Anatomy Of A Resume: Five Ways To Outshine Your Competition

In past articles we’ve examined how résumé writing has changed over the years and looked at the need for a strong cover letter. Let’s take a closer look at five ways to format your résumé and why you might want to tailor your resume differently to accentuate your strengths and stand out from the crowd.

There are five basic ways to format a résumé:

  • Chronological
  • Functional
  • Combined
  • Skills
  • PerformanceLet’s look at each of them and how they differ.


This is the most common form. Its main feature is a complete listing of jobs in date order, beginning with your present job and ending with the least recent. Here’s a summary of the typical format: Objective; Summary/highlights; Experience; Education; and references.

A chronological résumé is good to use if you have a series of jobs – or even just one or two – with no significant break in your employment history. This looks especially good when you’ve consistently moved up in job responsibilities and prestige. This will show your prospective employer that you’ve been groomed for the job to which you’re applying.

But a chronological résumé is the wrong style to use when:

  • There are gaps in employment history for whatever reason;
  • You’re changing industries or job focus;
  • You are a recent grad with little experience; or
  • You’ve been laid off or fired from a job and had to take a lesser job in a different fieldThere are ways to downplay any of the above situations. The next format (functional) will help make strengths out of what may be viewed as weaknesses.


The point of this résumé style is to highlight your achievements and capabilities. These gold nuggets, found in your employment history, are moved up to the top of the résumé. A standard functional format looks like this: Objective; Accomplishments; Capabilities; Employment history; Education; and ReferencesYou can also combine the accomplishments and capabilities sections into one and label it “highlights.”As you can see, the functional résumé plays up what you can do for the employer – your skills and abilities – instead of where you’ve worked and how long.

Stressing your competence up front will allow you, in the employment history section, to merely list job titles, the companies you worked for, and dates of employment without any in-depth description of the jobs you’ve held. This bumps up your marketability – puts it front and center – such that you’ve sold the prospective employer on your skills by the time he or she gets to the employment history list.

When drafting the accomplishments section, you’ll always want to first emphasize the skills and abilities most relevant to the job you seek.


This format is used when you’ve had a solid chronological history but also have significant achievements you don’t want getting lost in the body of a résumé. It goes something like this: Objective; Summary; Accomplishments/highlights; Experience; Education; References.

The accomplishments or highlights section lets you display those skills that fit your future job perfectly.


The skills résumé can be used to its best advantage when your career has been in one particular field and so tightly focused that you could truly only apply for one job title without either completely changing industries or taking a lesser job.

This kind of résumé is geared toward an individual who can’t climb any higher in his or her current firm and can only apply for the next rung up the ladder with a different organization.

The format will look like this: Job target; Relevant skills; Key qualifications; Employment; Education; and References.

You may also want to add any relevant memberships or professional awards just under the education section.

The skills résumé will probably run about two to three pages in length, depending on the extent of background and experience.


Just like the skills format, the performance résumé will be two to three pages long. It’s the chronological résumé kicked up a notch.

This kind of format is ideal for those who have a long list of skills, qualifications, and accomplishments but whose career hasn’t run in quite a straight-line.

The performance résumé puts more emphasis on your broad background and less importance on your actual work history.

It goes like this: Objective; Competence; Qualifications; Skills; Employment history; Education; and References.

You may want to add sections just after employment history for things like professional memberships or maybe even articles or papers that have been published.

This format is great for someone who has a wide-ranging background but hasn’t focused on one field.

There you have it: Five different ways you can outshine competition with different formatting. Next time we’ll discuss the five things that should never appear on a résumé.

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