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How to Write a Skills Based Resume

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If you've experienced a bumpy career ride, consider presenting your experience in a skills-based, or functional, resume format. Instead of listing your most recent jobs in reverse chronological order, as a standard resume format requires, you'll place your outstanding attributes at the top. By following this approach, you're taking the emphasis off your work history and focusing on skills and abilities that could benefit the potential employer you're hoping to impress.

Assess Your Situation

Evaluate your career history to determine whether a skills-based resume makes sense to use. Consider this option if you're just starting out, and haven't built up significant experience, or you plan on making a major mid-career transition. The skills-based format is also better suited to applicants with frequent job changes, lengthy employment gaps or one or more terminations, such as layoffs, from previous positions.

Focus on Specifics

At the top of your resume, after your name, address and phone number, you'll place a section called "Skills" or "Skills and Experience." This section will make up the bulk of your resume. Choose three or four broad skill areas that fit the position you seek. For example, you might highlight your communication, leadership and project management skills. Under each category, draft brief bullet statements (the number will vary depending on your experience) to explain what you did and the specific results you achieved. For example, under the category of project management skills, a health-care sales applicant might have a bullet that says, "Led project X that boosted sales of drug Y by Z percent in year XXYZ." Write clearly, avoiding jargon that a hiring manager might not understand.

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Minimize Negative Areas

Don't limit past experience to paid positions. If you're new to the workforce, or have been unemployed for a while, list non-occupational activities that tell your story positively, says CBS Moneywatch columnist Dave Johnson in his July 2013 article, "Correct the Fatal Flaws in Your Resume." Examples include significant academic achievements, freelance assignments, internships and volunteer stints that present you as a well-rounded candidate. Include these details in the middle portion or following page of your resume. Save major explanations for your cover letter.

Other Considerations

Save the final page for miscellaneous items that don't fit your skills or volunteer information, such as your educational background, major projects you've completed, professional affiliations and publishing credits. Make sure each item has professional value. Don't list any hobbies, unless they relate specifically to the job.

De-Emphasize Work History

Place recent employers near the bottom of your resume. The idea is to use the bulk of the resume to highlight skills and experience that the company to which you're applying might find attractive. Provide only a short work history listing each employer by company name, city and state. Then include your job title and how long you worked there, and leave it at that. If you're still unsure how your work history may be perceived, consider dropping dates altogether, or just listing the number of years spent at each job. Finally proofread your final draft, choose one professional-looking font to make your document easy to read, and make any necessary corrections before sending it out.

About the Author

Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.

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