By Annie Rose Stathes, December 2013
Most resumes include the following information:
⇒A Summary of Qualifications
⇒A Description of Your Education
⇒A Description of Your Professional and Relevant Personal Experience
⇒Honors, Awards, and Special Recognitions
⇒Activities, Hobbies, and Interests
When creating a resume for your graduate school application, it is important to consider the purpose of the resume and its audience. Once you have determined your purpose and audience, you can use two primary resume structures: chronological or functional, or, in some cases, a combination of the two.
If you determine the purpose of your resume is to emphasize places of employment, positions held within those organizations, and time served within particular positions. A chronological resume may be the best format. A chronological resume lists education and experience in chronological order, starting with your most recent experience. This type of resume emphasizes organizations, positions held within organizations, achievements, and responsibilities (all organized under the most important information—the amount of time spent at organizations and the positions held within). Chronological resumes emphasize that you have worked for a particular organization or held a particular position. They also emphasize the amount of time you have worked in a particular position or industry. Chronological resumes might best be used when your past experience is directly correlated to the opportunity for which you are applying.
While a chronological resume emphasizes organizations and positions, a functional resume emphasizes skills and accomplishments. Such resumes might be organized by sections that describe volunteering, writing, researching, communication, leadership and other experience that is not well-illustrated in a chronological list of organizations and positions. Functional resumes also deemphasize the amount of time spent working at a particular organization and may be good option for people who have gaps in their work history or have derived relevant experience outside of professional settings. Functional resumes may also work well when your experience does not directly correlate to the opportunity for which you are applying.
Making Your Resume Stand Out
Resumes provide admissions committees with a snapshot of your life and help them to determine whether or not you are a fit for their programs. Therefore, it is incredibly important to provide admissions committees with resumes that clearly demonstrate the ways in which your professional experience matches their programs’ goals. Here are some questions you might ask yourself when determining how to structure your resume (given your resume’s purpose and audience):
What are the programs’ expectations?
Do they want to know that you have a certain number of years working as a professional? Do they want to know that you have international experience or speak another language? Do they want to know that you are good at working with people? Do they want to know whether or not you have experience working with a particular agency or in a particular field?
Determine what type of experience that may make you a competitive applicant and be sure you highlight those experiences on your resume.
What are the goals of the program?
If the program’s goal is to prepare you for a career in a particular field, your chronological experience might be less relevant than if the goal of the program is to enhance an existing career (in which case the program might want chronological proof that you have an existing career).
When considering the goals of a program, you might also consider the program’s curricula and purpose. For example, a program designed to enhance an existing career and prepare students for advancement in leadership positions might require the submission of a combination resume in which both chronological work and experiential-based experience are equally emphasized.
What experience do you have that you feel is most relevant and important?
What makes you uniquely you? Does what you view as important match what the admissions committees view as important? If so, what resume format will be best? What resume format will allow you to be yourself but also address the needs of the program?
Keep in mind that ultimately, there is no “right” way to structure a resume. If you think of a different structure that meets the needs of the audience, use it! The main thing to consider is that you are using your resume to illustrate that your experience will help the school fulfill its mission and desired outcomes.
About the Author:Annie Rose Stathes holds a B.A. in International Affairs and an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Colorado, Denver. She is currently an instructor of writing at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.