Career Calling

December 14, 2013

Resume Formats

A client looked at a sample of my resumes and said it was exactly the way a resume should be formatted.  I asked her why she said this.  She heard an expert say so on the radio. While an easy sale is always nice, I challenged her thinking a little.  Rather than thinking one way is right or wrong, the key question to ask is about function and strategy: How does it work?

My priority in a format is to create something that is easy to read.  To do that, I arrange my work using a combination of paragraphs and bullets.  I also avoid frames, lines, and boxes except for a line at the top of the page.  Some resumes are formatted with great attention to graphic design.  There are two problems with this approach.  First, heavy formatting that makes a resume look good also makes it harder to read.  Rather than the eye moving from word to word and line to line as it would on the page of a book or magazine, it has to jump from box to box.  Worse still, some formatting features (headers, footers, tables) cannot be read by scanning software and never make it to a human screener.  What good is a great looking resume if it is never read by an employer?

My biggest problem with formats and functions is the claim that “bullets are easier to read.”  Every time we see a bullet, we stop reading.  So the all-bullet resume involves a series of start and stop actions that make it difficult to understand what a person does.  A well written paragraph (block) that describes job duties is easier to read.  Bullets are great to describe success stories and achievements, places where you would want a potential employer to stop and think about what you have to offer.

Never accept any resume “rule” as right because some experts says it is.  Go behind the “rule” to think about function and strategy.  There is no one size fits all.  While I use a similar format in all of my work, it changes from client to client based on what elements I want to highlight.  To put it simply: Beware of simple rules, especially when they involve resume formats.

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