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:
Years of experience
Sometimes called a skills-based format.
Years of experience
A middle ground format, also known as a hybrid.
Years of experience
Also known as reverse-chronological format.
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.
5Be 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!
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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.”