A professional resume is designed to get you noticed and show a potential employer that you are the right person for their company. It is a short piece of individual marketing that should tell the employer what you bring to the table and why you are the ideal candidate for the position.

According to most research, employers spend an average of only six seconds scanning each resume. This means that your resume needs to immediately grab their attention, and it also needs to tell the employer what they will gain by hiring you. Much that is involved with building an effective resume begins well before the actual writing process.

Selecting the correct format is crucial to writing an effective professional resume. Luckily for you, you don’t have to wrack your brain making a choice, as there are really only two main options : chronological and functional. There is also a format that combines the two, a combination format, which may be useful in some cases.

Chronological Resume

This is the most common type of resume format, and it is what most people think of as a traditional resume. In a chronological resume, your work history and experience are the central focus.

With this format, your previous employers are listed in chronological order, beginning with the most recent. Under each job title or employer is a detailed description of the position, usually in bullet points. This is where you could list your duties and accomplishments at each company.

There is usually no major Skills and Accomplishments section in a chronological resume, though there may be a short summary at the beginning. These resumes are best when you have an extensive employment history within the same field as the position for which you are applying. A chronological resume highlights your experience more than your skills.

This is the best format if you are applying for another position within the same industry, or you work in a particularly conservative industry, as it may appeal to older, more traditional employers. It should only be used if you have significant experience within the field and there are no lapses in employment.

Functional Resume

A functional resume is designed to highlight your skills more than your experience. It puts less emphasis on your work history and more focus on what talents and qualifications you bring to the table.

A functional resume begins with the assertions section which deals specifically in what skills, expertise and benefits you are offering to bring to the position. The company names of your previous employers are listed in a subordinate position in the bottom half of the resume with no descriptions under them.

Functional resumes are ideal for anyone looking to make a career change from one industry to another. This format is also good for anyone without extensive work history or for a person with a diverse work history that includes multiple industries. Functional formats are often the choice for targeted resumes, as they specifically highlight what you can bring to each position.

This format also has its downsides though. Since most common resumes are in chronological format, functional resumes can be slightly more difficult to read, especially in the case of more traditional employers. This may also present problems for hiring managers who want to determine your specific duties with each job.

All in the Details

Choosing the right format is only the beginning of writing a great resume, but it is a crucial step. You should always be mindful of the small details that can make or break a resume. A tasteful personal photograph, a notable yet readable font and any number of other small details could be the difference in finding your dream job. Last but not least, pay extra attention to putting the resumes in nice business envelopes before mailing them. Taking that extra step will show how detail oriented and professional you really are.