Dear Sam: Due to downsizing, I have recently found myself back in the market searching for a job. I have not had issues getting my resume noticed in the past. I have more than seven years of experience in outside sales and have my resume organized chronologically. Do you think I would get noticed by choice employers more quickly if I used a functional resume format instead of a chronological format? – Lauren

Dear Lauren: Probably not. Functional resumes are rarely as effective because they leave the reader wondering what you did when and where. Functional formats should be resorted to only when you have little chance of getting past the screening process if you use the traditional and much more widely accepted reverse chronological format. These situations could include frequent job hops, limited related experience, significant employment gaps, and more.

You can certainly pull out some career highlights and organize those by functional area, creating a combination or hybrid format, but be sure to note where each was achieved. This can be a challenging resume to write, however, as it requires some creativity in formatting and the ability to walk a fine line between focusing on your related and most relevant skills while also ensuring you are providing your target audience with the where-what-when they are seeking to understand.

Your qualifications summary should serve as the overview of your related and transferable skills and experiences; in that summary, you can pull out keywords that will focus attention on the areas you would likely highlight in a functional format. Instead of resorting to the functional structure, use great content, organization, formatting, achievements, and a strong qualifications summary to grab the reader’s attention.

Dear Sam: I am returning to the workforce after six years as a stay-at-home mom. My resume is outdated, and I am not sure how to grab the attention of employers as they will first see the huge gap in employment. I have listed only the last 10 years of experience. Also, I have done some work for my husband’s company, including answering phones, janitorial work, and scheduling. How on earth do I present that? – Sally

Dear Sally: Let me “paint a picture” for readers. You open with your objective statement, followed by work experience, including three positions held between 2005 and 2015. You close your resume with an education section noting your diploma.

If I were a hiring manager reviewing your resume, I would ask three questions: (1) What does she want to do? (2) What can she do? (3) What has she been doing since 2015?” Unfortunately, with this number of questions, the hiring manager would likely look no further. There are, however, strategies you can employ to create a much more effective and attractive resume.

1st: Do you know what positions you are interested in? You need to figure this out before you can even begin to craft your resume.

2nd: Can you define your key strengths? Reflect on your background and determine what you like to do and what you can do well. Take some time to uncover your “value,” albeit packaged in a small amount of experience.

3rd: Why not explore what you have been doing professionally with your family business since 2015? There is no reason you can’t list this within your professional experience to fill the gap.

Lastly, take some time to revamp your format. Making something pleasing to look at is a great way to sometimes “hide” a lack of content and, in your case, recent experience. I know you can have a great resume that facilitates your reentry into the workforce. I just had a client return to work after being home for seven years! She conducted a targeted job, applied for the first job she wanted, and got it! It can be done! Just take some time to develop your strategy further before you put pen to paper.