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  • Writer's pictureJay Metcalf

2022 Resume Guide, Part 2: Technical Guide

Updated: May 22, 2023

In Part 1 we covered what to put in your resume, the content. We talked about how to think through what to include in a resume and how to do the one thing your resume needs to do; sell the company on a conversation with you to learn more about you.

None of the content will matter, though, if no one can find your resume or can’t quickly get to the bits they are interested in reading. For part 2 of the resume guide we are going to talk formats, PDF vs. Word and how to plan for your resume to be read by a computer gatekeeper. As always, if you want a professional eye to offer feedback on your resume, please get in touch with us and one of our recruiters will happily take a look with you.

Let’s jump right in. Generally resumes fall into one of 2 categories. There are reverse chronological resumes and skills based resumes. Reverse chronological resumes start with your most current roles and work backwards in time. Skills based resumes focus on your skills and list the experiences separate from the skills. These are also sometimes referred to as functional resumes.

There are very few cases where the skills based resume is the right choice. Sometimes resume guides will tell you it is a great way to hide gaps in your resume or other blemishes. I can tell you as a recruiter for over 20 years, when I see a skills based resume the first task my mind takes on is figuring out what’s wrong with this candidate’s work history that caused them to go with a skills resume. The biggest issue is matching skills to specific jobs. Some skills are transferable between types of roles, but often they are not. Doing accounting, for example, for a family owned fast food franchise is wholly different than at a Fortune 500 company with thousands of employees. Without the skills matched to the specific job, there is no context to the skills.

Another issue with skills based resumes is that many of the resume parsing software systems in an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) struggle to import a skills resume effectively. This means that the recruiters on the other side don’t see a coherent work history or the skills associated with the jobs.

Reverse chronological resumes are widely accepted as a standard. In nearly every industry, recruiters and hiring managers will recognize and accept that as a professional format. It doesn’t have the issues with parsing (more on parsing in a moment) that skills based resumes have. Importantly, anyone reviewing the resume has context for the skills they see under the jobs listed.

There are a ton of beautiful resume templates out there that look great, but many of them are not optimized for a resume parser. Some parsing systems will take in to account 2 columns or other design features on a resume and will pull the information in, but many won’t. The more simple and straightforward the resume is, the easier it is for the computer to understand.

Finally - what document type should you use for your resume? This is a great question. You should have it available in both. Generally, with companies you are applying to, a PDF is best. Th reason for this is simply that different word processing systems will display the fonts, sizes, etc. differently. Even different versions of Word will sometimes look different. A PDF solves this and you know exactly what the company will see when they open your resume. The other advantage here is that many hiring managers print the resume out to write on in an interview. Here the PDF also serves better to ensure it looks great printed out. Word can sometimes print differently on different printers.

When sending to a recruiter, often Word is a better choice. Recruiters often will ‘brand’ your resume so that their client company knows what firm sent the resume. You want to make it easy for the recruiter to market your resume to their clients. Of course, sometimes recruiters or hiring managers will want a different format so you should be ready to accommodate that.

We hope these basics are helpful to you! Check in with part 1 to read up on our tips for the content of your resume.

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