Tips For Maximizing the Effectiveness of Your Resume

Regardless of whether you are entering the workforce for the first time, or going back to work after a long absence, there are several elements related to your return to the workforce to consider. At the top of the list is your choice of resume formats. There are three resume formats used in business today. The different types of formats are: Chronological, Functional and Combination.

Among the most popular formats is the chronological resume, which emphasizes, in a very structured order, your work history. Chronological resumes list your job history in reverse order starting with your most recent or present job, followed by the job or position you held immediately prior to your most recent or current job, which is followed by the once before that, and so on. Typically, this type of resume lists the history of your last 10 years of jobs, job descriptions and job titles. These types of resumes are best suited for entry-level job seekers or those who have remained in the same industry for a long period. If however, you are interested in a career change and you have a variety of work experience, you may want to consider using a 'functional' resume, instead.

Candidates wanting to highlight special accomplishments use functional style resumes. If you are going to opt for this style of resume, your resume will be far more effective if you list your accomplishments in bullet form. Functional resumes are also used when you do not have a lot of career-related experience but can identify the skills that you proven and become proficient and that can be transferred from one job or industry to another. It is also important to remember that any skills learned while doing volunteer work is relevant and important to list where applicable.

Combination resumes, also known as hybrid resumes, are most suited for job seekers with long work-histories or people with special skills and a strong record of accomplishments. Combination resumes combine the best of the chronological and the functional resumes. This hybrid allows you to highlight choice skills and accomplishments while downplaying your past employers, job titles and the amount of time you spent in each position.

Regardless of your choice of resume format, it is critical that your resume be as 'scannable' as possible. It is important to know that most large companies and recruiting firms now use Optical Character Recognition [OCR] software to identify and extract information from resumes and cover letters that are submitted electronically. In addition to your basic contact information, i.e. name, address, and phone number, et cetera, the software will search for specific keywords. It is vital that regardless of the resume format you choose, industry keywords need to be embedded in both your cover letter and resume in order to be effective. Resumes that are poorly written and use non-standard formats will not be scanned correctly and reduce your chances of getting interviews.

How to Maximize Scannability: 

  • Use white 8 ½ x 11 paper
  • Avoid folding or using stables
  • Use a standard font [New Times Roman, Arial, or Courier]
  • Use standard font size [12-14 points]
  • Use spacing between lines sensibly
  • Place contact information on each page of your resume
How to Maximize Resume Hits: 
  • Use keywords that are specific to the industry
  • Avoid using jargon and spell out acronyms
  • Use concrete descriptors when listing your experience
By choosing the appropriate resume for your needs and combining it with the tips on how to make your resume 'scannable', your chances of getting calls for interviews will increase substantially. If you do not feel that you have the necessary wordsmith skills to have an impact, there is nothing wrong with asking for help. Good luck!


Mary Salvino MBA is a freelance writer and career/business consultant who lives in Vancouver, BC. She has many years of experience in all aspects of career and business management. Mary is also a valuable resource to both corporations and individuals in the area of marketing and strategic planning.