Home » Resume » Resume Formats

Table of Contents

Creating a job-winning resume involves choosing the optimal format to showcase your unique skills and experience to an employer. Most hiring managers will spend less than 10 seconds scanning your resume, so the way in which you present your professional experience is crucial.

As a job seeker, you'll benefit from using one of three major resume formats: chronological, functional and combination. We'll look at each format and help you decide which one is best for you.

How to Choose a Resume Format

While there are no set rules about which format to use, you should be aware of some well-established guidelines.

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

Chronological Format

Should I Use a Chronological Format?

You should use this format if you have consistent employment – one that reflects a clear upward career progression, increasing responsibilities and demonstrable skills development. The chronological resume is an especially strong format if your work history includes highly-recognized companies – the brand recognition bolsters your personal brand and 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 the lack of recent experience. Similarly, those re-entering the workforce after a long absence may also want to consider alternative formats.

Chronological Resume Example:

Make your past jobs work for you! Inside you’ll find a step-by-step guide for creating your chronological resume. You’ll also find expert advice on what recruiters are looking for, more than, over 100 downloadable resume samples, free templates, and resume building tools for creating a compelling, solid chronological resume.

Learn more about the chronological format and see our over 100 examples.

Functional Format

Should I Use a Functional Format?

This layout is best for job seekers who have experienced frequent job changes or have substantial gaps in their employment. It’s also an excellent choice for new entrants to the workforce, along with employees with limited professional experience. Seasoned professionals who are changing careers, and others with transferable skills but whose job history may not apply to the new role will benefit from the functional format.

When Should I Avoid This Format?

It’s best not to use the functional resume format if you are applying to roles in conservative industries or firms, such as banking, finance, or law. These entities often have standard recruitment procedures that prefer the chronological template — candidates are usually expected to include specific information on their resumes. It’s also better to use another type of layout if it is critical to demonstrate career growth (i.e. if you’re trying to get promoted or get a managerial role) or increased responsibilities.

Functional Resume Example:

Skills are what matter in the workplace, not the path you took to acquire them. Inside 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, free templates, and resume building tools that will put your skills at the center of the conversation with your next employer.

Learn more about the functional format and see our 60 examples.

Combination Format

Should I Use a Combination Format?

The combination resume works best for job seekers with significant work experience and powerful skills and accomplishments. It can benefit mid- to senior-level candidates seeking a higher position or a role characterized by highly specialized skills, or those making a career change.

When Should I Avoid This Format?

Don't use the combination resume format if your career history could be seen as incomplete or lacking by your senior-level peers, or you have substantial gaps between jobs. Career changes, job hopping and absences from the workforce come across as glaring in the work history section of a combination resume.

Combination Resume Example:

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 Over 100 downloadable samples and templates, a powerful resume builder, and tips from the pros are available to help you create a resume of distinction.

Learn more about the combination format and see over 100 examples

Resume Format Comparison Chart

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

Specialized Resume Formats

Once you identify which of the three resume formats suits your personal experience and circumstance, you can adapt one of these specialized template options. Customize one of following downloadable resume templates into the format you need.

Creative

Portfolio

Infographic

ATS-Friendly

Curriculum Vitae

Choosing the Best Format For You

Now that you have reviewed the basic features of each format, you can decide which one is right for the job you're pursuing and best highlights your professional skills and achievements.

BONUS TIP

Referring to specific qualifications in 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 honest about your skills, but this is a great way to stand out to a potential employer.

To make your final decision, ask yourself some simple questions to help you clarify which format would be best for you.

For example:

After you’ve chosen the format, start writing your resume with our step-by-step Resume Builder and apply the formatting rules you learned here.

Need more help or want to explore this topic further? Check out these resources: