You Have Checkered Work History to Worry About? No Worries!
Many of us have, even through no fault of our own, had a bumpy work history. This may be due to lay-offs, illnesses, temporary contractual work, staying home to raise children, career transitions, or a myriad of other situations. You may have perfectly legitimate reasons; however an employer may not understand why you have short tenures or gaps between jobs – they just want the best candidate for the job.
But have no fear! There are some ways to format your resume so that employers notice your excellent skills and qualifications rather than circumstances in your past. It starts with functional formatting, which means bringing your skills to be beginning and expanding on them, and moving your simplified work history to the end, which downplays your work chronology.
How exactly does this work? Here are the parts of a functional resume:
Introduction. Start with a career summary that gives an overview of your strongest selling points, including unique skills, certifications, corporate awards, etc. This immediately catches the eye of the reader and draws them in. You may also choose to include a list of relevant keywords and a personal branding statement in your introduction.
Summary of Skills. This is where a work history might traditionally go. However, your strengths lie in your skills rather than your work history so displaying a detailed, categorized breakdown of those skills is a great use of space. For example, if you’re a retail sales manager, you may choose to break your skills down into sales and marketing, leadership, retail planning and purchasing, and operations (HR, accounting, etc.). It’s important to be specific here; listing generic skills wastes space and bores readers.
Work History. Use this section to simply list your job title, company name, location, and dates of employment for each job you’ve held. Don’t draw attention to this section by expanding on each job. You may also choose to leave dates off of positions you held more than 10 years ago as they lose relevance after that amount of time and indicate candidate age.
Additional Sections (education, certification, affiliations, etc.). It is important to place these features carefully according to your situation. IT professionals may choose to list their technical certifications at the beginning of the resume. Recent graduates may opt to do the same with the education section. Either way, I would recommend leaving one of these sections at the end of the resume so as not to stop with your broken work history, which ends the resume on a sour note. No matter the order you choose, be sure your skills and qualifications outshine your job chronology.
While this method is a great alternative for those who need it, it is by no means perfect. Recruiters and hiring managers are well aware that candidates use a functional format to hide questionable work circumstances. Therefore, it is important to be prepared to address your work situation. But don’t dwell and give excuses; keep it positive and focus on your skills rather than your past. And remember, you are not defined by your work history!