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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.


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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.