Building a Better Resume

Job Seeking in the 21st Century

As with everything else in life, there are many different ways to approach each stage of your job search and career progression, including writing your resume. A key thing to remember is that most recruiters receive many more resumes than they have jobs to fill, so the amount of time they have to spend looking at each resume on the first round may be quite limited. Your resume must stand out from the rest if you want to get selected for the interview.

Most people are only aware of one resume format: chronological. The Chronological Resume generally has your name and contact information at the top, followed by a sentence or two about your ‘objective’, then a listing of your past jobs from most to least recent.

Another resume format is the Functional (or skills-based) Resume. In this format, the jobseeker highlights 3 to 7 skills that pertain to the job for which they are applying, usually selected from the list of desired skills in the original job posting.

Though it may not technically be a resume, the Curriculum Vitae, or CV, can be considered a type of resume that has no limit to its length. Think of it more like a biography of your career that goes into in-depth detail about your experience, skills, education and training, and accomplishments. While these have traditionally been more like a chronological resume, they work great with a functional or even hybrid format.

Another resume format is the Portfolio, which includes examples of work that you have performed or created. Photographers, software designers, writers, and other artists are the most common jobseekers to utilize a portfolio, but they work great for doctors, attorneys, salespeople, call-center representatives, and even cooks.

The resume type we will be promoting here will be the Hybrid Resume, which takes aspects from each of the above to create a document that stands out from the crowd while still being familiar and easy to digest for the recruiter reading it.

Before we talk about building a Hybrid Resume, let’s talk about why it’s our recommendation. As we’ve discussed, it stands out from everyone else, which is your first goal when submitting a resume — get noticed. The functional part of the hybrid resume will also shift the focus from what companies you’ve worked for, your job titles, and your tenure of employment to the skills you’ve acquired and how you will apply them to the job at their company. This shift in focus helps accomplish your second goal, which is to assist the recruiter in imagining you performing the job successfully. While Chronological Resumes penalize those who are first entering the workforce, have gaps in employment, or whose most significant or applicable experience is from long ago, the Hybrid Resume highlights the value of these candidates as potential employees.

A Hybrid Resume, like all others, will start with your name and contact information at the top. Make it large so recruiters can quickly identify it as yours, and make sure it’s on every page you submit (yes, you can have more than one page — more on that later.) Use this as an opportunity to align with their company branding by using fonts and colors found on their company website, logo, or products. Anything that makes you look like you belong at their company will help them remember you.

Next will still be your objective statement, but it should be more of a paragraph that summarizes the skills, experience, and personality that make you the right candidate for the position. Be sure to use full sentences and speak from a third-person voice as if the statement came from one of your professional references.

The main focus of the body of your Hybrid Resume will be a list of three to seven of your most applicable skills and some details about how you acquired them, your accomplishments in those areas, and how you plan to use them to contribute to the company’s mission. If you’re using section headers, you can title this one something like Highlighted Skills. Try to pick skills from the original job posting to make it relevant to the recruiter’s perceived needs or wants, but don’t be afraid to include one or two skills that you believe would be useful but that they might not have considered.

The Hybrid Resume includes a chronological listing of past jobs, including employer, job title, and dates of employment, but you can leave off any details like tasks performed or accomplishments while in that position (if these are important, find a way to include them in your Highlighted Skills section.) The slimmed-down format allows you to go back further in time.

If you have any education, certifications, or training that you’d like them to know about, you can create another section for this that’s similar to the employment history. Again, make sure extra details are included in the Highlighted Skills section if notable.

Now that you have a full Hybrid Resume, you can always extend it into a Portfolio or CV as needed by just adding more information. Resumes should have one to two pages, and neither page should be less than half full. The only restrictions on the length of CVs and Portfolios are those of practicality — physical size if printed or file size/load times if digital.

Finally, ensure the entire document is easy to read and has a natural visual flow from top to bottom and from left to right. Avoid layering colors or using fonts that may be difficult to discern for individuals with certain visual or cognitive differences (e.g., serif fonts are challenging to read for people affected by dyslexia, so sans-serif fonts are preferred). Avoid using styles that highlight extraneous portions of your resume or obscure relevant details.