Is Your Resume Format Keeping You Unemployed?

You probably have figured out by now that there is no shortage of conflicting information when it comes to resumes, cover letters, and job search strategy overall. The reason for this is simple, different employers have different expectations and it’s your job as a job seeker to give them what they want! Some recruiters and hiring managers will only look at your resume if there is a customized cover letter attached, while others will completely disregard the cover letter. This is just one of many discrepancies you’ll find as a job seeker of today! Let’s explore some common areas of confusion as they relate to formatting your resume:

Objective vs. Profile

We’ll start with this easy one. Objectives are very selfish and “I” focused. It might read something like, “I am looking for a position where I can utilize my communication skills and career advancement within your company.” In this age of extreme job-search competition, you must deliver value to your prospective employers. With this said, consider using a profile that highlights your career accomplishments. Something like, “#1Ranked Sales Leader, generating over $45M in revenue growth and exceeding gross margin expectations by over 200% consistently.” It can be short and succinct. It can be in paragraph style or bullet-points just make sure it contains plenty of keywords to be picked up by Applicant Scanning Systems.

Reverse Chronological, Functional, or Combination

Quick definitions: Reverse chronological – most recent position first, then subsequent positions in reverse order. Functional – categorized by job type (not listed in order of dates worked). Combination – some combination of functional and chronological (grouped by job type with some listing of dates worked in reverse chronological order). Still, the most widely accepted format option is the reverse chronological. Employers often think a candidate has something to hide if one of the other styles is used. However, if there are any long gaps in employment or frequent job changes, sometimes the functional or combinations can be the superior ways to convey your skills and abilities to perform the job, without drawing too much attention to your employment dates. These approaches may also choke applicant tracking systems, so when you’re using these strategies, be sure to still use the reverse chronological for your ASCII text version (ATS friendly).

Education First or Last

It depends, if you lack experience and/or if your education is very recent (3 year or less) and it is pertinent to your career goal, then I do recommend placing it in a more prominent position on your resume (perhaps above the fold). However, if you have significant experience then you can place more emphasis on that vs. your formal education.

Do I Include Dates or Not?

Dates are kinda tricky… A generally accepted practice is to include 10-15 years of your work history on your resume. Sometimes your relevant experience is farther back than that! In that case (depending on how far back), I recommend including a section called Additional Work Experience, and summarizing the time spent at each position, ex. Project Manager, General Dynamics, Phoenix, AZ, (6 years). Otherwise, particularly with your education, degrees don’t expire so unless it is fairly new there is no need to include dates. Just be consistent. If you include dates for one degree, include dates for all degrees. NOTE: Age discrimination does exists and if you’re telling employers right off the bat that you have 30+ years of experience, then you may be doing your job search a disservice. So be careful!

These insights are formed from my own interactions with hiring managers, recruiters, insight from HR leaders, colleagues within my industry, and trends that I’ve observed on hundreds of clients that I’ve supported over the years. There is no single answer to many of these confusing points, but these strategies have served my clients well as I hope that they lead you to success as well. Leave a comment and let me know if these tips have helped you or if you’d like to see more.



About the Author:

Brenda M. Cunningham, the Career Positioning Coach, is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and National Job Search Strategist. Brenda’s mission is to show professionals how to accelerate their career advancement, have more satisfaction, and make more MONEY$$. For more information on customized career positioning, resume development, transition coaching, and comprehensive career management, visit,, or call 602-570-7593.


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