Best Resume Formats: A Guide for 2023
Which resume format is the best: chronological, combination or functional? In this guide, you'll learn about the three resume formats through professionally written examples. Learn how to choose the best format to showcase your career and skills in a way that leaves hiring managers impressed.
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Three Resume Formats: The Basics
There are three resume formats — chronological, functional and combination — and each one serves a different purpose. In this guide, you’ll learn the difference between the three, when to use them, and how to make the formats work for you along with 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 prioritizes your work experience by listing it in reverse-chronological order, with your most recent position first.
- Professionals with 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 your technical skills and professional know-how while downplaying your work history.
- Career changers.
- Contract employees.
- Job seekers with short work histories.
- Job seekers with frequent work gaps.
- Entry-level workers
- Professionals with 10+ years of steady experience
Combination Resume Format
The combination resume format is a marriage between the chronological and the functional. Also known as the hybrid resume, it balances work experience, like a chronological resume, and skills, like a 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 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 history 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 essentials to reach you: name, email and phone number, any professional social media, portfolio or professional website.
- Summary Statement — In one or two sentences, summarize your experience, skills and accomplishments. This short statement has to be powerful without taking too much space in your chronological resume format, so make every word count. Include years of experience, role and industry and highlight your key skills.
- Work history — Each position should include your job title, company name and location and dates of employment. Under each position, list your duties and responsibilities. Remember to also 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 history. 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 type of degree. It is optional to include your graduation year.
- Optional sections — If, after completing your skills and work history sections, you have other information to share, create an optional section for extra skills, licenses, certifications, awards, volunteer work and the likes. If applicable, like for licenses or certifications, remember to include the date it was granted or 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 history 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 history. Instead of a work history section, 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 history 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 and phone number, 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 will 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 something like 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 history section of a chronological resume.
For example, let’s say you pick Spanish, Customer Service and Problem-solving as your skills. It would look something like 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 history — This resume format is based on skills, so the work history section will be minimal. Only list your job title, place of employment, location and the 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 history, but include 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, trainings 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 as well as 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 history.
- 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 history. It follows almost the same formatting of a chronological resume, except for the skills section. The skills will be placed before the work history, 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 those candidates that have some experience but are not yet established in their career.
- 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 that relates to the job you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a job as a customer service representative and have experience in retail, 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 history. Remember that this resume format works best for entry- to middle-level job seekers by balancing the skills section with work history.
- Work History — 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, 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 history 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 experience.
- It can be lengthy and redundant.
- Can negatively emphasize work gaps.
- Can negatively highlight a short employment history.
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
While the header is the section that contains all your contact information,, the headings divide 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-friendly resume
Applicant tracking systems are becoming more prevalent and you should take that into consideration when creating a resume. In our guide Resume Templates for ATS, you can find a resume template that will help it pass the system and show off 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 history.
How to pick the best resume format for you
When it comes to picking the best resume format for you, remember the main differences of each one. The chronological resume format highlights work experience, particularly over 10 years of experience. The functional resume format highlights your soft, hard and technical skills while downplaying your work history. The combination resume format balances work history 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 out their work history with their skills, which makes the combination resume format their best option.
Think about what you’ve 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. And always pair your chosen resume format with a cover letter, which will allow you to further explain your personal situation. 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 fate and learn more about ATS-friendly resumes check 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 experience and 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 hone their professional skills in a career field. With your 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 but are ready to challenge yourself and pursue a different career, a functional resume can help you prioritize your transferable skills and help you illustrate your suitability for new job responsibilities.
Consider using the functional resume if your work history is marked by multiple work gaps or temporary employment bouts. 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 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 the chronological, the functional and the combination. Each format serves a purpose that depends on your career. The chronological resume format, the most widely used and known 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 history. The combination resume format marries both the chronological and functional by balancing out the work history 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, whether that is work experience or skills you’ve 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, write down a list of your skills, ensuring to include 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, a tool that will speed up the entire process. Just select a template, input your information, download and you’re 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’s 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 resume and combination resume work best with applicant tracking systems (ATS). Most ATS programs scan resumes for labeled summary statements, work history, skills and education sections. Our ATS-friendly resume templates are designed to accurately pass standard ATS programs.
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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