A Resume Cure Worse Than the Disease?

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How can a job-seeker minimize damage from employment gaps, too-short tenure in the last job, or moving from one career to a new one?

A functional resume is sometimes suggested as a potential remedy for those common deficiencies. However, potential barriers might be better attacked using other tools like a cover letter and networking, rather than trying to hide the problem by submitting a functional resume.

That's one implication from a recent survey of 150 large-company executives by Accountemps, the specialized temporary staffing firm.

75 Percent Prefer Chronological Resume Style

More than four times as many respondents said they prefer a traditional, chronological resume format, as those who prefer a functional resume built around describing job functions and skills detached from their historical employment context.

Seventy-five percent of executives in Accountemps' survey favored the chronological format, 17 percent preferred functional and 8 percent expressed no preference. These figures were little changed from 10 years ago when the same question was asked, Accountemps says.

Veteran high-level headhunter John Lucht had this to say in the latest (2007) revision of his widely read job-change guide for executives, Rites of Passage: "The (resume) that delibereately strips away the employment context from the claimed accomplishments not only frustrates the reader's comprehension, it also raises the presumption that there must have been some very good reason for doing so. 'This woman obviously has something to hide,' thinks the reader. 'I wonder what it is.'"

A Preferable Solution

Chronological resumes are the norm because the presentation is straightforward and easy to follow. "Functional resumes, which emphasize skill sets rather than jobs held, are popular among professionals in career transition or who have had lengthy gaps in employment, but they are not a favorite of employers," observes Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps. "It is often better to address a career challenge directly than try to write around it."

For instance, Accountemps suggests that job-seekers offer a brief explanation of employment gaps in a cover letter. If you're switching careers, a good word from a well-placed friend, former colleague or mentors can often get you in the door when neither a traditional nor a functional resume would.

Regardless of format, any resume needs to present clear information and provide a compelling story about your work experience and abilities.

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