Best Resume Format for Recent College Grads

Jen Sweeney
by Jen Sweeney   Career Advice Expert 

Modern resumes come in a variety of formats, but three of these resume formats are widely accepted by recruiters and hiring managers: the chronological resume, the functional resume, and the combination (or hybrid) format.While the chronological resume format emphasizes the applicant’s work history and previous jobs, the functional format focuses more on the candidate’s skills and abilities.  The hybrid resume combines elements of the two.

If you’re a student or recent college grad, we recommend the functional resume as a first choice and the hybrid as a close second. These resume formats will best showcase the skills and experiences you’ve gleaned in college.

Here’s a breakdown of each resume format and what they will offer a recent college grad:

The Functional Resume Format

The functional format offers is top choice for recent graduates because, instead of emphasizing the candidate’s work history, the functional resume highlights the candidate’s hard and soft skills.

When you choose the functional resume format, you show off your transferable skills rather than your employment history. Rather than serving as a laundry list of past employers and past work responsibilities, this format works well for those with a bevy of skills but a limited work history.

The functional format offers is top choice for recent graduates because, instead of emphasizing the candidate’s work history, the functional resume highlights the candidate’s hard and soft skills.

If you’re a college student, this gives you a great chance to show off your education. You’ve worked hard during your years in school, and you’ve probably completed projects, dissertations, team efforts, and leadership challenges that you’d like your employers to know about.

You also probably know how to use certain software tools, perform clinical procedures, plan events, sell products, speak foreign languages, and complete a host of difficult tasks that you haven’t yet applied in the workplace. The functional resume gives these as-yet-unproven skills a chance to shine.

The functional format works perfectly for recent graduates, but it also supports candidates at every experience level who would rather focus on their capabilities than their past jobs. Even more experienced workers may find themselves making a career change, or returning to the workplace after an absence. In these instances, you may find the functional resume format useful.

common resume format

The Chronological Resume Format

The chronological resume format highlights your job history, listing and describing each previous job in chronological order. Arguably the most common and the most popular resume format for most jobseekers, the chronological resume format might not be the best choice if you are a recent grad

While this classic, traditional resume format is the first choice of recruiters thanks to its easily scannable layout, unless you have had a significant number of summer jobs or internships, you may want to choose another format. The chronological resume format is designed to showcase a stable work history, which is something most recent graduates don’t have.

This format is an invaluable tool for a candidate with a long and perfectly relevant job history. The chronological resume says: “I can handle the challenges required by this job; I’ve been doing similar tasks for years, and I’ve worked my way up a recognizable ladder.”

But for excellent candidates who don’t have a long job history, the functional resume format allows you to showcase your transferrable skills without calling attention to your last of experience.

The Hybrid Resume Format

As its name suggests, this resume format combines the best features of both resume formats mentioned above by highlighting past employers and showcasing skill sets. This format also works nicely for recent graduates.

There are several ways to do this. For example, you can create short “past-employer” entries followed by a brief list of skills that apply to each role. Or you can include both a list of former jobs and a bullet-point set of skills, but in a condensed form, so both fit on a single page.

Another tactic is to select only two or three of the most relevant employers from your past and dedicate more space on the page to your core competencies. Start by checking out a few resume examples here and then turning to our easy-to-use resume builder when you’re ready to create your own document.


No matter which version you choose, our Resume Builder can help you create a polished document that grabs employer attention. With step-by-step instructions, you’ll have a professional resume completed in a matter of minutes.

About the Author

Career Advice Expert

Jen Sweeney Career Advice Expert

Jen Sweeney is a job search consultant and resume expert with over a decade of experience helping job seekers show off their skills. She’s constantly searching for tools that bring employers and talented employees together.


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