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I want to restructure my resume so that the first page displays a hierarchical tree of qualifications. My goal is to advertise myself like a tradesman who lists what he can do on the side of his van rather than using a list of employers in the descending chronological order and then the potential customer (AKA employer) has to fish out your credentials by scanning each employer listed. I also think that this approach puts me and my skills in the foreground rather than who I worked in the foreground and let me be evaluated by who I worked for.

I still plan to list the employers but give a much briefer description of each job as I would like to put less emphasis on that than on my actual skills that I'm bringing to the table.

Considerig that I am breaking the convention but also considering that I want to weed out conservative employers who do not appreciate doing thing innovatively, is this a good idea? If not, can you suggest a compromise but something that in format differs from traditional resumes? My aspiration is to market myself as a contractor who comes in, does the job, and leaves, and as such, I want to differentiate myself from the get-go, i.e. the first kick in the door.

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7 Answers 7

Put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter. When you're looking at 50 resumes, do you want them to look roughly similar, so you can compare them? Or do you want to translate the message that the candidate is trying to put across?

Also, do you want a list of skills or a list of achievements (visibly close to the job role in which those achievements were achieved)?

Do you think that you are more likely to hire a contractor who bucks conventions and does everything his own way, or one who impresses but sticks within a standard that everyone has agreed to for a long time? That's not conservative, it's common sense. You may have to hire a different contractor to work on that product later.

I like a bit of innovation, when I'm looking at a candidate, but not overthrowing all conventions. I really wouldn't advise this approach. Not only is it unconventional, it doesn't convey a message I want to read. It just tells me that you've worked with lots of technologies, not that you're any good at any of them and certainly not that you know how to deliver a working product.

Neither, for that matter, does it convey the message that you are "a contractor who comes in, does the job, and leaves." If you want to convey that message then a list of short contracts, each leading to a successful delivery, would be much more effective, no?

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@MDMarra: That's not really equivalent to a resume, it's equivalent to a marketing brochure. The standards there are different, but the basics still apply. You want to get a message over in the most efficient way possible. –  pdr Jan 8 '13 at 21:19

What you're describing seems similar to a functional resume. I do see some attractiveness to using such a format.

That said, in poking around the web a little, it seems current thinking is that most job hunters should use the traditional (reverse) chronological resume, as use of a functional resume is seen as problematic. Some of the problems:

  • Hiring managers want to be able to quickly look over your career and see how it has progressed and what you have accomplished. Listing skills instead of jobs and projects makes this sort of review difficult or impossible.
  • Hiring managers also grow suspicious of people using functional resumes as they (the managers) fear the job seeker may be hiding something (e.g. a large gap of unemployment).
  • Many (most?) companies now use software to pre-screen resumes and it seems this sort of software cannot process functional resumes.

It seems that most resume/career advisors suggest using a functional resume only when a chronological resume can't communicate what you need. For example, if you seek a career change, a functional resume may be better able to show what skills you have developed that would be applicable to the new field. This article at Quintessential Careers has more details.

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I think it would be a bad idea, while people are often looking for skills, what they really want to see is how those skills have been applied and used. A traditional CV layout allows people to see what you have actually done rather than what you know, the frame work should be what you have achieved in roles and then the skills hang off that.

While I applaud your search for an employer that is less conservative often jobs will be via an agency and the employer will never see your handy work. At a push I'd suggest have two versions of your CV, one traditional and one like yours and distribute accordingly, although I suspect often your new way won't be read.

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Why not just use a straight-up skills matrix at the top? List technology, years used and self-evaluated proficiency. Then, for each employer or project listed below, specifically call out the technologies used.

Something like this:
sample skills matrix

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AS someone who has done a lot of hiring through the years, a skills list that took up the entire first page would turn me off. I know you have the skills I need officially listed or the resume would have never gotten to me. Yes, you need one in the resume somewhere to get past the automated filters in HR. But the person who will be making the final decision to interview you is more interested in what you have accomplished than what you know as long as what you know meets a certain minimum for the job. So my first priority in looking at your resume is accomplishments which are either presented in a separate accomplishments section or in the chronological part of the resume (please do not make this a simple listing of job responsibilities either, I am not interested in what you were responsible for, I am interested in what you did). This is what should always be first.

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I second XYZ_909 opinion, the job description shows to your interviewer how you've applied the knowledge you have, instead of simply listing the knowledge you (allegedly) have.

Ok, you're planning to list the technologies you're used to work with. I assume you plan to add to them, depth of knowledge you have on each of them (like Jacob's table), right?

So, the underlying question is... how do you plan to present the depth of knowledge on each technology? My 'expert / average / basic' concepts might be quite different from yours. That's why the technology experience level (regardless how you measure it, by years of experience, by certifications, etc) is kept on the second plan: It's biased.

So, if you decide to go ahead with your format, make sure you really know how to explain your depth of knowledge on each technology. Eventually, it's done by presenting your past job experiences... that's why (I believe) a CV is structured as we know.

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As an employer, I would want to know if you are capable of being an employee at a company (hopefully similar to mine). Excessive job changes and/or gaps in your employment are a red flag regardless of your skill level.

I wouldn't expect a resume to only indicate the skills I'm looking for that apply to the job, but there should be some focus.

Validation - at some point, you need to convince me you can build the things I need. Prior successes are very helpful. The interview is more likely the place where you'll be able to show you know this stuff and can learn new things.

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