Resume Formats: Which Resume Format is Best for You?

Updated: Oct 23, 2021

Regardless of your background, work experience and career path, the goal of a resume is always the same:

  • to show off achievements and expertise

  • to minimize any potential weakness

To achieve this goal, a resume needs to present information in a logically displayed format that's easy on the eye - usually in one of the three standard resume formats: chronological, functional or hybrid.

However, considering the unique career paths job seekers may have, the resume format that succeeds in a job search may vary. Your particular circumstances will dictate the optimal resume format for you.


Read on to learn how to choose the right resume format to presents your skills in the best light.


Level up your job search with a perfect resume template. Download now!



 


What are the main resume formats?


The main types of resume formats are:

Being aware of all three resume formats will help you make the right decision about which to use depending on your experience, skills and industry.


Being aware of all three resume formats will help you make the right decision about which to use depending on your experience, skills and industry.

Read on to learn more about each resume format.



 


Chronological resume format


When you think of a resume, you probably think of a chronological, or more precisely - a reverse chronological resume format.


It's the most popular and widely accepted resume format and the one used by most job seekers.

It lists all of a person's employment history in reverse chronological order starting with their latest job first. It also has a (reverse) chronologically listed education section that should include any schools attended, degrees earned, honors received, or certificates obtained.


The focus of this resume format is on a candidate's professional history and relevant accomplishments.


As such, it provides a simple way for readers to see how long someone has been in the workforce and what sorts of responsibilities they've had.


Typically, it entails the following sections:

  • contact information

  • career summary

  • work experience

  • education

  • skills

The reverse chronological resume format is the most beneficial for candidates in job search situations where the experience or achievement of an individual is the most valuable information. The main weakness of this resume format is its lack of emphasis on transferable or functional skills.



Pros:


Chronological resume format has many advantages, including:

  • It's easy for employers to see where you worked, what you did there, and how long you were employed - which is the main information they always look for in applications

  • It gives job seekers with relevant experience space to include more details in each job description than in other resume formats and allows them to show off their expertise

  • It's perceived as more honest than other resume formats because you're not "hiding" old jobs or holding back the information that might make you appear less qualified

  • It's easy to read because it follows a logical progression, from the most recent experience to the earliest one on record

  • it's best optimized for the applicant tracking system (ATS) used by many companies to scan job applications

Cons:


On the other hand, there are certain disadvantages of this traditional resume format:

  • its structure may overemphasize the importance of the most recent experience, downplaying the weight of older, potentially more relevant jobs

  • it heavily relies on work experience, making it difficult for a hiring manager to figure out what skills and talents you may have to offer the company

  • it doesn't create space for transferable skills and underestimates their role in the job seeker's professional development

Best for:


Considering the advantages and disadvantages of this format, chronological resumes are best for job seekers with a stable work history who can showcase their experience in a linear way, without too many job changes or prolonged periods of unemployment. It's perfect for professionals who can demonstrate growth in a single profession related to the job they are applying for.


Bad for:


The chronological resume format is not suitable for more recent graduates or individuals who have just entered the workforce. Also, it doesn't work well for career changers. Considering its emphasis on the work experience, in these two cases, a chronological resume draws attention to the lack of relevant experience (a potential weakness) rather than transferable skills (strengths).


 


Functional resume format


Functional resumes focus on the professional skills you have developed over the years rather than the details about your work history and previous jobs.


Also known as a skills-based resume, this format de-emphasizes the importance of when and where you acquired specific skills and focuses more on what those skills are.


Job titles, former companies and dates play a minor - if any, role in a functional resume. This allows the candidate to give greater emphasis to the skills and abilities that are most relevant to the job they're applying for, regardless of the context of their acquisition.


Even though they have a flexible structure, these resumes commonly include:

  • contact information

  • functional summary

  • skills overview

  • employment summary

  • education

Since they de-emphasize the importance of the work experience, functional resumes are commonly used by professionals with little or no experience in their desired field of work, recent graduates, career changers and people who have been out of the workforce for an extended period.


Pros:


In specific circumstances, a functional resume can be more effective than a chronological one. Here are some advantages of this resume format:

  • it puts skills that are relevant for the job you're applying for in the spotlight

  • it's easier to tailor the information on your resume because it doesn't need to include every job you've had and instead highlights skills that are closely related to the target position

  • since there is no strict linear progression in this format; it allows the job seeker to arrange their professional skills in order of importance without being confined by the date on which they acquired them

Cons:


However, there are also some disadvantages of this format to be aware of:

  • since it's not a common resume format, it's more difficult for readers to find relevant information and assess the candidate's suitability for the job

  • some hiring managers find it challenging to interpret this format and may have trouble determining whether or not your profile matches the job requirements

  • a downplayed work history in this format may come across as you're hiding something negative

  • unless you have a clear job or career objective in mind, writing a functional resume without focus is difficult and results in it losing its direction and purpose

Best for:


Considering its advantages and disadvantages, the functional resume is best suited for job seekers with limited work experience in their field of choice or those who are making quite a significant jump from one profession to another. The functional resume format is perfect for those who have gaps in their work history or want to change careers, as the format allows them to put their applicable skills rather than their current experience front and center.


Bad for:


A functional resume may not be a good choice for all job seekers nor for all jobs. If you're applying for corporate opportunities, avoid using this resume format, as employers are not used to it. Also, if you have at least some transferable experiences in the files, you may not see any benefit from this resume format and its focus on the skills rather than the work history.


 


Hybrid resume format


The hybrid resume, also called a combination resume format, is a combination of the chronological and functional formats, and is becoming the resume of choice for many job seekers.


Combining the best of these two formats may seem to be the best way to let your achievements shine and highlight all relevant skills while still making it easy for a hiring manager to get a good sense of your work history.


The structure of the combination resume format commonly follows this formula:

  • contact information

  • skills summary (or career summary if it's relevant)

  • key or transferable skills

  • work experience

  • education

Since it displays both skills and experience, this resume format allows job seekers to present their expertise and skills to potential employers without sacrificing the advantages that other resume formats have to offer.



Pros:


Benefits of a combination resume are:

  • it gives equal attention both to skills and work experience, helping you build your personal brand and establish yourself as a strong candidate for the job

  • it gives you maximum flexibility to highlight whatever is most important for you, your career goals and - most importantly, the job you're applying for

  • it's easy to be tailored to any job as you can easily modify the skills overview to suit your strengths and focus on the skills that fit with the job description

  • highlighting skills improves compatibility with the applicant tracking systems (ATS) as it allows you to add more job-relevant keywords

  • because it lists both the work experience and skills, it allows job seekers to put forward their strengths while staying transparent about their work history

Cons:


However, there are some drawbacks as well:

  • it may come across as too cluttered to hiring managers in today's modern, straight-to-the-point job market; out of all resume formats, it has received the most criticism from recruiters due to its potential over-embellishment and unnecessary complexity

  • it may not be as effective for communicating your qualifications because it's not always clear and easy for employers to read

  • since the hybrid format is the combination of the previous two other formats, it may be time-consuming and challenging to rearrange and edit it to make the document flow correctly

Best for:


Since it allows flexibility in presenting the selected and relevant skills, the hybrid resume format is best for those with diverse work experience and who have held multiple positions. Also, if you have more than ten years of experience and are looking for a new job, it might make sense for you to switch over to using a hybrid resume format.


If you want to highlight specific skills and emphasize your personal brand, then a hybrid resume may be your go-to resume format.


Bad for:


A hybrid resume is not the best choice for people with limited relevant work experience, as the information may seem embellished or stretched. Also, if you're a recent graduate who doesn't have any work experience yet, this resume format may appear overwhelming and inappropriate.


Upgrade your resume formatting with a professional resume template! (hyperlink)



 


What to consider before selecting the resume format?


To choose the best resume format for your needs, consider the following:

Experience level


The level of experience is an essential factor to consider when deciding which type of resume format you need.


The level of experience is an essential factor to consider when deciding which type of resume format you need.

People with the greatest level of relevant experience often opt for the chronological format that allows them to put their experience forward. Alternatively, a hybrid resume format works better for professionals with over ten years of experience.


However, entry-level job seekers who don't have a work background that can justify the use of these two resume formats should go with a functional resume.


Industry


The amount of relevant industry experience is one of the first factors to consider when opting for a certain resume format.


As you are applying for a new position in the same or a similar field, there is the option to create either a chronological resume or a hybrid resume, as they both allow you to present the relevant work experience.


If you have experience from several industries, the hybrid resume format can be a great way to emphasize skills closely related to the new opportunity.


On the other hand, if you are looking to get your foot in the door with a new industry, the functional resume format may work best.


Career path


Different career paths may require different formats.


Job seekers who have maintained a linear career path with a rich work history, growth and career progression in the same industry may benefit most from using a chronological resume - unless they are considering a radical career change.


On the other hand, professionals who have explored different industries on their career journey, had multiple career breaks, or have limited experience, should consider using the functional or combination resume.


Career goal


When considering the type of resume format to use, it's important to consider your career goals. With a clear understanding of where you want to go in your career, you can then decide which type of resume will showcase your skills and experience best.


With a clear understanding of where you want to go in your career, you can then decide which type of resume will showcase your skills and experience best.

If your goal is to secure a new role in a similar field as the last one, use a chronological or hybrid resume. However, if you are looking to switch industries completely, then the functional format may be best.




Your perfect resume is one click away ➝


 


Which format do employers prefer for resumes?


Employers who receive an overwhelming number of resumes daily want to get straight to the point to find their next top talent.


Sadly, they don’t have time to read resumes word for word. Instead, they quickly scan applications looking for the most important information that will help them decide whether or not they should invite you for an interview.


So, according to a survey conducted by SHRM, 66% of employers prefer chronological resumes that list previous experience first.


Considering that this is the format most employers are used to, a chronological resume is the best choice in 99% of the cases.


Not only do the employers prefer it, but also this resume format is:

  • most compatible with the applicant tracking systems (ATS) companies use to receive, scan and organize job applications

  • the easiest one to write and work with

The only case where a chronological resume may not work best is if you're looking for a significant career change. But even if this is the case, submitting a resume in any other format may be risky.


So, if you want your resume to be picked out of the pile, use the reverse chronological format.


 


Practical resume formatting tips


Choosing the right resume format is the first step in the process of crafting an effective resume.


To create an easy on the eye, appealing and well-formatted resume, follow these additional tips on designing a professional resume.

  • Resume fonts play a vital role in the visual appeal of a resume. Choose a professional and easy-to-read font and avoid using any more than two fonts in one resume.

  • Be selective about colors you use on a resume. Using unprofessional or too many colors may detract attention from the important parts of your resume.

  • Use bullets to organize major accomplishments and skills. They are easy to read, capture attention and cut the content noise.

  • Balance white space to emphasize the resume's structure and polish its design.

Or accelerate your job search with a professionally designed resume template!



 


Don't leave the success of your job application to chance...

  • select and download a professionally designed resume template

  • fill in the template with your experience and skills

  • save and submit your winning job application today






 


Final Thoughts on Resume Formats


Choosing the right resume format is an important decision that can have a significant impact on the success of your job search.


There are three resume formats to choose from:

Each of these resume formats has certain advantages and disadvantages and is suitable for different situations.


However, considering it's the most preferred resume format by most employers, going with a reverse chronological resume format may be the best option in 99% of cases.


Need more help with writing your resume? Go through our resume writing cheat sheet and create your best resume to date!