The Ultimate Guide to Three Resume Formats: Chronological, Combination and Functional

Leave hiring managers with a great impression of you by choosing the ideal resume format for your experience. This guide explains the pros and cons of each format along and provides access to an online resume builder, free examples and downloadable templates.

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At a Glance: Your Format Comparison Chart

This chart will help you determine which resume format best suits your unique job-searching needs by defining the format’s emphasis and the pros and cons of each layout. You’ll find additional advice further down the page. Once you have a format in mind, you’re ready to create your resume. You can download one of our free templates or use our Resume Builder to create a superior document.

  • Chronological
    Format Emphasis
    Emphasis is on steady employment history with more than 10+ years of steady work.
    Format Pros
    Demonstrates career growth. Typically preferred by recruiters. Highlights well-known employers.
    Format Cons
    Doesn’t highlight skills.
    Best Suited for These Job Seekers
    10+ years of work experience. Applying to a job similar to previous experience.
    Best Avoided by These Job Seekers
    Entry-level workers. Job seekers with work gaps.
    Includes Dates
    Yes.
    Includes Skills
    One section featuring 6-8 skills.
  • Functional
    Format Emphasis
    Prominently features job seekers’ skills with multiple sections dedicated to summaries and detailed task breakdowns.
    Format Pros
    Highlights skills and informal experience. Downplays lack of traditional work experience.
    Format Cons
    Lack of formal work experience might stand out.
    Best Suited for These Job Seekers
    Career-change. Contract employees. Short work history. Gaps in their work history.
    Best Avoided by These Job Seekers
    Entry-level workers. 10+ years of experience.
    Includes Dates
    No.
    Includes Skills
    One to three sections feature multiple lists of skills and details.
  • Combination
    Format Emphasis
    Prominently features job seekers’ employment history and skills.
    Format Pros
    Highlights skills first, followed by a detailed work history.
    Format Cons
    Can be lengthy and redundant.
    Best Suited for These Job Seekers
    Recent graduates. Less than 10 years of employment.
    Best Avoided by These Job Seekers
    Workers with 10+ years of experience. Job seekers with work gaps.
    Includes Dates
    Yes.
    Includes Skills
    One section featuring 6-8 skills.
  • While there are no set rules about which format to use, you should be aware of these established guidelines to help make an informed decision.

    • The chronological format is best when applying to roles similar to your current or most recent one.
    • The functional format works well when pursuing a new type of position.
    • The combination resume is a marriage of the two previous formats and is typically used by job seekers with long and diverse work histories, targeting senior or specialized roles.

    You’ll decide which format is best for your particular situation. We’ll talk about the pros and cons of each design, along with general best-writing practices.

Chronological Resume Format

The chronological, or reverse-chronological, resume is the most familiar format and the default layout that people use when writing resume advice, including our writing guide. This resume relies on the following structure:

Name and contact information
Summary statement
Work history
Skills
Education
Optional sections like certifications, hobbies or publications

Your work history is the first detailed section and, true to name, presents your experience in chronological order. Your current or most recent position is listed first, followed by the role immediately prior, and so forth. Each job entry clearly shows both the title and length of time you held at each role.

Keep in mind that you need to determine how far back your work history will go. We recommend that you include your employment history from the past 10 years, or go back the number of years required to list job experiences that relate to the job you’re currently seeking.

This format’s role is to quickly relate your experience to the job opening. What constitutes a relevant work history varies significantly by industry and employer, particularly for highly competitive roles. You need to marry your resume with the requirements listed in each new job advertisement.

Most job seekers using this format tend to provide the most detail on their three most recent positions while including only career-defining accomplishments and brief summaries for previous jobs.

Should I Use a Chronological Format?

You can learn more about this format in our dedicated chronological format guide, but our succinct advice is to use this format if you have more than 10 years of steady employment that reflects a clear upward career progression, increased responsibilities and demonstrable skills development. That means that your resume timeline can’t include any work gaps longer than a few weeks, frequent job shifts or any employment that lasted less than a year.

The chronological resume is an especially strong format if your work history includes highly-recognized companies — brand recognition adds clout to your professional experience.

When Should I Avoid This Format?

The chronological resume is not recommended for entry-level job seekers, students or new entrants to the workforce because it draws attention to your relative lack of work experience. A combination resume is a better choice for you, since that format has a dedicated section for your work experiences but prioritizes your skills section.

It’s also a poor choice if you’re reentering the workforce after a long absence. Consider the functional or combination formats below, as they can help you showcase skills and technical knowledge over conventional work experiences.

How to Successfully Use a Chronological Format?

Our designated chronological resume format guide offers multiple resume templates and step-by-step advice for creating your chronological resume. You’ll also find expert advice on what recruiters look for on a resume, free templates and resume-building tools for creating a compelling chronological document.

You can also build your own chronological resume by using our online Resume Builder. You’ll find further advice formatting your resume further down this page.

Functional Resume Format

The functional resume focuses directly on relevant skills and career achievements, regardless of when they were gained. This format usually begins with an overview of the job seekers’ skills and most relevant work experiences, while listing the work history at the end of the resume. This resume relies on the following structure:

Name and contact information
Summary statement
General skills
Relevant skills
Work history
Education
Optional sections like certifications, hobbies or publications

Unlike the other two formats, a functional resume captures your achievements, responsibilities and time spent at each job through your skills. It’s often called a “skills-based resume.” You’ll list skills in order of priority according to how valuable they are to the open position or potential employer.

Because the functional resume focuses directly on skills relevant to a specific job, this format is handy if you need to emphasize to recruiters and hiring managers your technical skills and practical experience, or if you have a very short or non-existent work history.

But this resume format is also less common than the chronological resume and should be used with caution. Recruiters may review this resume with the assumption that you’re trying to exclude unfavorable details of your employment history (e.g., job hopping, performance-based termination, being a “late bloomer”).

Should I Use a Functional Format?

Choose this layout if you experienced frequent job changes or have significant gaps in your employment. It’s also an excellent choice if you’re an entry-level job seeker, have three-to-five years of experience, are a seasoned professional with over 10 years of experience but want to change careers, or if you have valuable transferable skills but your job history doesn’t clearly relate to your new job.

When Should I Avoid This Format?

Do not use the functional resume format if you are applying to roles in conservative industries or firms, like banking, finance or law. These employers often have standard recruitment procedures that prefer the chronological template — candidates are expected to include specific information on their resumes in the standard chronological layout.

You should also use a different layout if you’re applying for a managerial role, or are trying to get promoted and need to demonstrate career growth.

How to Successfully Use a Functional Format?

Skills are what matter in the workplace, not the path you took to acquire them. Use this resume if you’re looking for a job that requires a lot of technical skills, such as a job in the S.T.E.A.M. field. As long as you give detailed descriptions of your past training and experience, your functional resume will perform well.

You’ll find a comprehensive step-by-step guide to creating a functional resume that showcases your skills. You’ll also find 60 downloadable samples, our free templates and resume-building tools that will put your skills at the center of the conversation with your next employer.

Combination Resume Format

This layout brings together the strengths of both the chronological and functional resumes. Also called the hybrid format, equal weight is given to your previous work responsibilities and skills. It highlights your curated set of skills and career accomplishments before it presents your prior employment in order of recency, much like a chronological layout.

Name and contact information
Summary statement
Skills
Work history
Education
Optional sections like certifications, hobbies or publications

Use the combination resume if you’re looking for a medium- to senior-level role and have over three years of work history, extensive skills and achievements that tell your distinguished career story. Because this format is so comprehensive and detailed, it’s also the most difficult of the three resumes to write.

Combination resumes are often longer than functional or chronological resumes. Keep your version focused, forceful and concise. Avoid redundant information, irrelevant details or meandering narrative. You'll find additional information on our in-depth combination guide.

Should I Use a Combination Format?

Use this format if you’re an entry-level employee with significant internship or entry-level experience, or have over ten years of work experience with powerful skills and accomplishments. It will benefit you if you’re looking for a mid- to senior-level role or a new position that requires highly specialized skills.

When Should I Avoid This Format?

Don’t use the combination resume format if your career history seems incomplete, lacks the accomplishments of your senior-level peers, or you have substantial gaps between jobs. Career changes, job hopping and absences from the workforce are very noticeable in this format and come across as glaring in the work history section of a combination resume.

How to Successfully Use a Combination Format?

You are at the top of your career game — your resume needs to shine as you do. Here you’ll find a complete, comprehensive guide to crafting a highly refined combination resume. More than 100 downloadable templates, a powerful Resume Builder, and tips from the pros are available to help you create a resume of distinction.

A Builder Guide to Easily Format Your Resume

Once you decide which resume format is ideal for your job search, we can help you create your resume. Each of our in-depth format guides above feature free downloadable templates that you can use to start your resume.

We also offer an online Resume Builder that can help you design your own resume in the format of your choice. Our online tool uses a default combination format, but we engineered it so that you can easily move each resume section and add additional resume sections to meet your needs. We’ll explain how to edit your resume into your chosen format below, but first, we’d like to explain how our Builder generates your resume.

You’ll be asked to fill in information about your contact information, work history, education, skills and summary statement, and prompted to include any additional sections like your accomplishments, professional websites or certifications. Once you fill out that information, you’ll be shown a page with your new auto-formatted design in the combination format. From there, you can make it your own by following these instructions. Below, we show you how to modify this combination format for chronological and functional resumes.

Chronological Format

Once your information is input and the builder auto-generates your template, you can hover your mouse cursor over each section to edit it. As you hover over the section, you’ll see a thin border surrounding the section, a little trash can symbol on your left-hand side, and a little compass symbol on your right-hand side. Move the mouse cursor over the compass signal in order to move your section up or down on the page.

You’ll want to hover over the “Skills" section and move it until it sits under your “Work History” section. That's the only change you'll need to make in order to build a completed chronological resume in our online builder.

We advise that you use this finalized template as a starting document for your job search. You’ll still want to modify each section to address the unique need of each new job to which you apply. For example, if a job post requires that you have experience working with teams larger than six people, you’ll want to make sure that you mention this in your resume before you submit your resume for that particular job.

Functional Format

To create a functional format using our Resume Builder, create two additional skills sections named Summary of Qualifications and “Relevant Skills,” and remove dates and job responsibilities from your Work History. We’ll give you step-by-step advice below.

To rename an existing Skills section, hover your mouse cursor over the section. You’ll see a “RENAME” prompt next to the section title. Click on the prompt and you’ll bring up a text box. Update the name to General Skills and hit ”Enter” to save.

You can create your new Summary of Qualifications and Relevant Skills sections by looking at the left-hand menu next to your resume. Under your resume’s existing sections, you’ll see an option to “Add a Section.” Click that option, select the “Add Your Own,” option in the prompt window, and label it with the relevant title.

Your new Summary of Qualifications will be a three-to-four sentence bulleted list. Each sentence will quickly summarize a different skill that you’ve acquired through school, certification, training or on-the-job learning. For example, an orthodontist might write:

  • Can read diagnostic records, including dental histories and patient X-rays to develop patient treatment plans.
  • Developed strong finger dexterity surgical training.
  • Diagnostic and treatment experience with dental injuries, diseases and deformities. This includes knowledge of common symptoms, alternate treatments, drug properties and common side effects, and preventive healthcare measures.

Your new Relevant Skills section must prominently feature three-to-six skills with additional information about your knowledge and achievements under each skill. For example, an orthodontist might write the following for one of three-to-six skills.

    Dental Procedures
  • Diagnose teeth, jaw and other dental or facial abnormalities.
  • Create, implant and adjust dental appliances to produce and maintain healthy dental and jaw function.
  • Fully trained in general dentistry, with advanced training in orthodontics.

Your final action will include a significant trim of your work history. Your Summary of Qualifications and Relevant Skills sections serve the purpose of a traditional Work History, so you can remove all information save for your past job title and employer name.

Combination

Our builder uses the combination resume as our default format. Once you fill-in your information, your resume is all set for you. As your resume advisors, we still advise that you edit your resume before you submit it to every new job application.

Each new job post that you apply to has unique requirements — you’ll want to ensure that your resume reflects roles and responsibilities that the advertisement requires before you submit it. This attention to detail will help increase your odds for an interview and job offer.

Specialized Resume Formats

There are three standard resume formats, but you can have a little fun with your presentation once you’ve decided which layout best-suits your employment needs. The following pages feature unique resume templates that experiment with design to further help you stand out from fellow job seekers.

    • Basic

      Elegant and traditional layouts are popular because they’re so recognizable. These basic templates prioritize simple fonts and clean designs to put the focus on your professional history. These templates are perfectly suited for jobs in any industry from conventional roles in banking or law to new industries in tech and development.

    • Basic

    • Modern

      Modern templates take a simple design and elevate it with additional design features. While traditional resumes use font treatments and margins to mark new resume sections, our modern templates use bold borders, colors and images to attract the eye and frame your accomplishments. This is a strong option if you’re applying for jobs in a competitive job market or with a well-known company.

    • Modern

    • Creative

      Creativity and innovation can be appropriate on a professional resume, especially if you’re applying to a start-up, design firm or youth-directed career field like web and graphic design, marketing or advertising. Creative resume templates offer an artistic layout and let you reflect some style and personality.

    • Creative

Resume Format FAQ

1. What is the Best Resume Format for Seasoned Workers?

The chronological resume is the best resume format for you if you’re a seasoned worker with more than 10 years of experience. This format prioritizes your work history and clearly outlines your career growth through each job title’s responsibilities and accomplishments.

2. What is the Best Resume Format for an Entry-Level Worker?

The combination resume is the best resume format if you’re an entry-level worker. This format prioritizes your skills, but dedicates space to clearly outline your past jobs and demonstrate the growth of your responsibilities and experience.

3. Which resume format do most employers prefer?

Most employers prefer the chronological resume format because it is the most popular and familiar layout. The combination resume is a good second choice, since it follows a similar layout but reorganizes the location of your skills and work history sections. The functional resume is the riskiest choice because recruiters can’t see definite dates of employment.

4. Which Format Works Best for Longer Resumes?

The chronological resume works best for longer resumes, as it’s designed to highlight more than 10 years of experience. Some general resume rules to follow is that you should dedicate one page for every 10 years of experience and that resume should never go over two pages unless you're applying to an executive or academic position.

5. Which Format Works Best for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)?

Most ATS programs scan resumes for labeled summary statements, work history, skills, and education sections. Chronological and combination resumes are best for ATS programs because they feature those named sections.

6. What is the Hybrid Resume Format?

The hybrid resume format is an alternate name for the combination resume. This format is called this because it is designed to equally highlight both your skills and work history and combines the best features of the chronological and functional resumes.

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