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Editing Tips: Chronological, Functional and Combination Resumes and CVs

As a freelance proofreader, you may be asked to check many resumes and CVs. But these documents come in many types, so it is worth knowing how they work so you can edit them effectively. Here, then, we’re going to look at the three most common types of resume:

  • Chronological – A resume that focuses on work experience and past job roles.
  • Functional – A resume that foregrounds the person’s skills and expertise.
  • Combination – A type of resume that combines elements of both formats above.

Before we get to individual resume types, though, we should answer an important question: Is there a difference between a resume and a CV? And, if so, what is it? Read on to find out.

Is There a Difference Between a Resume and a CV?

In the USA, many people distinguish between a resume and a CV as follows:

  • A resume is a short (1–2 pages) summary of a person’s work experience, skills, and qualifications, ideally curated to fit the job for which they are applying.
  • A CV (or curriculum vitae) presents a detailed account of a person’s professional and academic achievements, which may run to several pages.

However, this is not a universal distinction! People in the UK and other parts of Europe tend to prefer “CV” for both types of document above. In Australia and South Africa, meanwhile, the terms “resume” and “CV” are often used interchangeably.

Different fields may also have their own requirements for resumes and CVs. An academic CV, for instance, is typically longer and more detailed than a standard resume or CV.

As such, it is worth checking what your client is hoping to achieve with their resume or CV before you start proofreading it. You can then tailor your edits to match their requirements.

In what follows, though, we will focus on the shorter document type known as a “resume” in the US, since these are perhaps the most common document type you will encounter.

Chronological, Functional and Combination Resumes

Resumes and CVs come in three main types: chronological, functional, and combination. Each of these presents information in a slightly different way, so let’s look at how they work.

A chronological resume presents a person’s work experience and qualifications in reverse chronological order (i.e., starting with the most recent and working back). It will usually include:

  • The person’s name and contact details, plus a short personal statement or profile.
  • Their professional roles and achievements so far, including dates of employment.
  • Educational achievements and other qualifications.
  • Other interests or skills relevant to the role.
  • If required, references and their contact details.

The focus here is on continuity and progress. This makes a chronological resume ideal for people who are applying for a new role in the industry they already work in.

A functional resume, meanwhile, focuses on skills and expertise. It would usually include:

  • The person’s name, contact details, and personal statement.
  • A list of key skills, starting with the most important, plus examples of how the person has used them in a professional context.
  • Basic details of previous job roles and employers.
  • Educational achievements and other qualifications.
  • Relevant interests and hobbies.
  • If required, references and their contact details.

Functional resumes focus on skills more than experience. This makes them useful for people who are seeking a career change or who have a gap in their work history.

Finally, a combination resume or CV combines elements of both the above. Typically, this takes the form of a list of skills plus a detailed work history. But the layout and content of a combination resume can vary a lot depending on what its author wants to emphasize.

Proofreading Resumes and CVs

A few factors to keep in mind when proofreading resumes and CVs include:

  • Length – A good resume is typically around one or two pages long (recruiters are busy, so they often ignore longer resumes). Unless your client is preparing a full curriculum vitae, you may need to make minor edits or suggest cuts to keep their resume concise.
  • Clarity – As well as making sure the text itself is clear, you may need to offer advice on presentation to ensure that your client’s resume is easy to navigate. Key factors include using headings effectively and making sure text isn’t too small or cramped to read.
  • Tone – The tone and vocabulary of a resume or CV should be professional throughout. As such, you may need to make minor changes to ensure this.
  • Consistency with cover letter – If you are proofreading a resume and a cover letter for the same client, check that the information is consistent. You may also want to advise moving details from the resume to the cover letter if the former is too long.

Most importantly, of course, you will need to make sure your client’s resume is error free. Mistakes at this point won’t make a great first impression on potential employers, after all!

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