Resume formats have undergone many changes over the years but one thing that has remained constant is the chronological resume format. This is the go to format for job seekers and the format that hiring managers have grown accustomed to receiving. But is this really the best format to promote your qualifications? Maybe at one time but it has become more common for individuals to have a variety of career experiences that span several industries. Especially in recent years when job seekers may have been forced to accept positions entirely out of their field in order to secure employment.
Whether it was due to circumstance or choice, having a variety of positions on your resume can reflect poorly in the eyes of a hiring manager. Using a chronological resume format will draw attention to the fact that you have held various positions or made frequent job changes. So what should you do with these irrelevant positions? Do they even belong on your resume? Can you afford to leave them off?
In instances such as those I prefer to alter the resume format from chronological to one that will more effectively portray the job seekers’ qualifications for the particular position they are targeting. Traditionally the alternate format was a functional resume format. If you are not familiar with this format, a functional resume removes the individual positions as the focus and instead highlights the skills the job seeker has experience with that apply to the position they are seeking.
So for instance, if an individual was targeting a position in communications but had not held a position specifically in that field or that particular title they would highlight the qualifications performed in previous positions that would transfer to a position in communications. Unfortunately, the functional format has been received negatively over the years. It became known as the format that job hoppers or individuals with something to hide would use. I believe the functional format could be an effective format but with this reputation it is hard to pull it off.
I have become increasingly fond of using a format that borrows from the functional resume but at the same time echoes the familiarity of a chronological resume. The difference is in how previous job experience is portrayed.
I don’t feel that it is beneficial to include positions that are completely irrelevant to the position you are seeking. If it doesn’t add value to you as a candidate then there is no reason the waste prime space on your resume. A chronological resume typically has a section labeled Experience, Career History, Qualifications, or something similar. This is where you would list prior positions, starting with your most recent. But what of the last two positions you held were completely out of your field, or five years ago you moved around to different careers while you explored your options? Whatever the reason, including unrelated experience would add very little value to your resume.
My format of choice in these situations is to include a selective section on the resume labeled Relevant Experience. By titling the section that way it says, “Hey, this is the experience I have that applies to the job. Yes, I have other qualifications, but these are the ones that matter.” I still list the title held, company, and years worked there the same way you would do on a chronological resume but the difference is the next job that follows may not have been held immediately prior to this one.
You might be wondering how that is different from a functional resume. A functional resume removes references to positions, companies, and years and focuses solely on the qualifications. By including that information in a Relevant Experience section you reduce the deceptive connotations of a functional resume.
This format is not for the job seeker that has a steady background in the same field. Rather it is for those individuals that have the experience but may not have consistently worked in that industry. When it’s the experience that matters this format will effectively promote your skills.
by Megan Koehler