One size fits all? Maybe not when it comes to resumes.

I just re-read a back issue of Civilian Job News and was impressed by the comments of George Bernloehr in his Publisher’s letter. What makes George’s comments so important is his perspective. Not only is he a veteran who went through a job search himself many years ago, but he is also the publisher of a newspaper that targets military personnel and the companies that like to hire themhe knows what matters to the employers! You would be wise to follow his guidance. Although I agree with his comments, I will add my two cents worth.

LENGTH – you get one page for every 10 years since high school, not to exceed two pagesException – the Federal Job Market. According to Jessica Richardson, Director of Resume Services at, the specific content and format of a Federal resume is more important than the length, which could be three or more pages. The job requirements in the Federal sector tend to be very specific and your resume needs to be custom tailored to make sure you (1) include all of the required information and (2) hit all the key words or phrases.

FORMAT – use reverse chronology. Exception – if doing so would cause a big HOLE to appear on your resume. Example – you separated in late 2007 and went back to your hometown to take care of your ailing parents. You are now ready to start your job search. The EMPLOYMENT section of your resume says “2000 – 2007, U. S. Army” and the time from “2007 to Present” indicates no employment. This “gap” can send a danger signal to an employer, even if there is no danger. Similar situations occur for full-time students, or periods of unemployment, or job market re-entry after time off to recover from a medical situation, start a family, or take that four month “around-the-world” dream vacation between jobs.

In situations like those, a functional format MIGHT be appropriate but I am not a fan of functional resumes. Many employers view a functional resume as a red flag – what is this person trying to hide? Instead of a functional format, try this – use reverse chronology and admit to and account for that time gap right on the resume. For example, “2007 – 2009, returned to hometown to assist parents during a medical crisis. Additionally, volunteered at the local fire company and completed a course in basic accounting at the community college.”

Regardless of format and length, remember this — the best resumes are ones that present your experience in such a way as to indicate your potential AND they make the reader want to know more!