Best Resume Formats
February 22, 2005 3:26 PM   Subscribe

What is the best format for a resume? I realize this is subjective and often based on field of employment.

I'm pretty content right now, but am a firm believer in having a resume ready for an amazing opportunity or an unfortunate series of events. With that in mind I set about to update my resume this past weekend and realized that I've had the same format, more or less, for nearly a decade.

What looks best for an all purpose resume? I've heard that highlighting skills over chronology is all the rage right now, but don't employers still look for consistent employment history, etc? How do you address that? Any other new tips and tricks or special layout notes to be aware of?

If it matters I currently work as a product manager for an Internet company.
posted by FlamingBore to Work & Money (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A skills section can be useful, especially if you have specific skills which may be valuable. For instance if you are a programmer you would certainly want to list the languages in which you are fluent. Nevertheless, you will still need the employment chronology. If I don't see that on a resume, I suspect something fishy. There are lots of theories on style, but to get noticed in this day and age of resume deluge I think it pays to have something important up near the top. I also like short, one page preferred, resumes with an easy to read layout. Keep the important stuff to the left, and let unimportant stuff like dates float to the right. Use all action words of course and include some accomplishments, like streamlining department workflow to reduce expenses by 25%.
posted by caddis at 3:38 PM on February 22, 2005

Keep it short and simple. Highlight technical skills for a technical job, education and accomplishments within the field for an academic job, practice for a trade job, awards and specialized training and publishing for an administrative job. A single sheet for anything but an academic vitae, or if the prospective employer requires a multi-page retelling of victories of some sort.

I think you can highlight skills and keep your employment history in chronological order.

As a graphic designer, I get hit on to typeset lots of resumes for friends. Strange as it may sound, even for folks applying for high level trade and technical jobs, nice paper and printing make a big difference; a good heavy cream stock, with good black print and maybe the name in red (PMS 200 or so) really stands out in the face of the tremendous blah that HR folks wade through every day.

And don't forget to spend twice as much time editing as you do writing it!
posted by luriete at 4:42 PM on February 22, 2005

(And PS: it's all about typeface. Use real small caps, use italics correctly, and keep it very, very legible.)
posted by luriete at 4:44 PM on February 22, 2005

I think the format of the Microsoft Word resumes everyone uses is a pretty good one. Even if it needs some tuning to be attractive. One page is good for non-academic jobs.

I keep adding stuff to my resume as I go along, but don't bother fine-tuning it until I actually need to send it out for something.
posted by grouse at 4:45 PM on February 22, 2005

I have two resumes: a longer, more inclusives HTML version that I can link, and then a one page abbreviated .doc version that I can bring in to interviews.

One thing I've learned is that even if you have your short .doc resume linked from your long html version, people WILL print out your html resume -- so make sure it prints decently!
posted by arielmeadow at 5:05 PM on February 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

Basic model:

One page, Times New Roman 12 point. Sparing use of type effects.

Education first, chronological summary of employment second. If your basic professional / skill profile isn't obvious from the foregoing, consider a very brief bullet-pointed executive summary before the education.

Fun point: if applying outside the US, age and family status are compulsory information, when in the US it's illegal to ask, and a bad idea to volunteer on a cv because a dumb employer might think it illegal to hire you if you give that info!
posted by MattD at 5:11 PM on February 22, 2005

I won't pretend to speak for the mainstream, but I think a good cover letter is far more important than a resume. You can expound a bit on why you're perfect for the job, and in prose rather than bullet points. Your cover letter should also be highly tailored to the job/organization you're applying to/for.

Your personality will come across far more effectively in a cover letter and that's an increasingly important factor in hiring these days. I usually don't even bother with a resume anymore and just list any required technical skills in the cover letter itself. As others have suggested with the resume, keep it to one page.
posted by zanni at 5:41 PM on February 22, 2005

One page. Just one page. Work history goes in order starting with most recent; skills go last.
Only put skills first if they're looking for very specific things like certifications or certain languages.
Don't bother with an "objective" or "statement". It's usually too vague to be useful.
Don't get too detailed with jobs in your work history that have little bearing on what you're currently going for. You want to highlight and summarize your relevant experience.
Don't use a tiny fontsize to squeeze it all in. Make judicious use of your white space.
I remember reading that the average time spent looking at a resume is 15 seconds, so make sure what important bits you want an employer to see are easy to spot.
Get your nitpickiest friends to look at it for you. Absolutely no spelling errors or layout problems. Edit like nuts.

What zanni said about cover letters: I agree. Get your resume to a letter-perfect "generally applicable" state and knock yourself out with the specifics on the cover letter. Employers will be more interested in the personal (tailored to them) than the impersonal (the same resume you send out everywhere).
posted by Melinika at 6:41 PM on February 22, 2005

The purpose of a resume (and a cover letter) is to get you to the interview stage. If you're interviewed, the interview will be much more important in the hiring decision than the resume.

There is a temptation to have just one version of your resume, to be used for any employer. That can be a mistake. If you're sending your resume out selectively (and you should be, because your cover letter should be taylored to the company you're applying to), then you should give strong consideration to modifying the resume as well, at least so that it includes the most relevant information for the potential employer.

But perhaps the single most important thing is to have someone else (ideally, several someone elses) read your resume and point out possible errors. And anything that a reasonable person considers a possible error should probably be changed.
posted by WestCoaster at 10:25 PM on February 22, 2005

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