There are four basic categories of what we generically refer to as a resume – Chronological, Functional, Curriculum Vitae, and Electronic. Opinions of, and recommendations about, each resume category are as varied as someone’s preference for the best style of barbecue or Mexican food.

Chronological Resume

From the executive search perspective, Chronological Resumes (CR) are overwhelmingly the preferred format because they readily reveal a candidate’s employment history. Being able to quickly see a candidate’s career trajectory as well as terms of employment and accomplishments with each past employer is extremely important during the initial candidate screening.

In a competitive job market, candidates should think carefully about what the employer is asking for and then construct a resume that responds to those needs. Of course, a candidate can always choose to use a resume writing service to do this for them. However, it is important to read reviews from previous clients to see if the writing service is a credible one. They should understand the dynamics of recruiting and do those things that will make the resume stand out in the digital equivalent of a pile of resumes. They should also make it easy for a researcher or recruiter to quickly see their value. The Chronological Resume format is, in my opinion, best suited to address those objectives.

Functional Resume

The Functional Resume (FR) is one that emphasizes skills, achievements and experience over the actual chronological employment history. Typically on a FR you cannot connect a specific accomplishment to a specific job. Recruiters, as a general rule, do not like functional resumes because they know this format is usually selected to hide a gap in employment or short employment tenure(s). There may be some benefits to this type of resume in terms of highlighting skills, but most recruiters are so suspicious that the disadvantages far outweigh the merits.

When we receive a Functional Resume, we will review the document but before a screening can be scheduled, we require candidates to provide a Chronological Resume that traces their complete employment history, short tenures and all. Because prospective employers are becoming more selective, candidates should expect ever-increasing scrutiny.

Curriculum Vitae

The Curriculum Vitae (CV), Latin for “courses of life”, is the preferred format for academic, research or similar types of positions. It is not uncommon for academicians or physicians who are applying for executive leadership positions for a non-academic or non-research oriented employer to submit a CV with sections covering presentations, research, publications, posters, etc. Unless the employer or recruiter specifically asks for a CV with that information, candidates would be better off submitting a Chronological Resume. Publications and presentations can be added to a CR if they are relevant to the employer’s needs.

In healthcare it is not uncommon for physicians seeking executive positions to submit a CV because that is what they have been taught to do, but this is not optimal for recruiters and should be avoided.

Electronic Resume

The electronic resume, that document you use to apply online, is the biggest, best kept secret in the job search world based on interviews with candidates.

More and more large employers are using online portals to attract candidates for various openings and to provide a mechanism for submitting a resume. When companies deploy these automated programs, a resume’s “first read” is electronic. Based on the information extracted from this scan, the resume is then assigned to an open recruitment project or to a specific category within the organization’s candidate tracking database.

Not all scanners are equal. When applying online to a large company, you must be sensitive to site-specific submission guidelines or be familiar with the general rules of the road covering the Electronic Resume.

Design Preferences

Some have definite design preferences regarding preferred typefaces and the use of graphics like boxes or borders, for example. Resumes that violate these electronic digital rules can be electronically ejected. The scanner’s human overseers may know that a resume has been rejected but seldom is the candidate notified due to the sheer volume of applications received. As my colleague, outplacement consultant Nancy Swain is fond of saying, “If you do not use the right format, the ideal typeface or if there are too many bold faced words, you probably would have been better off driving by the prospective employer’s business and throwing your resume out of the window.”

The literature recommends using a plain text (ASCII), PDF or HTML document that provides an employer with information regarding a job candidate’s professional experience, education and job qualifications. The literature suggests, and candidates have confirmed, that if your resume is a multi-color document in MS Word or Apple Pages, and is loaded with boxes to highlight achievements and boldface lines, there is a good chance the scanner may not find that appealing and not complete the scan. And you will not know.

In a competitive job market, candidates should think carefully about what the employer is asking for and then construct a resume that responds to those needs. Seeking the help of a career counselor in Arlington can help a lot in this regard as well as the following stages of the application process. Understanding the dynamics of recruiting isn’t always an easy task. Technology is constantly changing and many recruiters are now using tech tools to filter resumes. Learning how to tailor yourself to maneuver past these barriers can make one’s resume stand out from the competitors and guarantee an interview down the line.