It seems like everyone has a circuitous career path these days. In fact, the person who advances in a continuous line from one job to another in the same industry and with increasing...

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It seems like everyone has a circuitous career path these days.

In fact, the person who advances in a continuous line from one job to another in the same industry and with increasing responsibility is becoming rare, indeed.

Unfortunately, résumé formats have not caught up to this reality.

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Although most résumé professionals know better than to simply list jobs in a chronological fashion, professionals don’t prepare most résumés.

They’re prepared by job seekers using online formats or software programs or books, many of which repeat résumé styles from decades past.

The result is a dated document that highlights exactly the wrong information, such as the short tenure at some jobs or a variety of seemingly unrelated positions.

To make sure your résumé works well for you, follow these basic steps.

• Identify your target job or industry.

A person with 10 years in retail sales will highlight different skills when applying for a fashion merchandising position than when applying for an insurance sales position.

In the first situation, the résumé would emphasize knowledge of clothing and display techniques and experience working with vendors, customers and retail-store management.

In the second situation, the résumé would focus on selling ability, customer-service strengths and product-related knowledge gained from classes or certification.

Pull the most important (i.e., relevant) information to the top.

If this retail salesperson has targeted insurance sales and has recently completed a course on that subject, that class should be near the top of the résumé.

Likewise, a two-year stint as secretary to an insurance agent belongs near the top, even if it happened 15 years ago.

• Emphasize relevant skills rather than job descriptions.

Besides product knowledge, this retail salesperson understands several sales techniques, knows how to train and supervise junior staff, can operate electronic cash and inventory systems, can resolve customer-service complaints, and create or maintain displays.

The skills that most closely relate to the work being sought belong in the top third of the résumé where the prospective employer — or an electronic résumé scanner — can find them quickly.

The job descriptions themselves can be relegated to the bottom of the page, because employers care more about what you can do for them than about what you did for someone else.

• Don’t be a slave to format.

Decide which information will be most important to your targeted employer or industry and figure out a way to get it in the top third of the page.

You can use a summary statement, a list of accomplishments, a skills list, or even a category that bluntly says, “Experience Related to Insurance Sales.”

Whatever it takes, get that information to the top.

Ready for a test case?

Following is an excerpt from a letter from a reader.

See if you can sketch out a résumé for him.

“After 2-1/2 years working for a major bank, I resigned to take a post as food service and grocery manager for a major nonprofit food pantry.

“This didn’t work out and I resigned after only four months. I was fortunate enough to be hired back at the same bank where I’d worked before.

“I have 13-plus years’ experience in the restaurant and food service industry, and the sort of work for which I’d be looking would be in that industry.

“My résumé would be going to chefs and kitchen managers and food-service organizations’ HR people.

“Should I even mention that four-month stint at the food pantry? If so, how should I handle my brief return to the bank?

“Thank you, Mike B.”

How did you do? Here’s my approach to this résumé, based on the four rules noted above.

Job or industry.

Food service/restaurant.

Most relevant information.

13-1/2 years experience in the field.

Most relevant skills.

Food preparation, ordering and inventory management, kitchen supervision, vendor management and knowledge of health codes.

Suggested format.

Start with an “Objective” clearly stating type of work desired.

Follow with an “Experience Profile” which notes the 13-1/2 years of experience and the type of work settings.

Go next to a “Skills” section to identify specific skills and knowledge areas.

Then on to a section called “Food Preparation Experience” which gives the actual jobs and their duties (including the four-month job).

The next section is “Related Training” which provides information on food-preparation courses.

The last section is “Other Experience and Training,” where the banking job and any other school programs are listed. Give the correct dates for the banking job, but don’t highlight them.

Now try this method on your own résumé.

If you haven’t been getting a good response rate, it might be time for a rewrite.