If you’re entering the job market for the first time in quite a while, you may feel as though you’re starting from scratch when it comes to refreshing your resume. Fortunately, there are a number of simple, streamlined, and accessible resume formats for those in just about every industry, from graphic artists to caterers to attorneys. Read on to learn more about the do’s and don’ts of several of the most popular resume formats: skill-based, job-based, and creative.
A skill-based resume separates skills from employment and is designed to highlight the specialized tasks you can perform and achievements you’ve made. Some industries are more focused on where you’ve worked and what you studied in college — and in these situations, a job-based resume that highlights your previous employers is better poised to catch the attention of the hiring manager than a resume that puts your skills front and center.
However, in fields like IT, engineering, academia, or medicine, your best appeal may lie in listing the certificates you hold, the software in which you’re proficient, any notable projects you’ve completed, articles or books you’ve published, or other accomplishments you’ve achieved over the course of your career.
When formatting and composing a skill-based resume, you’ll want to devote at least a third of your page space to your skills and proficiencies, like this:
Leading with a short profile paragraph summarizing your work history and experience allows you to keep your skills in the center of the page (where the eye is often drawn when skimming) and provides you with another third of the page to list your work experience.
Using bold headings and short paragraphs and bullet points rather than large blocks of text is also more pleasing to the eye.
There are a few visual and tactical mistakes you should avoid in a skill-based resume, including:
- Justified text (align to the left to avoid odd spaces in between words);
- Multiple fonts (two different fonts should be the maximum, and even that can be difficult to pull off — you may want to experiment with bold, italics, or small caps rather than try to use more than one font); and
- Focusing on job tasks rather than accomplishments (phrases like “duties included” or “responsible for” can be a dead giveaway that you’re focusing too much on your day-to-day duties rather than highlighting your skills and achievements).
In certain fields — particularly finance, accounting, law, and science — where you’ve earned your degree and what responsibilities you’ve held in past positions holds more weight than your skills, which may instead be teased out during the interview process.
In a job-based resume, you’ll first want to list a brief profile or introductory section, then detail your education, finishing with a work history that includes any skills or accomplishments nested beneath the job title. This allows the hiring manager to screen based on your alma mater, GPA, and sometimes even class rank (often just as important as work history in the finance and legal fields) while still seeing your job duties and achievements.
This resume format can be especially beneficial for those who have relatively little work experience (like recent graduates) or who are re-entering the workforce after a lengthy absence.
As with a skill-based resume, you’ll want to avoid justified text or multiple fonts. You’ll also want to steer clear of:
- Large, blocky paragraphs (breaking separate job duties into bullet points is usually a good idea);
- Too many buzzwords (using phrases like “maintained synergy” or “leveraged best practices” may sound nice, but they don’t carry much meaning; don’t waste resume space with words that don’t convey a specific idea); and
- Using passive voice (it’s always a good idea to read through your resume and switch any passive verbs with active ones to sound more confident and authoritative).
Alternative resume format
For those in artistic or creative industries — like graphic design, real estate sales, social media marketing, or journalism — the job-based and skill-based resume formats may leave something lacking. Switching to a format that breaks up your varied skills, interests, and experiences into bite-sized chunks can give your resume tremendous aesthetic appeal while including all the information a prospective employer or client could want.
One simple yet creative way to organize a non-traditional resume is to divide it into several sections of varied sizes: desired career path or short 1-to-2-sentence personal summary, work history, career achievements, specific skills, and education or training.
A resume like this can provide easily-scannable content without leaving out any key details:
In many creative fields, the source of one’s degree or training can take a backseat when it comes to career achievements and the skills you can bring to the table — but leaving your educational history off your resume entirely isn’t a good idea either. Using these different-sized sections or taking advantage of a column format will ensure that everything relevant can be included (if not emphasized).
In the creative industries, you’ll often have some more leeway when it comes to design choices. However, you’ll still want to avoid things like:
- Garish text or paper colors (green text on hot pink paper is only going to appeal to a very small cross-section of potential employers); and
- Using the same resume format for very different jobs (remaining flexible and having several different versions of the same content can allow you apply to a variety of jobs without recreating your resume from scratch each time).
As long as you keep your potential audience (and what they’re seeking) in mind when formatting your resume, it will be hard to go wrong with any of the above examples.
This post is contributed by Helen Parker at hloom.com. Helen Parker has been a creative designer most of her professional life. She has designed thousands of layouts that suit different needs and professions.
Hloom has one of the largest collection for free resume templates online, and a free resume builder comparison tool.