In 5 minutes, you'll learn all you need to know about formatting a resume.
This page will review the 3 main resume formats: chronological, functional and combination format and other must-know resume formatting tips. We’ll help you choose the right format and get you hired faster.
The Three Best Resume Formats
Now that we’ve reviewed the three best resume formats
at a high level, let’s dig into each of them a little more.
The Popular Chronological Resume Format
This is the most widely used resume format in the world and the one hiring managers, HR and recruiters will be most familiar with. This format highlights your most recent experience towards the top.
You want someone reading this type of resume format to walk away with a sense of the promotions, title changes or expanded responsibilities you have had at various employers over the years.
Since readers of your resume will only look at it for 6 seconds, this format focuses their attention on your more recent work experience since your older and presumably less relevant work experience is lower on the page.
Regardless of your professional skills or overall experience, a chronological grid resume format is a well-known way to show what you bring to a potential employer.
Let's break down what a successful chronological resume format looks like:
Contact Header :
Make it easy for HR to know how to reach you.
Professional Summary :
Using a Professional Summary to highlight what you bring to the employer is key to making a great first impression.
Work History :
This is the primary focus section of a chronological resume format that separates it from a Functional or Combination format. Start with your most recent work experience and end with your first job – or the job you had 10 years ago.
Show relevant professional skills that relate to the job you want. These keywords help you get past the automated screener.
List your last degree (i.e. MBA, JD or BA/BS). If you don’t have a college degree, don’t have an education section and focus more on the skills section.
Do Use Chronological Resume
- Highlight relevant work experience
- Show career advancement
- Stick with a familiar resume format
Don’t Use Chronological Resume
- You have large gaps in your work experience
- You have very limited work experience
- You have a history of changing jobs every < 1 year
The Sensible Functional Resume Format
The functional resume format highlights your skills and abilities and how you can use those to best help an employer.
How do you know which skills and abilities an employer wants to see on your resume? Just simply read the job description. It will tell you what the employer is looking for. Then simply transfer those skills from the job description onto your resume and you’re already 90% ahead of the other candidates!
Let's break down what a successful functional resume format looks like:
Contact Header :
Let a recruiter know how to contact you at a glance.
Professional Summary :
Using a summary to highlight your qualifications that make you a great candidate for the position you want.
This is the most important part of a Functional resume format. In this section, you must carefully review the job description and pick out skills you see the employer is looking for. List them in the order you see them written about in the job description. You can list up to 10 skills in this section.
Work History :
Note any relevant work experience you have as it relates to the skills you noted above. You can leave off time frames if you want.
Note your highest degree or list any certifications or online courses you’ve taken.
Do Use Functional Resume
- Showcase your relevant skills and abilities
- Focus reader on your qualifications
- Highlight your professional or educational accomplishments
Don’t Use Functional Resume
- You don’t have relevant skills or qualifications
- You want to demonstrate promotions or career progression
- You have an extensive, relevant work history for the job you want
The Best of Both Worlds Combination Resume Format
Can’t decide between the chronological or functional resume format? The combination resume format may be just the answer. With a hybrid resume format you take the work history focus of a chronological resume and combine it with the skills focus of a functional resume.
Generally, this format is less common. Many people who use this format have less than 5 years of work experience, are making a career change, have few gaps in their job history or have worked for the same employer in different roles.
Let's break down what a successful combination resume format looks like:
Contact Header :
At the very beginning, let the hiring manager know how
to reach you.
Profesional Summary :
Use this section to call attention to your relevant work experience and skills.
These next two sections are the key areas of a hybrid resume. Here we recommend you highlight 6-8 relevant skills that you possess that you also see noted in the job description.
Work History :
This area is where you want to show some career progression as this example shows.
In a hybrid resume this is a nice-to-have section. If you need the room to highlight more relevant work experience, then you can focus on that since that is what a hybrid resume format focuses on.
Do Use Combination Resume
- Show both your relevant skills and work experience
- Try and change careers or industries
- Handle working for same employer for many years in different roles
Don’t Use Combination Resume
- You are just beginning your career
- You have limited work experience or skills to note
- You want to focus the reader’s attention on your education
5 Key Things To Keep
in Mind When Choosing
a Resume Format
Consider your audience.
When submitting online, your resume often goes through an ATS first, which most easily reads a chronological format. Avoid non-standard fonts, unique colors, and other creative elements unless you are applying for a design firm or another type of company that expects creativity.
Use a proven format
with the same margin width on every side and the same font face throughout. It is best to stick to a traditional black and white theme and to use bullet points to keep it easy to read.
Graphics, photographs, and other designs that stand out may have a negative impact. In addition to looking unprofessional in the eyes of most recruiters, a graphic-heavy resume also makes it harder for an ATS to read your document and target the important keywords in it.
Use a functional resume to manage employment gaps.
This resume format focuses on your skill sets more than the dates you worked for your employers. It uses special categories to emphasize achievements that are most important to employers and places these categories before the work history.
Think about your experience before choosing a format.
If you have plenty of experience in the same industry, choose a chronological resume to best display this industry-specific information. If your experience spans several industries or includes internships or volunteer work in addition to traditional employment, consider a combination or functional format.
How it Works
Select a resume template
Choose pre-written phrases
Download, print and apply
Resume Formatting 101 - Margins, fonts, alignment and more
Now that you’ve figured out which resume format you’re going to use, let’s talk about basic resume formatting – like how long your resume should be, fonts you should use and margin widths. Here are our top 4 tips on resume formatting that we’ve gathered over the past 10+ years of helping job seekers like you.
Keep it short and sweet
Unless you have 15+ years of experience, keep your resume to just one page. Given that hiring managers spend just 6 seconds scanning each resume they review, they’ll never get to the second page of your resume.
Our professional resume formats have baked in the ideal resume width and height
you should be using. So stick with those to save you time and grief. If you’re going
to be using your own design, then we recommend 0.61 inches on the sides and 0.9 inches at the top. Never go lower than 0.5 inches on any side (will make your resume feel too crowded) or larger than 1.25 inches (will make it look like you’re trying to hide something).
Fonts to Use
Like margin widths our pre-made resume formats and resume builder have baked
in the best fonts you should use in your resume to make it past the automated screening programs companies use. However, if you want to experiment on your own, then these are the standard resume fonts you should stick to at 10-12 point font size. We’ve organized this on a scale from more modern to more traditional.
Main Resume Content
We recommend that your main resume content be left aligned. This makes it easier for the hiring manager to read your resume. Exceptions to this could be if you use a 2+ column design where a portion of your resume has images, graphics or data visualizations.
Your contact information should be centered aligned (traditional) or left aligned (modern). It is rare to see a resume with your contact information right aligned but happens sometimes for stylistic purposes.
The dates you note for each length of job you’ve had are usually either right aligned across from the company name or job title you held or left aligned under the company name.
Questions & Answers About Resume Formats
Can I use more than one resume format?
Typically, you will send only one resume per application. However, if you are applying to multiple jobs at once, you may consider several formats. For example, you may have experience in one field and less in another. In this case, you would send a chronological resume to the former and a functional to the latter.
Which resume format is most versatile?
Hybrid resumes are the most versatile because they can be personalized to tell a story. Incorporating both skills and prior experience, combined resumes include more dates and details than functional resumes. They can also be tailored to suit a variety of fields.
Which resume format is best for an entry-level position?
Entry-level job seekers usually opt for functional resumes. When you’re a recent graduate or switching careers, you often have limited work history in a specific field. Instead, functional resumes list transferable skill sets supported by experience. If you are a new jobseeker, be sure to review our resume formats to get a better understanding of your prospective industry.
What is the most appropriate resume format for an experienced jobseeker?
Experienced job seekers should use either a chronological or hybrid format, depending on the job. Chronological, experience-based resumes are the most common. If you have relevant experience, showcase your accomplishments in each role using quantifiable metrics to support your value in the field.
Get a Head Start
The LiveCareer resume builder can give you a huge head start when creating your resume. Start with our formats and we’ll help you write documents to standout from the competition. Features include:
- Professional and customizable formats
- One-click formatting to keep your resume organized
- Auto-suggested keywords and phrases
Let us help you get the job, up to 33% faster.CREATE MY RESUME