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Structure your rsum for success

Dave Willmer | July 22, 2009
The most effective résumés are those that allow employers to quickly connect a candidate's experience and skills to the firm's needs and the demands of the open position.

Keep in mind that many hiring managers view functional résumés with suspicion because there is limited information about a candidate's specific work experience. A functional résumé won't quickly paint the standard picture of your career, so a carefully targeted cover letter is an essential companion. In the cover letter, be sure to include the names of companies you've worked for and your total years of IT experience.

Combination: Build a compelling case

A combination résumé brings together elements of both a chronological and functional résumé. It showcases your skills and accomplishment and includes an abbreviated version of your work history, including dates of employment and the names of companies you've worked for. Because of this, the combination format has gained popularity as a way to emphasize skills without obscuring work history.

The combination format may be the best choice if your employment history is impressive but doesn't obviously relate to the position you're seeking - for example, if you're applying for a management position and most of your management experience lies outside of IT. A combination résumé can also help you emphasize skills that exceed your work history, such as self-taught programming skills that you haven't used in the office. It can also be effective for independent contractors whose work history includes projects at multiple employers but who also want to highlight their most relevant IT skills.

While few employers will indicate a preference in résumé format, all of them appreciate résumés that address their unique needs and are up to date. That's why the most successful IT job candidates maintain a baseline document that they change to suit each opportunity, using the format that makes the best case for how they can benefit the employer in the specific role at hand.

Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. The company has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at


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