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Forego the functional format

By Samantha Nolan, Ladybug Design Published: September 18, 2009
Dear Sam: Due to downsizing, I have recently found myself back in the market searching for a job. I have not had issues getting my résumé noticed in the past. I have more than seven years’ experience in outside sales and have my résumé organized in chronological order. Do you think I would get noticed by choice employers more quickly if I used a functional résumé format as opposed to a chronological format? – Lauren

Dear Lauren: Probably not. In fact, functional résumés are rarely as effective because they leave the reader wondering what you did when and where. Functional formats should be resorted to only in situations where you have no chance of getting past the screening process if you use the traditional, and much more widely accepted, reverse chronological format. These situations could include frequent job hops, limited related experience, large employment gaps, and more. You can certainly pull out some career highlights and organize those by functional area, creating a combination or hybrid format, but be sure to note where each was achieved. Your qualifications summary should serve as the overview of your related and/or transferable skills and experiences; in that summary, you can pull out keywords which will focus attention on the areas you would likely highlight in a functional format. Instead of resorting to the functional format, use great content, organization, formatting, achievements, and a strong qualifications summary to grab the reader’s attention.

Dear Sam: I am a self-taught artist. I am very passionate about art and design and continue to learn every day, but feel the lack of any college studies and a degree are preventing me from getting a good design job. I know as much, if not more, than a college graduate about art and design, but don’t know how to communicate that. How can I do this, and what do I put on my résumé in the education section? – Sam G.

Dear Sam G.: I can feel the frustration in your words, and while there is little you can do when a degree is a staunch requirement for a position, there is a lot you can do on your résumé to ensure you are the candidate that stands out regardless of your academic background.

First, I hope your résumé looks fantastic, meaning you designed something unique and eye catching to really showcase your design talents. Your résumé should be a representation of who you are as a creative, showcasing some of your work, coupled with great content, to really minimize the impact of the potential disqualifier. From taking a peek at your websites, I can see you are very talented in many forms of design; maybe this could be your key selling point. If you develop a résumé that presents your vast design talents (print and web, illustration and computer graphics, etc.), really highlights your notable professional and freelance engagements, and also presents a little of your personality, your experience is sure to jump off of the page! Be a tad conservative in the overall design of your résumé, just to ensure you don’t offend anyone who doesn’t share a right-brained style of thinking, but definitely showcase your talents through an amazing aesthetic and possibly a snapshot portfolio. In regards to your question of what to include in the education section, change this section to a “Strengths & Style” section and use it to note all of the programs and techniques you have taught yourself over the years.

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