There is no one format for a resume that works for everyone. A resume will not get you a job but you won’t get a job without one either. Think of your resume as your brochure similarly to how companies prepare brochures.
Company brochures describe their products or services using language that resonates with their customers. This means that the brochure must address what customers believe they want or know they need. If the brochure doesn’t resonate very quickly with what customers are interested in, customers typically discard the brochure and will have no further reason to contact the company.
Your resume is your brochure. If your resume doesn’t resonate very quickly with a potential employer, they typically will discard it and have no further reason to contact you. You may get a rejection letter or even a notice that you may be contacted should a position open up in the future that would be appropriate for you. You shouldn’t count on hearing from them again.
Resumes for those entering the job market for the first time, having only a couple of years of work experience or working at traditionally blue-collar jobs will be very different from those in mid-career, such as managers, executives, experienced staff, and professionals. For the latter group, particularly those in their thirties and beyond, the job market is different and, consequently, requires a different and more focused approach.
Since the career information on this website is directed specifically at those in mid-career, so too is the information on resumes. If you are in mid-career, recruiters and employers are going to be evaluating you more on your last ten-plus years of work experience and less on your academic qualifications. This means that others will be starting to typecast you by function and industry. If you are looking to make a vertical job change (progressing up the ladder) within the same industry, that won’t usually be an issue. If, however, you want to change industry, that will be more difficult.
In 12 Steps to a New Career, I describe the different formats of resumes and the pros and cons of using each one. If you are making a career change, you should read and follow the guidance in that book before you start to prepare your resume.
A resume format that I recommend for those in mid-career is a combination format. You can download the Resume Guidelines document that describes and illustrates that format. I caution people who want to take from the example only what they want or decide to modify it based on someone else’s ideas. After being on both sides of the table and participating in numerous interviews with my recruiters and clients (see Carl Wellenstein's bio), the format I recommend will enable you to prepare a powerful resume that will serve you well.
Prepare only one version of your resume. Bridge the gap between your resume and what the recipient wants to know about you in your cover letter. Don’t tailor your resume for each person because you then will have multiple versions of your resume in circulation and you increase the likelihood that you will get screened out if the reader gets two different versions.
Keep your resume focused on what you want and what skills and experience you bring to the table directly relating to what you want. Do not include personal characteristics or activities that do not bear specifically on the job you are seeking.