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Chronological vs. functional resume

Posted by Pattie Hunt Sinacole  March 18, 2013 07:14 AM

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Q: It's been more than 2 years since I was last employed. Should I change the chronological format of my resume to one that highlights my work experience (35+ years) rather than show the gap in employment? I have already deleted the second page of my resume because it was no longer pertinent to a background in mechanical drafting.

A: Great question. Let me share the advantages and disadvantages of both the chronological resume and the functional resume.

The chronological resume typically has an objective or summary at the top. Then, the candidate’s work history is detailed starting with the present role and working backwards. The education section is at the bottom sometimes along with special skills, certifications or relevant training.

Advantages:
Most employers and hiring professionals are familiar reviewing this type of format.
It is easy to follow for the reader, perhaps because the chronological resume is more commonly used.

This type of format highlights the candidates’ most recent experience, which is often the most relevant. It is also easy to follow a career progression with this type of resume.

Disadvantages:
This format can accentuate gaps in a candidate’s work history.
It may not be the best format for career changers or those re-entering the workforce.

The functional resume groups together common skills. As an example, there may be skills headings like management/supervisory skills, technical skills, sales skills or scientific skills. A candidate’s work history is provided toward the bottom of the resume. Education, certifications, and special skills are often detailed at the very end of this type of resume.

Advantages:The format can help a candidate highlight capabilities and skills which are transferrable, which is good for candidates changing careers.
A functional resume can de-emphasize short stints within a career. This format can also minimize the focus on periods of unemployment.

Disadvantages:
This type of resume is a bit more difficult to review, from the reader’s perspective. Many hiring professionals are taught to look for gaps in a candidate’s work history. This format tends to make this process more challenging.
The focus is more on transferrable skills but sometimes the employer’s names are hard to find if this format is used.

Finally, you may want to using a functional resume and comparing it to the chronological version you have been using. One final tip for your resume: if you have 35 plus years of experience, consider dropping the months off of your chronological format. Instead of May, 1991 – November, 2011, consider 1991 – 2011. This tip may also help take the focus off of your recent period of unemployment.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.

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