So, if the resume still is an important piece in a candidate's job search, what format is the best?
I am still a big fan of the traditional chronological format. Some resume creators champion the skills-based format; however, most employers don't like this format as it can be used to cover employment gaps in a candidate's work history. I also don't feel that a candidate needs to engage a Resume Consultant and spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to develop a resume or online resume website. There is a lot of free information and templates online that a job seeker can use to develop a resume.
My rule of thumb to candidates that I speak with is that you cannot have a "one size fits all resume". The job market is so competitive today and employers are so specific in what they want, that a job seeker needs to customize their resume for each job that they apply to. How is this done? The job seeker can develop a resume, but then will need to "tweak" their resume based on the job posting that they are applying to. Make sure to use the key words found in the job description as many internal company recruiters used Boolean based searches to locate candidates in their company's Applicant Tracking Systems. As long as you can back up anything that you put on your resume, this customizing is a smart move.
I am also asked by candidates on the proper length of a resume. There seems to be a misconception that you need to limit your resume to two pages. While two pages would be ideal, it is very difficult for an experienced candidate to keep a resume to two pages. Three pages is certainly fine. For scientific or research candidates, the length of your resume would certainly be longer because you will need to include information such as patents, publications, or speaking events.
Make sure to include a descriptive sentence or two under each employer that you work for as many people may not know about each employer that you worked for. Also, include the month and year for the start and end of each employment. It also doesn't hurt to include GPA information under each degree that you have. I am also a big fan of cover letters which can be tailored for each job that you apply to.
Remember, your resume is just a door opener for you. A well-written resume should great improve your chances of success.