Best Resume Formats: A Guide for 2023
Which resume format is the best: Chronological, Combination, or Functional? This guide will walk you through the three resume formats by using professionally written examples. Impress hiring managers with your experience and skills by using the best format.
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Three Resume Formats: The Basics
There are three resume formats — Chronological, Functional, and Combination — each serves a different purpose. In this guide, you’ll learn the difference and when to use them, how to make the formats work for you, and tips to create a resume that can get you hired.
Chronological Resume Format
The chronological resume format is the most common and most known format. It lists your most recent position and hence prioritizes your work experience.
- Professionals with over 10 years of steady experience.
- Job seekers looking for jobs similar to their current role.
- Entry-level employees.
- Job seekers with work gaps.
Functional Resume Format
The functional resume format, also known as a skills-based resume, focuses on promoting your technical skills and professional knowledge over your work experience.
- Career changers.
- Contract employees.
- Job seekers with short work experiences.
- Job seekers with frequent work gaps.
- Entry-level workers.
- Professionals with over 10 years of steady experience.
Combination Resume Format
The combination resume format is a combination between the chronological and the functional. Also known as the hybrid resume, it balances work experience and skills, like a chronological and functional resume.
- Students and recent graduates.
- Professionals with less than 10 years of employment.
- Professionals with 10+ years of experience.
- Job seekers with work gaps.
Chronological Resume Format with an Example
The chronological resume format, also known as the reverse-chronological resume, is the most known and most used resume format. It draws attention to your work experience and career advancements by listing your work experience in reverse-chronological order, starting with your most recent position.
Candidates that benefit from a Chronological resume format
This format works best for workers with over a decade of steady employment, particularly in the same field.
- 10 or more years of formal work experience.
- More than a year at each job.
- No gaps or breaks between jobs.
- Demonstrated career growth, like promotions or increased responsibilities.
Chronological format section by section
- Header — The heading contains the essential information to reach you: Your Name, Email, Phone Number, and any professional social media, portfolio, or professional website.
- Summary Statement — Summarize your experience, skills, and accomplishments in one or two sentences. This statement has to be impactful and informative, so make every word count. Include years of experience, role, and industry, and highlight your key skills.
- Work experience — Each position should include your job title, company name, location, and dates of employment. Under each position, list your duties and responsibilities. Remember also to include achievements, such as promotions, successful projects, and any managerial duties that demonstrate career advancement, as this is the most important part of the chronological resume format.
- Skills — Add a balanced blend of six to eight soft and hard skills not mentioned in your work experience. For example, include any languages, computer skills, communication or writing skills, and other strengths relevant to the role.
- Education — Because the chronological resume highlights your professional experience, the education section will go at the end of this format. Provide the name and location of the school, your major, and the type of degree. It is optional to include your graduation year.
- Optional sections — After completing your skills and work experience sections, you have other information to share; create an optional section for extra skills, licenses, certifications, awards, volunteer work, and other related aspects. If applicable, for licenses or certifications, remember to include the date it was granted, its expiration date, and the institution that issued it. This will make your chronological resume stand out.
Pros and cons of using the Chronological format
- Emphasis is on steady employment experience with more than 10 years of continuous work.
- Demonstrates career growth.
- Typically preferred by recruiters.
- Downplays skills.
- Highlights work gaps.
- Highlights lack of experience.
Functional Resume Format With Example
The functional resume format focuses on skills, not work experience. Instead of a work experiencesection, this resume format dedicates two different sections to soft, hard and technical skills: the summary of qualifications and professional skills.
While the functional resume serves a purpose — highlighting skills when the work experience is lacking or it is from a completely different field — this resume format is not common. It is also not ideal for applicant tracking software (ATS). You should also know that recruiters and hiring managers can be wary by the minimal work experience section. Prepare for this issue by always pairing your functional resume format with a stellar cover letter, which, as a longer and narrative document, can provide recruiters with the ins and outs of your particular situation.
Candidates that benefit from a Functional resume format
- Career changers.
- Professionals with long gaps in employment.
- Short-term contractors.
Functional resume format section by section
- Header — This section will always be a part of every resume, including the functional resume format. It contains the essentials to reach you: name, email, phone number, and any professional social media, portfolio, or professional website. Remember to always maintain a professional tone by not using nicknames.
- Summary Statement or Career Objective — You can choose a summary statement, which pitches how your professional experience aligns with the open requirements, or an objective statement, which explains how your skills qualify you and benefit the open role.
Summary of Qualifications — This is the heart of the functional resume format. Here you'll highlight three skills without tying them to a job. You could’ve acquired these skills through short job experiences, volunteer work or internships. Choose skills that are transferable to the job you’re applying for.
It would look similar to this:
- Proven track record of moving sales items off the shelves.
- Recognized as an adaptable and reliable employee with a professional and amenable demeanor.
- Experience in the databases and merchandising software Revel Systems.
Relevant Skills — In this section, you will take three major skills and list them. Under each skill, you will include a bulleted list of how you’ve used those skills. Once you’re done, it’ll look similar to the work experience section of a chronological resume.
For example, let’s say you pick Spanish, Customer service, and Problem-solving as your skills. It would look similar to this:
- Interpreted interaction between customers and service team.
- Translated sales of the week for use in social media promotion.
- Handled phone calls with product providers in Central America.
- Maintained relationships with Spanish-speaking customers.
- Greeted customers and assisted in product search.
- Assisted customers with service issues.
- Used analytical skills to respond to issues.
- Worked hand-in-hand with management to create a new product placement strategy.
- Mediated between customers and the service team.
Work experience — This resume format is based on skills, so the work experience section will be minimal. Only list your job title, place of employment, location, and dates of employment. That is it. Do not add any additional information.
It should follow this format:
Job Title, Place of Employment Location, Year of Employment to End Date/Current
- Education — Follow the same format as the work experience, including degree level, name of institution, location, and graduation date (if it’s under seven years).
- Optional Sections — If there is more information you’d like to include, like certifications, training, and volunteer work, create a section for it in your functional resume. When applicable, like with licenses or certifications, remember to add the issued or expiration date and the institution that issued it.
- Highlights skills and informal experience.
- Downplays lack of traditional work experience.
- Ideal for short-term workers.
- Suitable for returning workers.
- Ideal for career changers.
- Recruiters may assume you’re hiding something based on your employment experience.
- Not ideal for (ATS) applicant tracking software.
- Not suitable for a traditional field.
Combination Resume Format With Example
The combination resume format, also known as the hybrid resume format, takes the best of the chronological and functional resume formats by balancing skills and work experience. It follows almost the same formatting of a chronological resume, except for the skills section. The skills will be placed before the work experience, which will allow the job seeker to showcase their transferable skills.
Candidates that benefit from a Combination format resume
The hybrid resume format works best for candidates with some experience but is not yet established in their careers.
- Recent graduates.
- Job seekers with under 10 years of experience.
Combination resume format section by section
Except for the skills section placement, the hybrid resume format follows the same formatting as the chronological resume format.
- Header — This section never changes in any of the resume formats. Always make sure to include contact information where you are reachable, and do not include nicknames or unprofessional email addresses.
- Summary Statement — If you’re using this resume format, use this section to focus on one specialized skill related to the job you’re applying for. For example, suppose you’re applying for a job as a customer service representative and have experience in retail. In that case, you can include customer service as your specialized skill as it transfers between industries.
- Skills — This section will be placed between the summary statement and the work experience. Remember that this resume format works best for entry- to middle-level job seekers by balancing the skills section with work experience.
- Work Experience — Use the same formatting as in a chronological resume with each position, including job title, company name, company location, and dates of employment. Remember to list your duties and accomplishments in bullet points under each position.
- Education — Include the location of the school, major, type of degree, and, if under seven years, the graduation year.
- Optional Sections — If you have any special certifications, licenses, awards, or even hobbies that can relate to your position, create a special section to include them in the combination resume format. Remember: If it’s a certification or license, add the year issued and the institution that issued it.
- Highlights skills first, followed by a detailed work experience section.
- Helps balance highly-trained skills with recent or informal work experience.
- Ideal for recent graduates.
- Ideal for job seekers with less than ten years of experience.
- It can be lengthy and redundant.
- Can negatively emphasize work gaps.
- Can negatively highlight a short employment experience.
Resume Formatting Tips
Keep the font size between 10 and 12, depending on how much content you have to write.
Regardless of the resume format you choose, make sure to use a professional, simple and readable font. The ones below are some of the most used and recommended:
- Times New Roman
The header is the section that contains all your contact information. It divides each section of the resume format (Work Experience, Summary Statement, Skills, and so on). Keep it simple: bold the words and increase their font size to no more than 14. Don’t forget this important step, as it will help recruiters read your resume.
- Keep a 0.5 to 1-inch margin.
- Use single-space formatting.
- Use double spacing between sections.
Create an ATS-compatible resume
Applicant tracking systems are becoming more prevalent, and it is extremely important that every job-seeker take this into consideration when creating a resume. In our guide Resume Templates for ATS, you can find a resume template that will pass the system and show your skills to hiring managers.
To skip all these steps, create your own resume in our Resume Builder by selecting a template and inputting your skills and work experience.
How to Pick the Best Resume Format for You
When picking the best resume format for you, remember the main differences between them. The Chronological Resume format highlights work experience, particularly over 10 years of experience. While the Functional Resume format highlights your soft, hard, and technical skills while downplaying your work experience, and the Combination Resume format balances work experience and skills.
What to consider when choosing a resume format
When choosing a resume format, you have to consider:
Years of experience
If you have 10 uninterrupted years of experience or more and are looking to stay in the same field, your best bet will be the Chronological format. Job seekers with under a decade of experience need a resume that balances their work experience with their skills, making the Combination resume format their best option.
Think about what you have learned between jobs. Whether you’ve acquired a certification, pursued more education, volunteered, or learned new skills through your personal situation, make them work in your favor. Always pair your chosen resume format with a cover letter, which will allow you to explain your personal situation further. Use a Functional resume format to highlight your skills and knowledge.
Applicant tracking system (ATS)
Always keep in mind the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Often recruiters and hiring managers utilize this technology during the application process. An ATS that cannot read your resume will discard it. To avoid this, learn more about ATS-friendly resumes by checking out our ATS-friendly resume guide. You can even pick your own template from any of the three resume formats.
Different scenarios for resume formats
Depending on your field of study, a Functional or Combination resume might suit you best. If you pursued a degree in the humanities, use the Combination resume to demonstrate your transferable academic skills and any relevant accomplishments you earned through your studies and extracurricular activities. If you earned a degree in science and pursue research opportunities, a Functional resume will suit your post-collegiate needs. The functional resume will help you demonstrate all of your academic, research, and other transferable skills.
An internship is ideal for entry-level employees looking to transform their professional skills into a career field. With their limited formal work experience, a Functional resume can help you prioritize academic and social skills that align with the requirements of an internship.
If you have a considerable amount of work experience and are ready to challenge yourself and pursue a different career, a Functional resume can help you prioritize your transferable skills and help you showcase your suitability for new job responsibilities.
Consider using the Functional resume if your work experience is marked by multiple work gaps or periods of temporary employment. This resume prioritizes your professional abilities and transferable skills. We suggest using the summary statement to add context to work gaps such as freelance work, short-term contracts, or family obligations.
Whether you are still in school or looking for your first job, you may have more experience than you believe. You can acquire professional skills through school work, volunteer work, chores, and hobbies that align with the most entry-level job requirements. A Functional resume helps you demonstrate these transferable skills.
What are the 3 types of resume formats?
The three types of resume formats are Chronological, Functional, and Combination. Each format serves a purpose that depends on your career. The most widely used and known format, the Chronological resume format, highlights your work experience and works best for candidates with over a decade of experience and no employment gaps. The Functional resume format highlights your skills and downplays your work experience. The Combination resume format marries the Chronological and Functional aspects by balancing work experience and skills.
Which resume format do most employers prefer?
While employers are most familiar with the Chronological resume format, choose a resume based on your strengths, work experience, or skills acquired through education and previous jobs. Don’t discount the importance of a complementary cover letter to explain the particulars of your career.
What is the best way to create a resume easily?
To easily create a resume, list your skills, including your soft, hard, and technical skills. Match them to the job and adjust your resume accordingly. To make this process easier, head on to our Resume Builder, an easy-to-use tool that will speed up the entire process. Select a template, input your information, download it, and you are done.
Can a resume be two pages?
A general rule is one page per every 10 years of experience. A resume can be 2-pages long if you have more than 10 years of experience. The Chronological resume works best for this as it is designed to highlight extensive experience. You should use these one-page resumes if you have less than the recommended years of experience.
What is a hybrid resume format?
Which format works best for applicant tracking systems (ATS)?
The Chronological and Combination resumes work best with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Most ATS programs scan resumes for labeled summary statements, work experience, skills, and education sections. Our ATS-friendly resume templates are designed to comply with standard ATS programs accurately.
Which format should I use to file my resume?
Search the job advertisement for a specific format that the employer may request. If there are no instructions, save your resume in PDF, DOC or DOCX. With the PDF file format, your resume should look exactly as you see it. Other formats can change the contents of your document depending on the version of the program you use for the resume and the one used to open it. Keep it safe by using our Resume Builder and downloading your resume in all file formats.
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