Q: Someone told me that a certain format for the resume (with a narrow column on the left for skills and education, and the name, contact info and experience appearing to the right of it) must be used for success if you are an entrepreneur/small business owner or freelancer seeking to work for someone else. Is this true; that employers for certain positions are looking for, or prefer some specific format?
A: I don’t know of any resume format that is recommended specifically for entrepreneurs and/or freelancers. In general, employers want your resume with the experience in reverse chronological order, and a format that is clear, logical, and consistent, so they can easily find the information they are most interested in reading.
Job hunting can be an uncertain and frustrating thing. There is always an element of luck to it, for example: what jobs are open in your area that you are qualified for at the time you are actively applying, whether your application documents arrive at the right time to be read by a decision maker in the job search process, the relative strengths and qualifications of others applying to the same job, which skills/experience are most important to the hiring manager, etc. It can, unfortunately, be a situation where you can do everything right and still struggle.
And sometimes struggling job seekers become superstitious in their job search efforts. They want so badly to believe there is some secret, some foolproof action they can take, that will guarantee a favorable outcome.
If someone else has success with a certain resume format, or other job search tactic, then following their example as closely as possible may seem it will work for you too. It is far more likely, though, that their success came from their experience and skills and strengths and the fact that their application documents conveyed those things effectively.
If columns were the easy answer, and all by themselves gave any entrepreneur or freelancer that used them a significant advantage, then what would happen if 20, or 50, or 75 applicants for a single position used them? Would the columns still give an advantage if large numbers of people used them?
Columns on a resume are not so impressive that they will make a hiring manager more likely to call you for an interview or hire you; they’re just columns. And in some cases, columns (and tables, boxes around text, even fancy bullet points, etc.) may interfere with Applicant Tracking Systems making sense of the information on the page, which can hurt your chances of being called for an interview. A resume that can be easily read by an ATS and by a human being and that shows clearly and compellingly that you are a good match for the requirements of the job is your best option.