Resume Formats - One Size Does Not Fit All

Resume Formats: One Size Does Not Fit All

Resumes are commonly thought to be something that must follow a certain cookie-cutter formula. In reality, your resume format is your ticket to an interview and must fit your individual situation like a glove.

Technical/IT Experience

A “standard” resume format typically includes a section at the bottom for skills. If you work in a technical/IT field, you need this section right at the top! A good place for this would be between your professional summary and your work experience. Break it down into sections such as:

  • Operating Systems: Windows, Linux
  • Software: CAD, AutoCAD, Dynascape
  • Languages: C+, C++
  • Security: Norton, McAfee

Also, creating a mini-version of this at the end of every employment section on your resume. This would show which of the things you listed at the top of your resume were used at each company, so the reader can get a feel for what kind of experience you have and how long you have used a program.

Skilled trade experience

A “standard” resume format typically does not include a section for equipment or tools that you have experience with. You owe it to yourself to create one – right at the top – in a similar format as the example shown above!

Where appropriate, you can do the mini-version after each position on your resume as well - also shown above.

Perceived instability

Many books on resume formats and job searches will tell you to put your resume in the “functional” format instead of the “chronological” format when you have had a lot of gaps in employment for example. This is usually not the best strategy because companies may require your resume to be in chronological order as it is the easiest for them to decipher. In some cases, a functional resume format may be skipped altogether if it is too difficult to read. Ways to work around this include:

  • Use years only for the date ranges spent at each employer – do not add months.
  • If you have done a lot of contract work with the same contract agency, you can group your assignments under this common employer and only provide a date range for the employer and not each assignment. You may also include the reason you left each position, if favorable, such as:
  • Company-wide restructuring
  • Layoff
  • Merger
  • Relocation for partner’s career

Job titles do not match experience

If your job title is “administrative assistant” but your experience goes well beyond what you would consider typical for that title, there are a couple of things you can do to slow the reader down and not have them glance over this position. While you cannot get very creative for your title because you need it to reasonably match what is seen from a background check during the hiring processes, you can put some specifics after the title:

  • Administrative Assistant (Sales & Marketing)
  • Administrative Assistant – Sales/Marketing

You can also bunch activities/responsibilities/duties together and give them headers, perhaps in bold to make them stand out, instead of just listing them and put the most relevant ones at the top. • Administrative Assistant

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Administration
  • Calendar management
  • Meeting coordination
  • Expense reports


Of course, hiring activities should not discriminate against more mature candidates, but it can happen, even subconsciously and there is no need to feed the flame.

Won’t they see how old I am in an interview, you ask? Yes, but remember the purpose of the resume is to get you an interview. Once you are in front of them at an interview, you have a chance to sell yourself a lot better than simply on paper, with both your maturity and your fresh ideas.

To avoid giving away clues to your age, remember to go against what you read in resume writing books and:

  • Do not list the year you graduated in the education section of your resume.
  • Only list the past ten years of your work history under “Work Experience” unless the position is extremely relevant.

No work experience

Just about everybody at one point or another has been frustrated with the conundrum of not getting selected for an entry level position because you lack experience and how can you get experience if no one will hire you because you do not have experience?

Here are a couple techniques to give yourself the upper hand

  • List relevant coursework at the top in a similar fashion as described above for IT and skilled trade professionals.

  • Don’t be afraid to list on-campus positions you have held such as RA, Cafeteria Cashier, etc. recruiters want to see that you are reliable and dependable even if your work experience is not particularly relevant.

Create a Volunteer Experience section on your resume and include

  • Relevant experience

  • Any experience where you can showcase significant accomplishments Having a custom resume format, not just to you, but to the position you are applying for is one of the most important parts of your job search. Interview training should take a close second.

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