells you everything you need to know (what else could I possibly have done at a gas station?) there isn't further detail. Selective detail also made the chronological format seem a lot less painful to me.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:31 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


All the things you're trying to get across, that you sound *angry* about losing? That's exactly what the cover letter and the top "strapline" are for now.

It wasn't always that way. The functional resume *used* to be good, awesome and helpful. It's got some great things going for it. It's also really good at hiding gaps in employment, jobs that are meaningless to career direction, job hopping, etc., etc. So many people with hireability issues have used the functional resume to hide things, highlight skills that sound like BS with things that weren't actually in their job descriptions.

After a while, as someone who hires a lot, the functional resume sends a red flag, is more work to compare to other candidates, doesn't work with our automated systems that allow us to validate and send to other hiring managers, is based on the candidate's judgement of what makes "People Skills" and "Tech Smarts" as opposed to deliverables, actions and results. With a lot of candidates to sort through, unless something is amazing in the cover letter, it'll get dumped by my HR person before it even gets to me.

Remember that unless you're applying at very small companies, the ability to work within automated resume systems -- scanning for keywords, reformatting your doc to fit their system, etc. -- is the first step to getting anyone's attention. And, rightly or wrongly, those systems aren't set up for that.
posted by Gucky at 8:38 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you've had jobs that are "very diverse combos of communications, administrative, and fundraising tasks," you shouldn't just have one resume. You should have at least three, and possibly more

That advice is solid gold.
posted by Miko at 8:41 AM on January 5, 2012


For what it's worth, I worked with a recruiter (here in Scotland) who suggested a combined approach - functional CV on page 1, brief rundown of roles held on page 2. It worked like a charm when I converted my chronological CV to this format - I got a big bump in responses. This is in comms/web development where most of the recruiters are not HR people though, but the actual hiring decision maker.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:50 AM on January 5, 2012


that you sound *angry* about losing

I am angry, and very very frustrated that this thing that I worked on for so long, that got me tons of interviews for years and years and years suddenly has to be completely remade.

I'm also REALL angry that, as part of my severance package, I was given two months consulting with someone who is reputed to be the top recruiter in this small city who basically said "yeah, this is all good, it's a little unorthodox but it will work fine" when that clearly wasn't the case, and that I've wasted months of time and probably lost more than a few really good job prospects because this supposedly "top guy" didn't or couldn't give me any advice that is anywhere near as helpful or straightforward as what I'm getting from Metafilter.

I do have great cover letters (actually, what I have been doing is somewhat the reverse of the norm, I guess: my cover letter lays out the story of my work history in an engaging but semi-chronological way, carefully highlighting why I'm a good fit for your particular organization), and a wide variety of resumes that are carefully tailored to each job. My work history isn't hidden, it's right there along the left-hand side of the page for everyone to see. I used to get so many complements on my resume, from all over, it's just hard for me to make the adjustment to the idea that what I'm using is now considered a piece of crap designed to misdirect.

More than anything, I guess, I feel like the preference for the chron style is going to leave me stuck doing the same stuff I've been doing for the past eight years and won't allow me to highlight the things that I'm good at and that I have experience at and that are actually the work I want to be doing, with a real career path and everything. I'm just going to be stuck being the "really talented jack of all trades nonprofit admin" for the rest of my life because that's what any chronological listing of my job history shows now. I have so much really diverse experience, but I feel like I'll never get a chance to show it because any chronological recounting of my work history is "she left a good career as a trainer to be a nonprofit admin" and that's all.

So yeah, pissed off and feeling like "the new way" leaves me very little room for growth? Absolutely that and so much more. (And clearly I'm venting now, so I'll stop.)
posted by anastasiav at 8:59 AM on January 5, 2012


You can do a hybrid style. I have a section in my resume, entitled "jobs", that lists in chronological order the positions I have held. I have another section in my resume, in my case "customer engagements", that pulls out the top skills I wanted showcased for a customer facing role.

My resume is 1 page so it must be tailored for every position. The "customer engagements" section of my resume is plug and play, it can be swapped out for another that highlights any attributes in a given job posting.

The resume seems to be working - I have probably a 20% hit rate in terms of interviews/submissions.

I will memail you a copy.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:09 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really don't think the format of your resume is going to keep you stuck at all. Your cover letter and your clarity about your goals and ambitions will put the work history in context. Also, you should consider having a top section, before everything, that is a "highlights of qualiifications" or "skills summary" listing. Bullet points, less than 1 line apiece, calling out the strengths and ambitions you've shown in your work.

this thing that I worked on for so long, that got me tons of interviews for years and years and years suddenly has to be completely remade.

But do expect to keep doing this. I've remade my resume entirely each time I've gone on the job market, and each update has been really good at strengthening the overall presentation. And the advice about having more than one version is great advice, too. It's meant to be a living document, and something you can tailor to each job - don't fall into thinking of it as part of the fossil record that you just update with a new line each time you leave a job. In fact, I asked a friend to critique my pretty good resume last time around, and he came back with this huge list of assignments including things like hanging the bullets and reordering topics and just hours of work that I thought I had behind me - but the result was a much improved resume. The more ambitious you get, the more you want the resume to reflect your awareness of current standards - and meet them.

It is a shame your recruiter didn't caution you better - maybe you should let them know you're not getting good feedback on this format. At least you might help others who come after you.
posted by Miko at 10:54 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can retain a lot of what you have by creating a hybrid one. This allows them to quick see your history in chronological order but still retain all your specialties.

I also include a "summary" section. This is a summary of all varies skills I have and it's a great way to showcase them.

So example:

Title / Company 2008-2011
Top accomplishments / key skills:
* blah blah blah
* blah blah blah

Fundraising:
* blah blah blah
* blah blah blah

Communications:
* blah blah blah
* blah blah blah

Administrative:
* blah blah blah
* blah blah blah
posted by vocpanda at 12:49 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


As someone else recently changing fields, I want to add weight to some of the excellent recommendations - Kadin's point in particular:
there's a certain amount of flexibility in the chronological section; staying relevant to the position you're applying for overrides all other rules. E.g., if you spent ten years doing x, and then 18 months doing y, and now you're applying for a job doing x, I'd make sure that x was at the top of the work experience section, even if that meant dropping y completely or breaking the chronology.
Talk to people in your industry to see if there are particulars you need to address. Get some of them to offer feedback - for me that was, bar none, the most helpful thing I did in creating a resume to represent me in my new field - asking seasoned pros and colleagues to give me candid feedback.

Originally, I had talked with our career services, but they didn't know my program or my field, and almost convinced me not to use a sidebar listing key skills and tools that sounds a bit like crazy canuck's. But when I showed a draft version around to people in my field, it got a much more positive reaction. Just goes to emphasis that the people you want to impress are not generic - you need to target your field, and that means getting some help.

Don't use an objective statement at the top of the resume, but what I've seen increasingly replace it is a value statement - this is a sentence or two about who you are, what awesomeness you bring to the table and how. Then make sure the bulleted stuff in your varied jobs backs it up. I also had a fairly varied previous set of careers... but when I really looked at them, I realized there were reasons so many people from those disparate fields went into my new field.

Don't waste much ink describing responsibilities - unless the title of your job was esoteric, HR will be able to tell the basics. Instead, highlight accomplishments and things you were recognized for that relate to the job you're applying for.

* THING I DID that QUANTIFY IF POSSIBLE achieved RESULT HERE.
* By arming the bears, I ensured a 150% increase in butthurt plaid-wearing hunters

You might create a master resume document - a purely for your eyes only brain dump of all the noteworthy stuff you can think of. Then you can create streamlined tailored copies for particular types of positions, removing irrelevant bulleted stuff to let the relevant info shine through.



Yes, it sucks to have to re-do your resume. But if it gets you a job, it will be worth it.
posted by canine epigram at 5:01 PM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am angry, and very very frustrated that this thing that I worked on for so long, that got me tons of interviews for years and years and years suddenly has to be completely remade.

I'm also REALL angry that, as part of my severance package, I was given two months consulting with someone who is reputed to be the top recruiter in this small city who .......... didn't or couldn't give me any advice that is anywhere near as helpful or straightforward as what I'm getting from Metafilter.


This is a sunk cost. It's done.

--

Three jobs is not much space to cover on a chronological resume. You can get down and dirty pretty quick. Be more brief about the non-profit admin stuff and focus on the aspects that also cross over into the trainer sector.

I'm just going to be stuck being the "really talented jack of all trades nonprofit admin" for the rest of my life because that's what any chronological listing of my job history shows now. I have so much really diverse experience, but I feel like I'll never get a chance to show it because any chronological recounting of my work history is "she left a good career as a trainer to be a nonprofit admin" and that's all.

As one really talented jack of all trades nonprofit admin to another, c'mon. I'm sure there are nonprofit admins out there who are really talented but don't show it at work — but you do and I do because we give a shit, and THAT is something any employer wants to hire. We also have some reason for wanting to work at a nonprofit, sometimes this particular nonprofit, and there is usually some kickass factor inside of that as well.

3 jobs!

recent job
- i went above and beyond
- people loved me

previous job
- i was wicked awesome
- and super effective

previouser job that's on the track I want to be on
- OMG
- you SO want to hire me
- i did this amazing thing
- oh wow i loved it
- and people already loved me too
- i was already super effective
- and did i mention wicked awesome
posted by heatherann at 5:35 PM on January 5, 2012


I just did a search, and resumes were all over the place. Once applicant didn't list education at all, even though there was a degree requirement. One person didn't send a resume, but asked to get a phone call so he could describe his capability. Several applicants didn't send cover letters at all. There were also some really great cover letters and resumes. We interviewed a number of people by phone, and several in person, and hired a terrific person.

Make it easy. I work for a publicly-funded institution, so we have rigorous requirements for assessing candidates equally. There was a search committee. A functional resume makes it more difficult to rank that resume in the same way other resumes are ranked. Multiply that inconvenience by the number of people doing the ranking. I didn't mind when applicants used hackneyed, overused terms, because it made it really easy to identify the skills we wanted. One of our finalists had some skills we need a couple jobs back; we saw the skills with no trouble. It didn't hurt that he pointed them out in his cover letter. One applicant used a narrow column on the right-hand to highlight specific skills. Not customized to our requirements, which would have been better, but still quite helpful and got good attention.

More than a few agencies and companies use software to assess resumes. The easier you make your resume to scan, the better. I once got resume help after a layoff and a functional resume was recommended. But everyone I know who does hiring dislikes them. As much time as you've put into your resume, a re-do can actually help you find fresh phrasing, and I do think a chronological resume is preferred.

I am angry, and very very frustrated
Job searching is a constant assault on your psyche. Rejection is constant, especially when the economy is so bad, and hiring is rare. You have madd skillz, but maybe your talents aren't typical, so you want to present them in a way that has worked for you before.

I know from ask.me that you are really smart and really capable. I sympathize with the huge soul-crushing suckiness of job-hunting. Keep in mind that you are one of the star answerers of Ask.me. Be really pissed off for a couple days, then do whatever it takes to keep your self-image totally positive and confident, as is well-deserved. If you need somebody to help you review, shoot me an email.
posted by theora55 at 9:04 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I feel like I should follow up on this, so here's the update.

Several very nice Mefites offered to help with my resume, and I'm sorry if I missed replying to someone to thank them.

It turns out, just after I posted my question, I was asked to participate in three interviews, and then two more. Of those five, I got two offers and one company that is glacially slow in their process but who indicated they wanted to move me to the next round. I accepted a position today. It's not really the greatest job in the world, but it's one that pays the bills and after four months of unemployment that's important.

In all of this, I've realized that I need to do some things to refocus on the career I really want to pursue, and those things are bigger than rewriting my resume. But I will absolutely take all your helpful advice to heart when the time comes to renew my resume again.
posted by anastasiav at 5:33 PM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


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