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3 Main Resume Formats

A resume format refers to how you organize the critical sections of your resume. It is often confused with resume formatting, which is the process of how you set up the fonts, margins and structure of your document.

Formats are critical because each has its strengths and weaknesses, so it’s essential to consider your experience level and skills to determine the format that’s right for you. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the three most popular types of formats:

Chronological

This resume format is the most commonly used by recruiters and employers. It organizes your career experience, starting with your most recent. It is recommended for candidates who have worked at a job for more than five years.
Chronological resume sections should be in following order:
  1. Name and contact information
  2. Summary or objective
  3. Professional history
  4. Educational history
  5. Skills and abilities

Pros

  • It’s easy to read, providing recruiters a clear outline of your top accomplishments.

  • It organizes your work history in a reverse timeline, showing off your career progression.

  • It can easily be scanned by the applicant tracking systems (ATS).

Cons

  • Makes employment gaps obvious. Because the timeline lays out your work history in reverse-chronological order, it can quickly show hiring managers any gaps in your career trajectory.

  • If you are just starting the workforce, a chronological resume will show your lack of experience.

Functional

A functional format is skills-centered. It shifts the focus from your work history to showcase your skills instead. If you have zero to two years’ job experience, this is the recommended format for you.
Functional resume sections should be in following order:
  1. Name and contact information
  2. Summary or objective
  3. Resume skills
  4. Work history
  5. Education

Pros

  • It works well for recent graduates, career changers, or people who don’t have much experience because it emphasizes your skills instead of experience.

  • Functional resumes also work well to highlight relevant skills you’ve gained from an unrelated position or volunteering efforts.

  • It’s great for job seekers with career gaps or many different jobs throughout their work history because it places the employment history toward the end and instead shifts the focus on your skills and knowledge.

Cons

  • Because it starts with a bullet list of skill-based accomplishments, some employers do not find the functional resume easy to read.

  • This format doesn’t provide a full story, leaving recruiters wondering about your job experience.

  • Some applicant tracking systems (ATS) may not be programmed to recognize this format.

Hybrid/Combination

A hybrid or combination resume fuses the best parts of the chronological and functional resume formats. It shows off your employment history in a clear timeline, starting with the most recent. It’s organized in a way to highlight both your skills and work history. For candidates with three to five years of experience, or those applying for a job promotion from previous roles, check out this format.
Hybrid/Combination resume sections should be in following order:
  1. Name and contact information
  2. Summary or objective
  3. Resume skills
  4. Experience
  5. Education

Pros

  • A hybrid resume shows off a developing employment history along with consistent career progress.

  • Shows promotions as well as personal development.

  • Employers prefer it because it’s easy to read.

Cons

  • Can emphasize gaps in work history.

  • The hybrid resume may not work for you if you’ve had several different types of jobs, because it will look unfocused and inconsistent.

  • This format can become longer than other formats and the recruiter may lose interest.

Choose the Correct Resume Format

To decide which resume format you should use, consider how your skills and experience match the role you’re applying for. Whether it’s the chronological, functional or hybrid/combination, each format has a different focus.

For instance, a chronological resume is a good choice for anyone who has a consistent work history. You can choose a chronological resume format if you’ve spent the past five years in the same industry or have worked your way up to a higher position in a company.

Conversely, if you have employment gaps or are new to the workforce, then you may want to consider a functional resume. Even with limited work experience, you can still demonstrate that you are qualified for the position based on your skills and most relevant accomplishments.

However, if you are a mid- to senior-level career professional, are making a career transition, or seeking a promotion, the hybrid/combination resume is ideal. This format presents both your work experiences and skills equally. It also organizes your information and employment history in a reverse-chronological timeline, showing off your career progression.

The hybrid format is also a great fit for military personnel looking to transition to a civilian job. With this format, they can show how their skills can be applied to the job they are seeking.

Resume formats structure your sections to show the recruiter how you qualify for the job. Whether you’re new to the workforce or changing careers, it’s important to use a resume format that showcases your strengths and draws attention away from your weaknesses.

Here’s a quick guide to help you choose the right format:

Choose the
chronological format if:
  • You have five years or more of work history
  • Do not have gaps between jobs
  • Looking for an ATS friendly format
Functional format
works great for:
  • Candidates with up to two years of experience
  • Recent grads or new to the workforce
  • Have career gaps or are reentering the workforce
  • Transitioning careers or leaving the military
  • Highlighting skills instead of work experience
Choose a
hybrid format if:
  • You have three to five years of work experience
  • You are changing careers
  • Can show off relevant key skills and strong a work history

Templates for Every Format

Writing a resume from scratch can be frustrating. Instead, you can create a resume in just minutes by using a template.

Templates are pre-made layouts that you can tailor according to the job for which you’re applying. Jobhero has templates for every format. We offer a great selection of styles ranging from traditional to modern. Our templates provide customizable options, including fonts and colors, to set your resume apart.

JobHero also features a Resume Builder. It’s an automated system designed to guide you through creating your resume. It’s quick and simple to use.

Our powerful online builder does all the hard work for you. Start by choosing a resume template that you like. There are 23+ resume templates for all jobs and industries.

The builder is intuitive and user-friendly. It’s designed by experts to auto-suggest word phrases by job title throughout your resume sections such as the summary, skills, work history and education.

JobHero has all the tools you need to prepare your resume for success!

Optimize Your Resume

Follow these top-four expert tips to optimize your resume:

1

Formatting

Ultimately, the most important element of your resume is that it’s easy to read. To avoid getting your resume rejected, your font and margins should meet resume-writing standards.

The standard margin for a resume is one inch on all four sides of the page. You can reduce the margins if you need extra space, but do not make them smaller than half an inch. This creates a defined and well-designed border of white space that perfectly frames your resume. If the margins are too small, your resume will look too busy and may not pass an ATS.

Having the right font will make your resume easy to read by the employer and the ATS scan. Go with a clean, clear font.

Avoid fonts that are cursive, too casual, or fancy. When choosing a font, always go for classic and easy to read. The standard size is between 10-12 points. The only acceptable large font is for the header, which can go up to 14 for an eye-catching effect.

Here are the most-recommended fonts for a resume:

2

Spell-check

Avoid spelling or grammatical errors. Hiring managers may disqualify resumes as soon as they see a spelling or grammar error. Always proofread and spell-check. Use grammar check tools to help you correct any spelling mistakes.

3

ATS-friendly

Be technology ready. Most companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS)to handle the initial candidate screening process.

To make your resume ATS friendly, place your contact information at the top of the page, avoid formatting mishaps that the system can’t read, such as text boxes, tables, color ink, photos, or graphics. Also, avoid acronyms. The tracking software may not be able to interpret certain abbreviations.

4

Resume keywords

Job listings include specific keywords based on the employer’s hiring needs. These are the top resume keywords recruiters, hiring managers, and ATS algorithms are looking for when vetting applicants.

Carefully review the job post and identify the keywords you will use to tailor your resume accordingly.

To optimize your chances of getting past an ATS and landing a job interview, be sure to customize your resume keywords relevant to the job for which you’re applying.

Keywords may include a mix of skills used by recruiters to quickly identify potential candidates. Check out The 12 Most Important Skills to Consider When Writing a Resume that will help optimize your resume!

FAQ

What is the best format for a resume?

The most common resume formats are the chronological, functional and combination/hybrid resumes. Each format has its strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to consider your work experience and skills when determining the format that’s right for you.

For example, the chronological format highlights consistent work history, while the functional shifts the focus from work history to skills. The hybrid format combines both types of resume, using a chronological timeline to lay out your employment history and showcases your skill sets.

Check out our discussion of How to Write a Resume: Our A-Z Guide.

Are all resume formats ATS-approved?

For the ATS to read your resume properly, use a standard resume format. The chronological and hybrid or combination formats are easier to scan by applicant tracking systems (ATS) because they organize the resume sections neatly.

A functional resume format may become difficult to read. Without a clear work history to draw from, the ATS may not be able to sort through the different sections of a functional resume.

Regardless of which resume format you choose, the key to an ATS-compliant resume is to avoid tables and busy graphics. Most importantly, use the keywords found in the job description throughout your resume. For the system to let your resume through, your resume needs to have a certain number of relevant keywords.

For more on ATS, check out JobHero’s How to Get Your Resume Past an ATS.

Which resume format is best for engineering?

The resume format you choose will depend on your level of experience.

Engineering candidates that are starting their career and have little to no work experience should use a functional resume. This will help demonstrate that your educational background qualifies you for the position that you are applying for. Even with limited work history you can showcase unpaid work, relevant research and internship experience.

Job seekers with mid-level experience can use a hybrid/combination resume. This resume format will showcase both your skills and engineering experience in a balanced way. For a compelling resume include key competencies such as problem-solving and structural evaluation.

Senior-level candidates should present their qualifications in a chronological format. This format will highlight your top accomplishments and showcase your career progression in a clear, neat timeline.

What resume format is best for teaching?

If you have several years of teaching experience and no significant gaps in your work history use the chronological format. This type of format organizes your work history starting with your most recent position.

Emphasize your accomplishments in a bulleted format for each position. Be sure to optimize your resume by incorporating the key skills listed in the job description.

However, if you have limited work history or no relevant experience, a functional resume will be a great fit. It will allow you to focus on your skills. It also shifts the focus from your experience to your abilities and knowledge.

For instance, instead of starting a work history section, you can elaborate on your achievements from work, school, internships or student teaching experiences. You can include unpaid work, student teaching certification or internship awards. Focus on major competencies that show you are qualified for the job.

Another option is the hybrid format. This format blends both the chronological and functional resume to show a balance between your skills and experience.

As you see, the type of resume formats will vary. Pick the one that best suits your experience level.