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A New Resume Format

Posted on July 26, 2017
Image of a skills-based resume in the name of John Doe

I’ve always been a big fan of a traditional resume format that begins with name and contact information at the top, followed by education and then relevant work experience. Why? As a hiring manager, it is easy to scan that format to get a meaningful picture of the individual. As an applicant, I feel that format best tells my story.

Some years ago, a student walked into my office complaining he was frustrated because he couldn’t seem to get any interviews. I asked him to bring me his resume. It was a skills-based resume, a format that at the time was best suited for college students who had no work experience. I helped the young man re-draft his resume, based on the traditional format I knew employers preferred. He got an interview within a couple of weeks and was hired a few more weeks after that.

A few days ago, I read's article, “What Your Resume Should Look Like in 2017,” and, much to my surprise, it is a skills-based resume. The author, Kristen Bahler, spoke with a number of professionals, including Sam Nolan, a professional resume writer and blogger. He said, “A qualification summary should take up the most valuable real estate on your resume…The point is to highlight what you can’t afford a potential employer to miss…It’s a high-level overview of your candidacy.”

Embedded in the article is a link to a template. This left me with no option but to roll up my sleeves and try it out. Upon opening the template, I liked the look of the structure and I liked the splash of color. However, I didn’t like that the education section was tucked down at the very bottom of the right-hand corner. Since I didn’t have my master resume handy, I pulled up my LinkedIn profile. Here are my thoughts as I started drafting:

  • It isn’t easy shifting from an experience-based model to a skills-based model
  • Narrowing down your work experience to two positions is difficult.
  • Cutting out experience from the two roles is even more difficult.
  • I drafted the qualifications summary last – this was tough because I wasn’t paring them to a specific job posting. Even if I were, it would have been tough.
  • I liked the highlights section but felt it was too limiting.
  • Using LinkedIn to craft my list of skills was relatively easy.

When I finished, I printed it out and looked at it. I asked myself, "Does this capture me as a professional?" After all, I have had more than two positions, and the variety of positions really speak to my abilities. The answer…I really like the look of it. It is one page only; keep in mind that I am used to a 6-page CV, so dropping that to two pages has always felt like I was being forced to cut off an arm. One page was never an option. But Jeff Bezos has a one-page resume, and it is an infographic, of course, but it utilizes a similar format. If he can do it, so can I, right?

Well, in its current form, this one-page, skills-based resume doesn’t really capture me or the breadth of my career, but that’s not to say it can’t; just need more time to work on it.

Overall, as a potential candidate, you need to choose the best resume format for you, your experience, and the position. Begin with a master resume and include every job you have ever had so you can pull relevant information from it without having to recall what you did eight years ago or three positions ago. Keep in mind that it doesn’t need to look professional, because it’s a working document only and nothing you would ever send out. Then, do your research. What type of company is it? Poke around and see if you can find the resumes of some of the principals. If they, like Jeff Bezos, are using a one-pager, then you should as well, but don’t wait. My big takeaway: a skills-based resume is completely possible, but it will require edits and tweaking to get it right. It isn’t something you can throw together in an afternoon. Finally, every time you apply for a position, your resume, in whichever format you choose, should be tweaked and edited to demonstrate how you are the best fit for that specific position.

What are you waiting for? Start drafting! You never know when that perfect job will pop up.


Anne Converse Willkomm
Director of Graduate Studies
Goodwin College
Drexel University

Note: The image of the resume is from the article, link embedded above.
Posted in professional-development-career-tips