Resumes and Cover Letters
There are various resume formats you can choose from when creating your resume. One format may highlight your strengths more than others. Listed are the advantages and disadvantages of each type of resume to help you decide.
There are also free downloadable resume templates (and a cover letter template) at the end of this section followed by helpful resume tips.
A chronological resume is probably the most popular resume people choose to create. A chronological resume lists your employment starting from your most recent. Information includes what your job title was, dates you worked at the job (hence the name, chronological), and what you did or accomplished at each position. After displaying your work experience, education follows.
A chronological resume is most often the easiest to create and provides a great starting point.
Advantages of a chronological resume:
- Employers can easily read and scan for information
- Human Resource departments prefer this resume
- Online applications are commonly formatted this way
- Ideal if you have no gaps in employment
- Great if your former employers are impressive
- Accepted internationally
- Highlights gaps of employment (if you have them)
- Gets lengthy if you have lots of experience to add
- Irrelevant when changing careers completely
A functional resume will showcase your skills and experience but will not necessarily list your career history in chronological order. It is called a functional resume because the skills and experience are grouped according to their “function” and listed in order of importance.
Most people list their employment history at the bottom of the resume, with only their job title, company name, city and state, and some include dates of employment. The focus is then on the qualifications (listed by function) at the top instead of your employment history.
The resume should start with a professional summary of your strengths. A highlight of skills or the needs related to the job you are applying for. The company’s needs would be listed on the job description.
Advantages of a functional resume:
- You can include skills acquired from sources other than employment such as volunteer experience and school activities
- Advantageous if you have little work history or if you have a lot of unrelated employment for the career in which you are applying
- An option for older workers who wish to appear younger on paper (not showing dates)
- Not as well received by HR departments as a chronological resume
- Managers could think an applicant is trying to hide something
- Will be difficult to translate to an online application that requires dates
Michael Tomaszewski (Resume Expert at Uptowork), offers additional functional resume templates & examples.
Skills Format Resume
A skills format resume (sometimes called a combined format resume) allows the benefits of the chronological and functional resumes by combining the two. This type of resume starts with your skills on top and also includes your experience. If you need flexibility, this may be an option.
Advantages of a skills format resume:
- Highlights your skills and employment
- Can tailor resume to job description using functional section on top
- Many employers still prefer a chronological resume
- Difficult to transfer to an online application that uses chronological inputs
Free Resume Templates
These templates are in Microsoft Word format. If you do not own Microsoft Office, Google Documents can open a Word Document (.doc) file.
- Your resume is your marketing tool! Check job descriptions for commonly used buzz words that your career field is using. Make sure your wording is current.
- You do not have to list your street address (though you can); your city and state work just fine. If you are applying for a position out of town, you may consider listing only your phone number and email address.
- Do not use fancy font or graphics. Arial, Gill Sans MT, and Trebuchet MS have some of the best readability. A minimum font-size of 11 pt should be used.
- Have a few people you trust proofread your resume before sending it out. These reviewers may also offer some valuable recommendations such as additional skills or strengths you may have left out.
- Your resume should be no longer than two pages. There are rare occasions when a resume can be longer, such as if you are going after a profession that requires you to showcase your experience and qualifications in detail. Those of you who need the longer resume probably know who you are. If you are not sure, chances are you do not fit in this category. Keep your resume at a two-page length.
- Unless you are going for an acting gig or some other type of job where looks matter, do not add your photo to your resume.
- One great place to view how people word their work history is LinkedIn.com. Look through profiles and gain inspiration and examples that you can use as an aide to improve your own resume.
- If you have a conviction, it is best not to show a gap in employment. If you performed job tasks while incarcerated, treat that if it were employment. For the name of your employer, simply write “State of New York” (for example) and the address. State the years you were at the facility and list the tasks you performed – perhaps you helped in the kitchen. If you are filling out an application and you are faced with the question “why did you leave,” you can explain that you would rather discuss the reason for leaving during your interview.
- Do not use first person in your resume. For example, do not say “I managed 10 employees…” Just say, “Managed 10 employees…” Always use action verbs (there is a resource link below).
- If you have 31 years experience, you may not want to date yourself. You can relay the same message by simply indicating that you have “extensive” experience.
- Do not state your hobbies, birth date, marriage status, or any additional personal information.
- Do not list your high school diploma as education unless you do not have a college degree or vocational training.
- Only list awards and accomplishments that pertain to your career field. The fact that you were on your high school’s football championship team is not important.
- If you are a multimedia developer of any type (web, graphics, film or video, etc), you will most likely need to include a link to your portfolio. You can create one online quick and painless using: carbonmade.com.
A resume is your personal advertisement. Employers usually scan it for 30-60 seconds and that number is probably optimistic too. In fact, 7 seconds may be more likely. If it captures their attention they will continue to read it. Be concise and to the point and use action verbs.