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Readers respond to which is better – a chronological or capabilities resume – what do you think?

creating a powerful resume, creating a strong resume, chronological resume, capabilities resume, functional resume, chronological or functional resume,

I recently asked the question, “Which generates a better response ... a chronological resume (with accomplishments under each position) or a capabilities (functional) resume (with accomplishments in one place and positions listed separately)?” 

I had my mind made up on which one I thought was best, but people’s responses have me thinking twice.

What do you think? Here are responses, followed by my opinion and quick tips for maximizing your resume (regardless of resume type).

Preference: Capabilities/Functional Resume
Statistics show the average recruiter takes 10-15 seconds to skim a resume … so a capabilities resume works best to grab attention because you are giving the reader a highlight of your skills upfront. If they like what they read, your chances are greater that they will continue reading. If they have to dig hard to find your qualifications, they will move on to the next resume. Having been a recruiter and hiring manager, that is my experience and opinion – Diane, recruiter/HR professional, St. Louis, Mo.

I developed a functional resume at the suggestion of an HR professional. My industry was hit particularly badly in this economy. I have a variety of skills that are transferable to other industry sectors. The functional resume is a good way to communicate this fact. I've been told hiring managers like a functional resume while HR people abhor them. – Ed, New York City, NY

A capabilities resume is more effective. The skills, accomplishments and abilities are on top where an employer can see them very quickly to determine qualifications and peak their interest. The chronological does not have the same impact. It can appear confusing, too busy and too much work for the screener to look at. – Michael, Boston, Mass.

A capabilities resume works better. In my interviews, I always changed what I listed first by the needs of the interviewing company and (when known) the needs of my direct manager. -- Sandi, St. Louis, Mo.

As a career changer whose job titles have seldom been close to my responsibilities, I use the capabilities format, which puts the emphasis on skills and accomplishments rather than what I was called, and pulls together related skills from different jobs. With my experience organized in categories, I can re-order to emphasize different skills for different positions. I've been getting positive responses with this approach, and just started a new part-time position as a result. – Helen, Seattle, Wash.

If I have mostly administrative experience (on a professional level) in addition to my current 2+ years of marketing/Web development experience, but years of volunteer Web development experience -- and would like to obtain a position in marketing/Web development -- a capabilities format would be best? Right? (Chronological would spend a lot of space on experiences that are less-than helpful to a marketing/Web development position.) – Aaron, Washington, D.C.

Preference: Chronological Resume
As a recruiter and account manager working with clients for staffing needs, [I know] the chronological resume is best. It gives the managers/HR an idea of what you were doing for each position you worked at and how much experience you have with various tasks. – Courtney, St. Louis, Mo.

From comments I've heard, no one recommends using a functional resume, even if you have employment gaps. Have a clear-cut professional summary at the top and then a list of the skills and accomplishments you bring to the position. Everything the reviewer needs to know should be in the top 1/3 of the first page. – Ruth, St. Louis, Mo.

Most employers don't know how to handle an accomplishment-based resume. They simply want to know your day-to-day activities. They want a chronological employment history. – Phillip, St. Louis, Mo.

I have only used the chronological resume with accomplishments listed under each job. Conventional wisdom tells us that is what employers want. However, in this economy, I wonder if that still is true. – Robert, Kentucky

Just yesterday, I listened to a panel of defense contractor recruiters and all preferred chronological resumes. – Brian, Washington, D.C.

A chronological resume is a better solution for anyone trying to address the last 10-15 years of work when you have 30+ years experience. Especially if jobs have been the same and the descriptions are not very different. – Paul, Seattle, Wash.

My accomplishment resume has never generated an interview opportunity. But employers DO want to know what tasks you did in your last or previous jobs. I just can't find enough room on a resume to include accomplishments and tasks, and still be read quickly. As for functional resumes, I have been told they are best for career changers trying to highlight transferrable skills. -- Robert, St. Louis, Mo.

In a job seekers group I'm in, the advice I got was to go to accomplishments. Chronological was used to verify a good work history and since there are so many people who've been laid off it isn't a major factor. they want to know in a quick glance what experience you have for the job you are applying for. – Karen, Greensboro/Winston-Salem, NC

Could go either way / Not sure
Employers want to see a traditional resume, but perhaps more unconventional approach to other elements of the interview. For example, people who have been out of work for some time should be able to talk about what they've been doing with themselves with just as much enthusiasm as they could a specific job position. – Nacie, Boston, Mass.

I use the chronological resume for online applications, companies with large HR departments and organizations that are more traditional. I use the capabilities resume for smaller organizations that I think will actually read it. I get similar results for both formats. – Bryna, Boston, Mass.

There is not ONE best way to write a resume. The right resume for you may be different than the resume for me. It depends on factors like your work history, availability of jobs in your field, whether or not you are applying for a job consistent with your work history etc. Job seekers can use both, depending on the position. Unless you are restricting you search to a single job title, be open to either format. – Mark, New York City, N.Y.

There is not a one-size fits all answer, some use both. It depends on the situation such as a career changer vs. a new grad and many other factors to consider when writing a resume. Job seekers have to realize that the resume is not designed to "get the job"; it is designed to get invited to the interview. Each resume should be targeted to the job and that means using different resumes if you are targeting more than one position or type of job. I use a combination of both the chronological and functional in many cases. – Diana, Cleveland/Akron, Ohio

From my experience, some liked chronological, others were impressed by capabilities. The capabilities seem to get a lot attention from recruiters, so it depends. I suggest having both chronological and a functional resume with an emphasis on capabilities. There are many formats -- the cleanest one gets more attention. Always include your LinkedIn account, Facebook or your online portfolio. – Liz, New York City, NY

I always thought your accomplishment/capabilities resume was the way to go, once you've been in that field for a few years, and the reverse chronological was for those just starting out. I don't know anymore since all the rules seem to have changed. -- Lynn, St. Louis, MO

So what do I (Kathy) think? 
There are pros and cons of both.
I’ve found chronological resumes to be the most requested by hiring companies and therefore, the most effective (it’s typically what they want!) I also think a capabilities resume doesn’t do enough to show specifically what kind of work (or level of work) you did for particular companies. But I also think Diane (the first respondent above) has a point about chronological resumes being too text heavy. And a chronological resume can make it hard to present a clear picture of why you are the most qualified.

Bottom line: Whatever resume you do, do it so well, recruiters will see you are the best ... after all, a great resume can help you Get a Job!

Quick tips to maximize your resume …

Capabilities resume best practices
• Mention for which companies you achieved major results, i.e.: “Lead SAP implementation for Mega Company, LLC.”
• When you list past employers, include enough information about the company’s size and scope, as well as your position, to assure potential employers your involvement was truly meaningful.

Chronological resume best practices
• Add a key accomplishments and/or a key word summary at the top to catch recruiters’ interest.
• Use bullet points and keep entries brief so your resume is not too text heavy.

For either type of resume
Change your resume to match the job qualifications
• Use power words and quantifiable results

So what do you think? Which is more effective … a capabilities resume or a chronological one? Share your comments! 


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