Wondering what style of resume works in 2020? Here’s what you need to know and why it is so important to choose the best resume format.
If you are writing your own resume, you'll know that it takes a lot of time and effort. Get it right, and your job applications will go smoothly. But if you get it wrong, you could be wasting your energy.
There are a lot of contributing factors that make the perfect resume but the best starting point is to choose the right format from the beginning.
In this post we will cover:
Before we go through your options, let's take a look at a frequently asked question - should I have a resume or a CV?
Is there really a difference between a resume and a CV?
Many believe that there is a definite distinction between resumes and CV’s and argue they are very different documents.
Perhaps this is because of the origin of both words. A CV or curriculum vitae means ‘course of life’ in Latin which would suggest a rather lengthy and detailed document.
On the other hand, the word resume derives from French and literally means ‘summary’ so you can see why it is often seen as a shorter alternative.
In reality, the answer to this question depends on where you live.
When I was based in the UK, all I wrote, scanned and dealt with were CV’s. Every recruitment advert said ‘please attach your CV’ regardless of skill level and experience. The only 'resumes' that were submitted were from overseas applicants - and they looked just the same as CV's.
Now I am in Australia where all talk is of resumes, again regardless of position or skill level. Overseas applications often come to me as CV's but, again, they are the same as resumes.
In the US, CVs are typically lengthy documents reserved for fields such as academia and resumes are much shorter. But it is essentially the same document.
So, rather than worry about whether you need a 'CV' or a 'resume', the question you need to ask yourself is "what is the right length of resume for my skills, experience and knowledge?"
To help you get this right, here is a post that will help.
What is the Perfect Resume Length?
One page, two pages or ten? Does size really matter?
How many resume and CV formats are there to choose from?
If you Google ‘resume format’ or ‘CV format’ you will find that there are many styles available, which can be confusing, but they generally fall into 3 main formats.
Which you go for will have a huge impact on how successful your job search will be so let’s look at each one before you put that pen to paper.
A chronological resume lists your work experience in reverse-chronological order, starting with your most recent position at the top. This is the most traditional resume format, and starts with a career profile and ends with education and referees.
Functional resumes focus on skills rather than work history. While the chronological format highlights work experience with detailed summaries of the duties and achievements under each position, the functional format will instead list particular skills and strengths as headings with information on each underneath. In other words, it is based on a per skill rather than per job basis.
A combination resume is a blend of the chronological and functional resume types.
Typically, it will start with a profile then an extended section of headings highlighting skills and then have a chronological section afterwards.
Why the reverse chronological resume and CV format is your best option
Now you know what each one involves here are two compelling reasons why you should opt for the reverse chronological format.
Recruiters & Hiring Managers
First, trends come and go but at the end of the day, recruiters want the same thing today as they did 20 years ago – a concise snapshot of your skills and experience so that they can decide whether or not to proceed with your application
That’s why, unless explicitly requested otherwise, you should always opt for the reverse chronological resume format because it gives them exactly what they need.
In it’s 2018 Eye Tracking Study, Ladders Inc revealed that the typical time recruiters spend scanning a resume is just 7.4 seconds.
“The typical time recruiters spend scanning a resume is just 7.4 seconds.”
They also found that simple chronological layouts that started with a career profile at the top of page one taking advantage of F-pattern and E-pattern reading tendencies (e.g. bold job titles supported by bulleted lists of accomplishments) were much favoured over other formats.
Applicant Tracking Systems
The second reason is Applicant Tracking Systems or ATS. These are used by employers and recruitment agencies to manage job opportunities across their organisations by screening incoming resumes from job seekers.
They were first used by large corporations that received thousands of applications, but smaller businesses are now using them just as frequently.
Studies show that up to 75% of resumes are blocked by ATS simply because of the way they are designed.
"Studies show that up to 75% of resumes are blocked by ATS simply because of the way they are designed".
The best design that routinely gets through is a plain, reverse chronological format.
An ATS will be looking to fill set fields of traditional information from your resume on an application database such as job titles, dates, duties and achievements.
Unorthodox design can mean that this essential information can be missed, lessening your chances of making the shortlist that an actual human recruiter will get to screen.
Exceptions to these rules
In some cases, you may find that an employer wants you to submit a very different format such as when they request a response to key selection criteria.
Another is for creative professions. A plain reverse chronological format is great for scanning purposes but is, by its very nature, rather boring and won’t allow you to show off your design skills.
The key here is to always try to use an ATS friendly resume for the online application which clearly states that your portfolio is available. You could also send a recruiter or hiring manager something directly at the same time which will truly prove how creative you are.
4 things you should definitely do with your resume or CV format
Now you know the best format in terms of structure, let’s look at the content aspect.
Keep it plain
Yes, I know you want to stand out from the crowd, but the fact is that if you adopt a fancy design, ATS may block it which means those recruiters and hiring managers you want to impress will never know you exist.
Start with a strong career profile
Never start with a resume objective because that just concentrates on what you want. Remember, it’s not about you but about what you can offer them. A well written career profile or summary statement will explain what value you can bring to them should they hire you and get them interested in reading more about you.
Target key words for each application
Carefully read the job description to identify which skills, knowledge, technology and keywords are highlighted. If there’s something listed in the job description that you’ve performed in a current or previous role, then you should make sure it is included on your resume.
Separate out duties & achievements
Make it easy for recruiters and hiring managers to skim your details. Use bullet points under each heading to enable them to find exactly what they want and speed read it easily.
Is it ever Ok to use a resume template?
That very much depends on the template in question.
If it is fancy with boxes, shapes, columns, logos and weird fonts no, not under any circumstances should you use these.
If an ATS can’t read your resume, it can’t properly enter you onto an applicant database.
If all or some of your skills and experience are not recorded on the applicant database, then your percentage match to a position will be low or even zero – even if you are the perfect candidate for the role.
However, if you use a plain, vanilla style template just to give you some structure to work with, then that is fine.