If you have begun looking for a job recently, and find yourself having to prepare a resume for the first time in a long time, it can be a bit overwhelming. There are a lot of articles and blog posts about “how to prepare a resume” each proclaiming their format as the right way. It can be confusing. No more than x pages, chronological only, skills based, consulting style (with clients listed at the end), etc. What is right? What is going to get you noticed? Let’s discuss.
First actually, why should you even listen to my opinion? Well, for more than 20 years I have been an IT recruiter, and specifically healthcare IT for the past 10 or so. I have worked both for agencies and internal HR at companies, looking at an average of 30-50 resumes per day. That means over the course of 20 years I have reviewed roughly 200,000 resumes of IT professionals. Throughout that time I have needed to quickly identify candidates who my clients would interview and possibly hire, or else I would not earn a commission – not a penny. So I have had a long, in-depth, and up-close view of what IT Managers/Directors/VPs and CIOs respond to when a resume crosses their desk (or screen).
So should your resume follow a chronological format (showing each company in order, and describing what you did there under each) or should it follow a skills-based/consulting style format (where you list out and describe your skills, then add a simple list of where you worked in a different section at the beginning or end)? My answer is a resounding CHRONOLOGICAL ONLY! Even if you are a consultant. Here is why:
A potential IT employer does not just want to know your skills and generally where you worked. They want to know specifically what you did at each place, and have your involvement in the projects described in-depth. If you have a skills-based (and non-chronological) resume there is no way to tell when you used skill X, and what company it was for. For example, if you have listed Meditech Pharmacy as one of your skills, they may have a particular interest in that. They want to be able to see where you actually used it, when, and how. Unless you have a chronological format, they have no way of seeing where that was, how in-depth your work was with it, and how recently it was used.
There is another strong reason for the chronological format. Your resume is the story of your career. It is a very personal and hard-fought narrative about what you have dedicated your working-life to. Like a well written biography it shows where you started, how you progressed, what companies you grew with, what big jumps and small moves you made, etc. Please tell it chronologically so potential employers can really understand and follow its path, and see exactly what you did at each stop in the journey.
Oh and as far as length of the resume, don’t worry too much about it. Take as many pages as you need to adequately describe your career and the experience that is directly applicable to the job you are seeking. If you have less than a couple years of experience you might want to stick to 1 page, but otherwise, take what you need. You might want to keep it under the 11 pages I got from someone once (he still got the job though!).
And please don’t list hobbies or club affiliations. No matter how much passion and pride you may have for them they just don’t belong on a professional resume. It is distracting and sometimes odd.
With that I wish you best of luck on your job hunting! It is a very “candidate-driven” market now (as we recruiters call it) so there are plenty of jobs waiting for you. Go get it!