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Creating and Formatting YOUR Exceptional Resume

By Ford R. Myers
President, Career Potential, LLC

An exceptional resume is not difficult to create – if you know the “code”

NEWS FLASH: It’s not that difficult to put together an excellent resume! There are hundreds of resume books out there, with at least 50 different ways to write resumes “the right way.”

But after almost 25 years of experience as an Executive Career Coach, I can tell you that there is a “secret code” for resumes. And either you know it, or you don’t.

If you DON’T know the code, you will:

  • Read a lot of resume books and try 6-8 different formats for your resume.
  • Listen to every person who offers their “expert opinion” on resumes (and make every editing change they suggest).
  • Make the even more serious mistake of trying to create your own format.
  • Never be sure if your resume was the disqualifying factor when you DON’T get the offer.

If you DO know the code, you will:

  • Immediately be recognized as someone who is business-savvy and “knows the game” of career management and job search.
  • Present your credentials in the best possible light, with a resume that highlights the real value and contribution you offer.
  • Make it much easier for the employer or recruiter to put you in the YES pile rather than the NO pile.

I’m going to suggest a fairly radical approach to helping you create a great resume. No theory, no gimmicks, no heavy lifting. Just look carefully at examples of outstanding resumes that other professionals have created. The easiest way for you to create a top-notch resume is to take exactly what you see in these examples, and do some “monkey-see, monkey-do” editing, adapting and reformatting. Make your own resume match the overall style, tone and appearance of these samples!

It’s actually easier than a lot of career professionals (and resume writing services) would have you believe! But, let’s be clear. Even though the resume itself can’t get you the job, your resume still has to be EXCEPTIONAL. Not good; not fine – EXCEPTIONAL.

You can present your exceptional resume in many formats

The first decision you will need to make is which type of resume best suits your needs. There are three options to choose from. None of these is intrinsically “right” or “wrong” – they are simply different ways to package your experience and expertise. Obviously, some packages will fit some circumstances better than others, so you do need to choose your format carefully.

Here are your three options, along with their respective “pros and cons:”

  • Chronological – This is the most commonly used type of resume. Because it’s arranged by time, a chronological resume is the easiest to organize and write. It’s also the easiest to read (which is another plus in the sales and marketing process!) The Chronological Resume is the standard, “tried and true” resume format, which I recommend to 95% of my clients. Why? Because it works! A chronological resume is the right choice when you are continuing in the same occupation and/or industry; when your career shows a clear pattern of increasing levels of responsibility; and when your employment history has no significant gaps. Dangers: Any gaps in your work history will “stand out like a sore thumb.” Limited work experience can also be very apparent. And if past jobs don’t tie-in directly to the type of positions you’re seeking now, or if you’re changing careers completely, it may be tougher to sell your capabilities to a new employer using the Chronological Resume.
  • Functional – The Functional Resume organizes your accomplishments into distinct functional areas (hence, the name “Functional.”). Use the Functional Resume only if: (1) you’ve been a frequent job-changer, (2) you’re re-entering the workforce after an absence of many years, (3) you’re in the midst of a significant job or career shift, or (4) if you’ve been at the same job “forever.” Instead of having job titles as main headings, this style of resume is organized by functions or general areas of expertise. In a typical Functional Resume, dates are downplayed. Dangers: Employers tend to be wary of applicants who present this type of resume. They may suspect that the candidate is trying to “cover up” work-gaps in her background, or attempting to hide the fact that her experience is not directly relevant to the new position’s responsibilities.
  • Chronological/Functional Combination – A combination resume uses elements of both the Chronological and Functional formats. You can highlight your best accomplishments “up-front,” and later show a chronological history from one career step to the next, including job responsibilities. Plus, the dates are there to “connect the dots.” Dangers: In many ways, this format is the trickiest one of the three. Building a sequential timeline of what you did and when might prove confusing to the reader, even though you’re providing dates for everything. Pay special attention to readability and layout issues with this resume format.

Use the guidelines above to create your own exceptional resume, in order to get employers interested in interviewing you. If you find that your resume isn’t getting the results you want, change it.

Remember that your resume is a “living document” that will be edited and updated throughout your job search – and it will continue to evolve over the course of your entire career!

About the Author:
Ford R. Myers is an award-winning career coach, speaker and author of the best-seller, Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Ford’s firm helps clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve! He has held senior consulting positions at three of the nation’s largest career service firms. Ford’s articles have appeared in thousands of publications and web sites, and he has been interviewed on every major television and radio network. Ford has also conducted presentations at hundreds of companies, associations and universities. Learn more at


FORD R. MYERS is an award-winning, nationally-known Career Coach, best-selling author and speaker. He is the President of Career Potential, LLC, a premier provider of career success services. Through powerful individual, corporate and government career programs, Ford has helped thousands of clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve!

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