How To Format A Resume

Before you can pick a specific format, any resume must follow these simple guidelines:

  • One-inch margins on every side

  • Consistent font size at 11 or 12 point.

  • Consistent and professional font typeface, such as Arial or Times New Roman.

  • Divide each section with apparent headings.

  • Use bullet points.

  • Use consistent spacing, single or 1.15.

  • Use a PDF or DOC file format.

  • Provide sections for your contact information, skills, experience, and education.

  • Use a resume summary or objective statement to highlight your value as an employee.

These format standards are particularly important to ensure your resume is ATS-friendly and easy to read for hiring managers and recruiters.

The Three Resume Formats

When it comes to formatting your resume, there are three types:

  1. Chronological. Focuses on work history and experience.
  2. Functional. Focuses on skills and other aptitudes.
  3. Combination. Combines elements of both chronological and functional resumes.
resume formats

Chronological Resume Format

Best resume format for:

  • Traditional career paths.
  • Professionals with over 10 years of steady experience.
  • Job seekers looking for similar roles.

Not ideal for:

  • Entry-level employee
  • Job seekers with work gaps
Best resume format for:

Functional Resume Format

Resume format

  • Career changers.
  • Short-term contractors.
  • Job seekers with no work experience.
  • Job seekers with frequent work gaps.

Not ideal for:

  • Entry-level workers.
  • Professionals with over 10 years of steady experience.
  • Applicant tracking system (ATS) applications
Resume format

Combination Resume Format

Best resume format for:

  • Students and recent graduates.
  • Professionals with less than 10 years of employment.
  • Career changers with transferable skills.

Not ideal for:

  • Professionals with 10+ years of experience.
  • Job seekers with significant work gaps.

Chronological Resume Format

The chronological resume format, also known as the reverse-chronological resume, is the most popular resume format used in job applications. It focuses on your professional experience and career achievements by listing your work history in reverse-chronological order, starting with your most recent position.

Check out our free chronological resume templates and examples to find one suited for you!

Chronological Resume Structure

  • 1. Header: The resume heading contains your contact information:
    • Your name
    • Email
    • Phone number
    • Your city and state (mailing address is optional)
    • Any professional social media, portfolio, or professional website (optional)
  • 2. Summary or Objective Statement: Summarize your experience, skills, and accomplishments. Include years of experience, role, and industry, highlighting your key skills. To make a significant impact, fully convey your value as an employee.

  • 3. Work experience: Start with your most recent work experience. Each position should include your job title, company name, location, and dates of employment. Under each position, list your duties and responsibilities. Focus on quantifiable achievements to demonstrate value, such as promotions, successful projects, or leadership roles.

  • 4. Skills: List six to eight soft and hard skills that are relevant to your job application. For example, include any languages, computer skills, communication or writing skills, and other strengths sought in the job description.

  • 5. Education: At the end of your resume, provide the name and location of the school, your major, and the type of degree.

  • 6. Optional sections: If you have other qualifications that are relevant to the job position, then create an optional section. For example, you might have a section for:
    • Extra skills
    • Licenses or certifications (include the date it was granted, its expiration date, and the institution that issued it)
    • Awards
    • Volunteer work

Chronological Resume Format: Pros and Cons


  • Preferred by recruiters and hiring managers.
  • Highlights steady employment experience.
  • Demonstrates qualifications and career growth.
  • Easy to read and understand.
  • ATS-friendly.


  • Highlights work gaps.
  • Highlights lack of experience.

When You Should Use A Chronological Resume

This format works best if you have:

  • 10 or more years of formal work experience.
  • Worked more than a year at each job.
  • No gaps or breaks between jobs.
  • Have specific, quantifiable experiences that showcase skills.
  • Demonstrated career growth, like promotions or increased responsibilities.

Functional Resume Format

The functional resume format focuses on skills, making it suitable for those with limited experience. Instead of a work history section, this resume format dedicates two different sections to skills: the summary of qualifications and professional skills.

Take a look at our free resume functional resume examples and templates to find the best one for you!

Functional Resume Structure

  • 1. Header: Just like a chronological resume, a functional resume requires a heading with contact information, including:
    • Your name
    • Email
    • Phone number
    • Your location, city, state, and/or country (optional)
    • Any professional social media, portfolio, or professional website (optional)
  • 2. Summary Statement or Career Objective: A summary statement pitches how your professional experience aligns with job requirements. An objective statement explains your career goals will benefit the employer.


  • 3. Summary of Qualifications: This is the main focus of the functional resume format. You will list three to five skills that are relevant and transferable to the job you are applying for. These skills could be acquired through short job experiences, volunteer work or internships.

    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.
  • 4. Professional Skills: In this section, you will take three to five relevant skills and provide details demonstrating your abilities. Under each skill, you will include a bulleted list of how you’ve used those skills. Do your best to provide quantifiable achievements that you can tie to specific experiences.
    For example, let’s say you pick Spanish, customer service, and problem-solving as your skills:

    • Spanish
    • 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.
    • Customer Service
    • Maintained relationships with Spanish-speaking customers.
    • Greeted customers and assisted in product searches.
    • Assisted customers with service issues to increase satisfaction.
    • Problem-Solving
    • Used analytical skills to respond to issues, resulting in 100% success rate.
    • Collaborated with management to create a new product placement strategy.
    • Mediated between customers and the service team to increase retention by 12%.
  • 5. 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.
    It should follow this format:

    • Job Title, Place of Employment Location, Year of Employment to End Date/Current
  • 6. Education: Follow the same format as the work experience, including degree level, name of institution, and location.

  • 7. 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.

Functional Resume Format: Pros and Cons


  • Highlights skills and informal experience.
  • Downplays lack of traditional work experience and gaps in work history.
  • Ideal for short-term workers.
  • Suitable for returning workers.
  • Ideal for career changers.


  • Recruiters and hiring managers prefer chronological resumes.
  • Not ideal for (ATS) applicant tracking software.
  • Not suitable for a traditional career path.

When You Should Write A Functional Resume

  • Career changers.
  • Professionals with long gaps in employment.
  • Freelancers.
  • Short-term contractors.

Combination Resume Format

The combination resume format, also known as the hybrid resume format, balances the focus between skills and work experience. Its format is similar to a chronological resume, except for the skills section, which is added before work experience. This allows the job seeker to showcase their transferable skills.

Use our free resume templates for combination resumes to find an example that works for you.

Combination Resume Structure

  • 1. Header: Every resume format has the same contact information heading that includes:
    • Your name
    • Email
    • Phone number
    • Your location, city, state, and/or country (optional)
    • Any professional social media, portfolio, or professional website (optional)
  • 2. Summary or Objective Statement: Use this section to focus on specialized skills related to the job. Additionally, use your skills to demonstrate the value you offer and your purpose for applying.

  • 3. Skills: Use this section to highlight transferable and relevant skills. This is particularly helpful for those who are changing careers or lack of professional experience. List your skills using buzzwords from the job description to showcase your qualifications.

  • 4. 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 quantifiable accomplishments that emphasize your value as an employee.

  • 5. Education: Include the name of the school, its location, academic major and type of degree.

  • 6.
    Education: Follow the same format as the work experience, including degree level, name of institution, and location.

  • 7.
    Optional Sections: If you have any special certifications, licenses, or awards that are relevant, create a special section to include them. If it’s a certification or license, add the year issued and the institution that issued it.

Combination Resume Format: Pros and Cons


  • Highlights required skills.
  • Experience section provides evidence for qualifications.
  • Ideal for recent graduates.
  • Ideal for job seekers with less than ten years of experience.


  • It can be cluttered and hard to read.
  • Can negatively emphasize work gaps.
  • Can negatively highlight a short employment experience.

When You Should Create A Combination 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.

Resume Formatting Tips

When formatting your resume, remember the following best practices.

Make sure your resume is ATS-friendly

It is highly likely your resume will be screened by an applicant tracking system (ATS). ATS is software that manages parts of the hiring process. This includes scanning resumes and cover letters for specific criteria, usually, key areas of experience and responsibilities.

It is important that your resume can be read by the ATS, else it may be rejected simply due to a technical error. You can avoid this by using our ATS-friendly resume templates or resume builder.

Keep your format consistent

Formats such as font sizes, typeface, margins, spacing and bullet styles must look consistent from beginning to end. This keeps your resume looking professional and easy to rea

Focus on your strengths to demonstrate value

Any good resume format focuses on your strengths. Whether through work experience or learned skills, you must show how you offer value as an employee. Also, remember to back up your claims with specific examples and quantifiable results. Recruiters and hiring managers want evidence that demonstrates your qualifications.

Helping Job Seekers Like You

How To Choose A Resume Format

When choosing a resume format, consider the following:

  1. Years of experience: The more experience you have, the more you can use it as the primary focus of your resume. With limited experience you will need to shift the focus to your skills and other qualifications.
  2. Employment gaps: 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 include a cover letter with your resume, which will allow you to explain your personal situation further.

  3. Applicant tracking system (ATS): Always remember the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). An ATS that cannot read your resume will discard it. Whichever resume format you choose, its information must be compatible with the ATS.

Other Resume Format Examples

Here are several examples of resume formats for various scenarios. Each one provides benefits for those in similar situations. Take a look to see if any of them relate to you.

Recent Graduate Resume Example

  • Recent Graduate Resume Example

Depending on your field of study, a functional or combination resume format will work well for you as a recent graduate.

If you have a broad educational background, use the combination resume to demonstrate your transferable academic skills. Remember to include any relevant accomplishments you earned through your studies and extracurricular activities.

If you earned a degree in science and pursued research opportunities, a functional resume will help you demonstrate all of your academic, research, and other transferable skills.

Internship Resume Example

  • Internship Resume Example

As an intern, you may have limited work experience but relevant academic knowledge that can benefit from a functional resume. This will help you prioritize academic and social skills that align with the requirements of an internship.

Career Change Resume Example

  • Career Change Resume Example

With a considerable amount of work experience, a functional resume can help you prioritize your transferable skills and help you showcase your suitability for new job responsibilities. That is why this resume format is popular with many people changing careers

Work Gap Resume Example

  • Work Gap Resume Example

If your work history is filled with work gaps or periods of temporary employment, use a functional resume to prioritize your professional abilities and transferable skills. Use the summary statement to add context to work gaps such as freelance work, short-term contracts, or family obligations.

No Work Experience Resume Example

  • No Work Experience Resume Example

If you are a student or are looking for your first job, you can still 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.

Resume Format Key Takeaways

For your resume to be formatted correctly, remember:

  • Be consistent with your formatting and ensure it is ATS-friendly.
  • A chronological resume is best for those with extensive experience.
  • A functional resume is best for those with limited experience, such as students or those changing careers.
  • A combination resume is excellent for those who want to focus on their skills and experience equally.
  • Use PDF or DOC file formats for your resumes.

Resume Format FAQ

Updated: January 23, 2024

To format a resume, you need to decide whether you want to give more attention to your skills or experience. This will determine the type of resume format you use. In all situations, you will then want to provide consistent formatting standards, such as:

  • 11 or 12-point font
  • Professional font typefaces such as Arial or Times New Roman
  • One-inch margins.
  • Single to 1.15 line spacing

The three types of resume formats are chronological, functional, and combination. Chronological resumes are the most popular format. They highlight your work experience and work 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 combines elements of the chronological and functional formats by balancing work experience and skills.

The main difference between a chronological resume and a functional resume is that a chronological resume focuses on work experience, while a functional resume focuses on skills.

Most employers prefer the chronological resume format. This is because many employers value how work experience validates qualifications.

However, you should 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.

To create a resume easily, you should use a generator like our resume builder, an easy-to-use tool that will speed up the entire process. Select a template, input your information, download it, and apply to jobs sooner than ever!

A general rule is one page per every ten years of experience. A resume can be two pages long if you have over ten years of experience. The chronological resume works best for this as it is designed to highlight work experience.

The hybrid resume format is another name for the combination resume. Either term works in most professional settings, just like how a functional resume is also known as a skills-based resume.

The chronological resume works 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.

In general, you should have both a PDF and DOC version of your resume available. However, make sure to read the job description carefully, because they might specify what file format they want.


Conor McMahon, CPRW

Conor McMahon, CPRW

Content Writer

Conor is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) for He has over three years of professional writing experience as well as experience in professional development training. As a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches (PARWCC) Conor has written on career development topics ranging from resume and cover letter best practices, employer/employee communication, job seeking help, and more. He received his degree in Music Industry at Northeastern University and plays guitar in his free time.

popup image