How can you be certain your job search process is not outdated? With the workplace evolving at a breakneck pace, it just makes sense that your resume should evolve, too. New resume formats are making it easier than ever to highlight the very best parts of your work experience.
For one, the vast majority of resumes are being handled digitally. Most employers today use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to store, sort, and score candidates’ resumes. Whether stored digitally or printed, your resume gives hiring managers a hint at what you believe to be your most important professional accomplishments.
An outdated resume style can convey outdated experience, and an inability to keep up with the latest trends. This can obviously be detrimental to your chances of being selected for an interview. Plus, ATS are so finicky some formatting elements are completely unreadable to the systems.
So, what is the best resume format for your search? There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but here are some formatting tips for making your resume the best it can be for today’s job search.
What file type should I use?
There are a lot of options out there, including PDF, Microsoft Word (.doc and more recently .docx), plain text, and more.
Have your resume available in multiple formats, including PDF and Microsoft Word (.docx), which are the most common. Some employers request one format over the other for a variety of reasons, and each has its own strengths.
While a PDF document prints beautifully and retains your careful formatting, Microsoft Word documents are easy for the reader to copy and paste from, export into another format, or edit as needed. Every ATS has its own strengths and weaknesses, and some can handle certain file types better than others. If you can, find out which ATS your potential employer uses to be certain the file type will scan correctly. When in doubt, the .doc or .docx Word format has been tested to work very well.
One page or two?
Ideally, your resume should fit onto one page. Having a multi-page resume might seem like a great way to emphasize a large amount of experience, but in reality, it just means that your resume will not be read in its entirety. Hiring managers spend an average of just six seconds reading each individual resume, so be sure to include all your best points.
In fact, there are hiring managers out there who will deliberately pass over resumes with more than one page. Your resume’s content should be focused on quality, not quantity. If you’re in a specialized field or have 20+ years of experience it’s okay to go over the limit but clarity is always best.
Clutter, graphics, and other unnecessary features can also detract from your resume’s important details. Keep it simple.
Which sections should I include?
Do you include an education section? What skills should you list, and what order should the sections be in?
The answers come down to the type of job you’re going for and the type of experience you have. Always write to your audience, and consider what the reader needs to know in order to choose you for an interview.
An IT position doesn’t require your previous training in culinary arts. When choosing skills to include on your resume, focus only on the skills that pertain to the job you’re seeking. Not sure you’ve covered the right skills? Run your resume through Jobscan’s resume analysis tool to see what you might be missing.
For many industries, your college major isn’t as important as the fact that you have a bachelor’s degree. If you have completed a degree, you should include it simply because it’s so often required of today’s job seekers. Incomplete degrees or unrelated advanced degrees should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
How do I list my work experience?
When it comes to listing your previous experience, there are two main ways to go about it. If you need more information on formatting your resume take a look at this comprehensive guide.
The most common method involves listing previous employment in reverse chronological order. Each job has its own space with relevant details often presented in a bullet-point form.
- Demonstrates consistent employment.
- Offers insight into upward career trajectory.
- Enables writer to detail accomplishments and roles.
- Makes gaps in employment more apparent.
- Takes up space, especially later in a career.
- Emphasizes employment history and titles over skills.
One rule of thumb is to limit the experience you list to jobs related to the field you’re applying in. If you are applying for a job as a software developer, listing your first job as a dishwasher isn’t necessary- in fact, it’s ill advised.
And if you have decades of experience, consider listing only your most recent 10 years of work in detail, followed by a section called “Prior Professional Experience” that includes only your previous employers, job titles, and dates of employment.
A functional resume format focuses more on what you can do than what you have done. Your skills take center stage, and your chronological employment history—while still present—takes a back seat.
This is an especially good resume format for people who are changing careers, just starting out, or who have gaps in their work history.
- Great format for positions that are skill-based.
- Hides gaps in work history by making them less apparent.
- Many hiring managers see this format as a deliberate effort to obscure a candidate’s work history.
A functional format can be incorporated into a hybrid resume, where work experience is still listed chronologically, but skills are emphasized over your employer, dates of employment, and job titles.
A hybrid resume format is pretty self explanatory; it’s a mixture of chronological and functional resume formats aimed to highlight your most relevant work experience in a semi-chronological format.
- Great format for positions that you may not have done most recently
- Diminishes gaps in work history by making them less apparent without hiding anything
- Excellent for skill based positions or a candidate with a lot of relevant skills
- Potentially confusing for a hiring manager/recruiter to follow the chronological work experience
Here is a helpful infographic on how to choose from these resume formats:
Are there any tips or tricks to writing resume content?
Don’t be afraid to highlight important information. If you feel that there is something the reader should definitely see, give it its own space on your resume to let it stand out. That’s the beauty with modern resume formats, they’re highly malleable.
Don’t focus on role responsibilities; instead, focus on what you accomplished in each position. Employers know that customer service representatives handle customer issues and do data entry. What they’re looking for are the things you did that make you an extraordinary candidate. Did you win any awards? Improve processes? Learn interesting technologies? Train new employees? Remember, your resume is meant to sell you as a candidate.
Always have your resume proofread by someone else. Your brain has a tendency to fill in gaps and correct typos for you as you read, especially for words you wrote yourself. Let someone give it a once-over with fresh eyes. If you’re starting from scratch, write it right the first time by following the steps in this resume writing guide.
With these tips, you should be able to create an amazing resume with a fresh format that makes you an irresistible candidate.
See if your resume format is ATS-proof by scanning it here: