The 3 main
professional resume formats
All three formats contain similar resume sections and information. The main difference among them is the order of the resume sections. The organization helps control how an employer sees you because it changes the focus of your resume. Here’s our general recommendation for the best resume format based on your experience level:
Why resume formats matter
You wouldn’t show up to a job interview in clothes that don’t fit you. That would look messy and unprofessional and likely cause an employer to not hire you.
In the same way, a professional resume format should fit your work experience in a way that makes you look good! To better understand which format “fits” your experience, we’ll discuss each in greater detail below.
3 things to consider when choosing a resume format
Before you write your resume, you should figure out which resume format best fits for your experience level and the role you seek. Here are three things to consider that will help you decide how to format a resume:
What’s your experience level?
Different resume formats highlight different aspects of your background. If you want to demonstrate your strong career progression, choose a chronological resume format. With some work experience, between three and ten years, your best choice is a combination resume format. Use a functional resume format if you’re new to the industry but want to emphasize the skills you’ve developed in school.
Do you have a consistent work history?
If you have gaps in your employment history, this should be a consideration when choosing the best resume format for your job search. If you have taken time off for personal reasons, a functional resume format would emphasize relevant skills over your work history. Or, if you have a small gap in employment and want to apply to jobs related to your previous field, the best resume format for the job would be a combination resume, which highlights your transferable skills. Alternatively, the chronological resume format is a solid choice for a professional with a consistent work history and career growth.
Can you make your resume format ATS-friendly?
A well-organized resume is critical to getting past an applicant tracking system (ATS). Most companies in the U.S. use ATS software. It weeds out unqualified candidates by scanning resumes for keywords they program it to seek. A well-organized resume format that is easy to scan and puts your most impressive achievements front and center is critical to making it past the ATS and into the hands of a human recruiter. That’s why it’s good to stick to one of the three main resume formats. Using an ATS-friendly format for your resume can increase your chances of getting hired by putting your most relevant skills and experience front and center.
you can use
Now that you know what format you should use, we have preformatted documents called resume templates. They’re a tool that makes it faster and easier for you to make a resume!
A template is pre-designed and organized, so you can skip straight to the writing process. That saves you a lot of time!
Even better, since professional graphic artists created the designs, it ensures you submit a great-looking document for your job hunt.
Here’s a template for each kind of format:
Want even more preformatted resume templates?
Our most powerful tool is our Resume Builder. It comes loaded with 30+ resume templates. You’ll find templates in each resume format! Best of all, it also gives extra help with the writing process in these three ways:
It guides you.
It walks you through the process of making a resume, turning it into a series of step-by-step prompts. It’s like having an expert look over your shoulder!
Prewritten text suggestions.
It provides expert-written phrases that you can select, customize and add to your resume. All the recommendations match the job to which you’re applying!
You can change your resume’s format or design in a split second with the press of a button! That’ll save you a lot of time from doing it from scratch.
The goal of formatting is to create a professional-looking, easy-to-read document that best showcases your valuable experiences. That way, you can pass an ATS and make sure that it’s easy for employers to scan your resume looking for the good bits. Here are six tips you should follow when formatting so that relevant information is clear and easy to find:
1 Keep one-inch margins
Make sure your margins are at least one inch on all sides of your resume. This standard practice for resumes and cover letters is sometimes called “business formatting.”
2 Use appropriate font size
The point size of your text should be consistent and readable. Stick to between 10 to 12-point fonts on both your resume and cover letter. Any smaller is hard to read, and larger can be distracting.
3 Choose an easy-to-read font
Select a font that is clean and professional looking. Otherwise, it will take attention away from the content of your document! Stick to sans serif fonts like Arial, Verdana or Georgia; they’re all great resume font types.
4 Use proper line spacing
Typically, resumes should be one page in length for every 10 years of experience, so keep your line spacing at 1.5 points for easy readability. Your information will look cramped if you go under 1.15.
5 Be careful with bullets
Bullet points are great for condensing information but don’t overload your resume with them! Only use bullets for your work experience and to emphasize key skills.
6 Double-check your attachment(s)
The best file format to save and send your document is either a PDF or DOC file. To ensure there are no issues, do this: Send the file to yourself first and open it to check if saving the file has created any formatting changes or errors!
Our Customers Prove our Resume Builder is Better
Resume format FAQ
Which format do most employers prefer for resumes?
While the chronological resume format is the most commonly used, it’s important to choose the best format for your career history and experience level.
The chronological is perfect for you if you have a strong employment history and career progression. However, a functional or combination resume would be a better fit if you are:
- An entry-level candidate.
- Making a major career change.
- Covering up serious gaps in your employment history.
Can I use more than one resume format?
If you apply to multiple jobs, consider several different resume formats. Choosing a format targeted to each job is a good idea.
Based on how much work history you have in the various roles you’re applying to, you want to choose a resume format tailored to your experience level.
You could be applying for positions outside of your previous industry of employment or are returning to the workforce after a break, so you should change the format of your resume accordingly. For more help, feel free to look at our resume format examples.
How do I change my resume format in LiveCareer’s Resume Builder?
In our builder, you can change your resume format in one click simply by choosing a different resume template for your document. There are 30+ templates to choose from in our Resume Builder. You’ll find templates in all three formats!
You can also customize your document by adding relevant resume format sections.
On the left-hand side of the editing dashboard, click the plus sign that says “Add a Section.” That will direct you to the menu with available add-ons such as Accomplishments, Certifications, and Websites. You can also select “Add Your Own” to create sections like “Summary of Qualifications” or “Professional Skills.”
Do resume formats matter?
Absolutely. Resume formats matter because they help you organize your resume sections in the appropriate order. More importantly, resume formats help you showcase your unique strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
How do I format a resume?
To format a resume in our Builder, simply follow all the Resume Builder prompts until you have reached Step 6: Finalize. There, you’ll see the Builder allows you to add custom sections such as the summary of qualifications or additional skills sections.
A text box will open where you can format your sections using bullet points. Once you’re done, click the Finalize button to go to editing mode, where you will see your full-page resume.
If you want to keep adding custom sections, you can do so on the “Add sections” tab on the right.
In editing mode, you can also move your resume sections, so your skills sections can take precedence over your work history.
Our Resume Builder will automatically create a chronological resume, but you can easily customize it into a combination or functional resume. Learn how to properly order and format your sections in our combination resume and functional resume writing guides.
What is the best format for a resume?
The best resume format will spotlight your strengths and minimize your limitations. Depending on your years of experience and career stage, the best format for you will be either chronological, functional or combination.
Chronological resumes are the best format for experienced job seekers with 10+ years of experience and consistent careers since it focuses on your work history section.
Functional resumes are the best format for students, recent graduates or those with little to no work experience. It downplays the work history section in favor of an expanded skills section where you list your achievements.
Combination resumes are the best format for mid-level applicants or those seeking a career promotion. They have an equal focus on skills and experience so you can show you’re a well-rounded professional.
Is a resume format the same as a resume template?
No. A resume format is a layout organization for all your resume sections, whereas a resume template is simply a design skin. You can use all our resume templates for all resume formats, and it will not affect the order and formatting of your resume sections.
What is an ATS-friendly resume format?
The only ATS-friendly resume format is the chronological format since it’s the format that’s been traditionally used for years. Because applicant tracking systems are programmed to read chronological resume formats, the ATS can have difficulty scanning and analyzing the information on your resume.
Do resume formats work differently in different industries?
No. The industry you work in does not affect the resume format you choose to use. The most important thing to remember when selecting your resume format is the years you’ve worked.
Do recruiters prefer Word or PDF resumes?
Recruiters tend to prefer PDF resumes because it’s a file format they can access through multiple computers and share easily via email without worrying about someone modifying the resume. A Word resume is an open file that almost anyone can access and edit without your permission, whereas a PDF works like an unalterable image.
You can learn more in our article about the three resume file formats you can use.
How many jobs should you put on your resume?
When listing your work experience, you should only include the most relevant roles for your desired position. You should omit any role that doesn’t align with your career, which might mean removing the first few jobs you had during school to get you by.
If this leaves a gap in your work history, consider opting for a functional resume.
What should a resume look like?
A resume should look polished and well-organized, which you can achieve with any of our professionally designed resume templates. Your resume should include all five essential sections: contact information, summary or objective, work experience, skills and education. You can learn everything about how your resume should look in our how to write a resume article.
Is there a separate student resume format?
The best resume format for students is the functional format since it minimizes the work experience section and focuses on your skills instead. The functional format works best for students writing a resume with no experience. However, suppose you’ve worked for quite some years in retail or fast food. In that case, you can get away with applying for a similar job using chronological or combination formats.
What resume format do employers prefer?
The resume format most recruiters and employers prefer is the chronological format. It’s the most traditional format and depicts a clear timeline of an applicant’s work history, which helps recruiters determine if you’re prepared for the job.