Resume Format Guide

Reverse-Chronological, Functional, and Combination Styles + Free Examples

Creating a well-written resume takes more than just writing down your work experience and skills. Did you know that the format could increase your chances of scoring an interview? The key is using the format that will best showcase your skills and work experience.

From the traditional to the highly creative, there are many good resume formats to choose from. This guide will walk you through the most common resume styles, and provide you with sample templates to download and use.

The Three Main Resume Formats

The most commonly used formats are chronological, functional, and combination.

Chronological

The chronological resume (sometimes known as a reverse-chronological resume) places emphasis on your work history, clearly showing what positions you’ve held and for how long. Employment history is typically listed in reverse-chronological order, beginning with your most recent position.

If your work history is consistent, and reflects an upward trajectory in your career, a chronological format is the simplest and most effective option. It is often preferred by recruiting consultants.

If you’re writing an entry-level resume, or you have an inconsistent work history, there are better options for you.

Functional Resume Format

A functional resume, or skills-based resume, begins by highlighting your skills and work experiences, while saving your work history for the end. Unlike a chronological format, the period of time spent on each job is not included.

Because it doesn’t feature your employment history, it’s a good choice for job seekers who have frequent job changes, have gaps between jobs, or if are re-entering the workforce. It also works well if you’re seeking a career change and your work history isn’t applicable to the new role.

Functional resumes are a great way for someone to sell themselves to a potential employer when they have transferable skills, but they don’t have the job experience to back them up.

Combination

A combination resume is a hybrid of the chronological and functional resume formats. Unlike a functional format, a combination format is for job seekers with a longer career history, which often comes with an extensive list of skills and achievements. On the other hand, if your career history is lacking, or you have gaps between jobs, you may want to avoid this format.

The main drawback of this format is that it can easily end up too long. Featuring only the experience and skills that mirror the job requirements of the position you’re seeking can keep the length under control.

Comparison Chart of the Three Main Resume Formats

Chronological Functional Combination
Emphasis Employment History Skills Both
Time Included Not included Included
Skills Not included Included Included
Pros Typically preferred by recruiters Downplays lack of experience Highlights skills and work history
Cons Doesn’t highlight skills Lack of work experience may standout Can be lengthy and redundant

Resume Format Examples

Here are three downloadable resume examples in Microsoft Word, one for each format. You can find many more examples and some resume tips on these pages: chronological format, functional format, combination format.


Chronological Resume Template
Chronological Resume: Definition, Format, Advantages, Layout, Outline, and 103 Examples
Functional Resume Template
Functional Resume: Definition, Format, Advantages, Layout, Outline, and 60 Examples
Button-Down Resume Template
Combination Resume: Definition, Format, Advantages, Layout, Outline, and 117 Examples

Specialized Resume Formats

Beyond the three basic resume formats, a number of more specialized options exist. Check pages below to download a free resume template in the format you need.

Creative

creative resume
While it’s important to have a professional resume, sometimes a little creativity and innovation is appropriate. The creative resume format uses an artistic layout, offering job seekers the chance to stand out in industries that will appreciate this.

Web design, marketing and advertising, and graphic design are all examples of industries that might respond well to a creative format. It’ll be up to you to make the judgement call.

This format may not be ideal in many circumstances, but used wisely it can be a powerful way to showcase your skills.

Check out a creative sample resume here.

Portfolio

Portfolio ResumeIf you’re in a creative or technical field, another option to consider is a portfolio resume format. This type of format gives you the opportunity to showcase your work and accomplishments in a visual way.

The design of your portfolio will depend upon your industry, but it’s an ideal choice for artists, graphic designers, photographers, web designers, and other creative professionals.

See this page for an example of a portfolio resume.

Infographic

Infographic ResumeAn engaging format, most useful for designers and marketers, the infographic resume format is a visual layout that has gained popularity in 2017. It is a trendy way to showcase your skills, using bullet points and images, such as charts, graphs, icons, and timelines.

Like other creative resumes, it’s not meant for all employers, so you may want to have a traditionally formatted resume on hand to complement it.

If you are interested in an infographic format, here are some infographic samples to check out.

ATS-Friendly

ATS-Friendly ResumeIf you’re applying for a job online, it’s important to note that a lot of companies are now using Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to screen applications. If your resume doesn’t fit the mold, it’ll get tossed. For example, ATS cannot decipher information in tables, tablets, or images. Even something a simple as putting your name in the wrong place can get your resume rejected.

Using an ATS-friendly resume format ensures your resume will get past the first hurdle.

It’s of particular importance if you’re applying for a non-profit, government, or corporate job. Recruitment consultants often use ATS as well.

CV

PhD in Music CV TemplateCV stands for curriculum vitae, and this is a different type of resume altogether, with a somewhat different purpose. A CV is longer than a resume and is designed to be an in-depth exploration of your career path – see this page for many examples.

It’s the standard in academia and, on the whole, is more common in Europe than the United States.

Best Resume Format to Use

Now that you know the basic features of each format, who they’re best for and their pros and cons, you can get to deciding which one is right for you.

The best resume format for you depends upon your work history and your career goals. Additionally, you’ll want to consider your life circumstances, your skills and achievements, and your educational background.

Bonus tip: Referring to the person specification posted with the job listing is a great way to tailor your resume to the job you’re seeking. You’ll want to make sure you’re being honest about your skills, but this is a great way to stand out to a potential employer.

To start the process, brainstorm and write down everything you can think of relating to your jobs, experiences, skills, achievements, education, career goals, along with the specific requirements and qualifications for the job posting.

Then think about some simple questions to help you to clarify which format would be best for you.

For example:

  • What industry do you want to work in?
  • Will the employer appreciate a little creativity, or would they find it off-putting?
  • Is your work history consistent?
  • Do you have skills specific to the job you’re applying for?
  • Do you have frequent career changes to compensate for?

The answers to these questions (and any others you can think of) will help you develop clarity on which format to use.

For example, if the job is for a non-profit organisation and you’re submitting a resume online, a traditional ATS format is the optimal choice. On the other hand, if you’re a photographer seeking a remote freelance job for a small business, a portfolio resume format would be recommended.

After you’ve chosen the format, picking a resume template is simple. Before you know it, you’ll be submitting a powerful, attention-grabbing resume which will lead you to the job of your dreams.