You might think there’s only one way to format a resume, but there are three resume formats you can use to organize the information in your resume.
When you picture a resume, you likely visualize a single-page document that follows the usual order of sections starting with the contact information, followed by a professional summary or resume objective and work experience, skills and education.
The resume format we just described is the chronological resume, the most popular format for job seekers and recruiters. However, the chronological format might not be the best option for your specific situation.
The other two formats, the functional and the combination, may help you show off your professional qualifications much better, effectively increasing your chances of getting a job interview and landing the job.
In this article, we’ll teach you about the three resume formats and how to choose the one to maximize your experience and qualifications.
Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll learn about:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Resume formatting tips
Before we go on a deep dive into resume formats, we should first cover some basic formatting tips that apply to all resumes regardless of their format.
1 Keep one-inch margins.
Ensure your margins are at least one inch on all sides of your resume.
2 Use the appropriate font size.
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. Choose sans serif fonts like Arial, Verdana or Georgia, or check out our complete list of best resume fonts.
4 Pick standard heading titles.
Naming your resume sections is not the type to get creative. Stick to titles like “Professional Summary,” “Work Experience,” “Skills” and “Education.” Any other names can confuse recruiters and applicant tracking systems (ATS).
5 Use proper line spacing.
Typically, resumes should be one page long for every ten 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.
6 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.
7 Don’t include a profile picture.
Unless the nature of the job demands it, sharing a photo on your resume can pose a risk of you being subjected to discrimination or bias in the hiring process.
8 Double-check your attachment(s).
The best file format to save and send your document is PDF or DOC. To ensure there are no issues, send the file to yourself first and open it to check if saving the file has created any formatting changes or errors!
Examples of well-formatted resumes
If you want to skip manually formatting your resume and organizing your resume sections, you can take advantage of our preformatted resume samples below.
These resumes follow the industry’s formatting guidelines and showcase the ideal format for specific job titles and career situations — nicely wrapped in our exclusive, professionally designed resume templates.
Customer Service Representative - Chronological
This resume sample shows how an experienced customer service representative organizes their resume chronologically. The work history section takes center stage because of their 10+ years of experience.
Cashier - Functional
An inexperienced applicant seeking an entry-level cashier position will benefit from organizing their resume in a functional format. This resume format highlights the candidate’s skills instead of their limited work history.
Assistant Manager - Combination
This combination resume perfectly balances the candidate’s work history and skills. This job seeker has some relevant experience but is seeking a promotion to assistant manager; therefore, they need to show a robust skill set backed by an equally solid work history.
Teacher - Chronological
This resume shows off this experienced teacher’s long career in education. However, a traditional resume doesn’t have to be limiting. See how this candidate includes additional sections to boost their application.
Sales Associate - Functional
This resume sample exemplifies how a current student looking for part-time work as a sales associate should build their resume. Despite not having much formal experience in retail, the candidate showcases relevant transferable skills from other jobs.
Project Manager - Combination
This combination resume shows this IT specialist’s career progression into project management, which is the role this applicant is seeking. Notice how the summary of skills demonstrates the candidate’s most relevant skills for this position.
The three resume formats:
how to choose the right one?
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:
Best for experienced professionals
The chronological resume format
The chronological resume is the most popular one. Recruiters prefer it because it puts the focus on your work experience.
How to organize your chronological resume sections
These are the sections and their order in a chronological resume:
- Contact information
- Professional summary
- Work history
Learn more about how to write each section of this resume in our chronological resume guide.
Best for entry-level applicants
The functional resume format
The functional resume is the least common resume format. However, functional resumes are great for inexperienced job seekers because they minimize the work history and focus on your skills.
How to organize your functional resume sections
These are the sections and their order in a functional resume:
- Contact information
- Objective statement
- Professional skills
- Work history
Learn more about how to write each section of this resume in our functional resume guide.
Best for mid-career professionals
The combination resume format
Combination resumes, also called hybrid, are a mix between the chronological and functional formats. They do prioritize the skills by putting this section at the top, but it still includes a work history section in the chronological format style.
How to organize your combination resume sections
These are the sections and their order in a combination resume:
- Contact information
- Professional summary
- Summary of qualifications
- Professional skills
- Work history
Learn more about how to write each section of this resume in our
What is the best resume
format of all?
Now that you’ve learned the gist of the three resume formats, you might be wondering: “Well, what really is the best one?”
One format isn’t better than the other, but the one you’re almost always better off choosing is the chronological resume format.
Chronological resumes are popular for a reason. Most recruiters evaluate candidates based on their work experience, so that’s the section they’ll go to instantly.
Another reason you should lean towards the chronological resume is applicant tracking systems (ATS). ATS are recruiting software that scans resumes in search of all the necessary information HR needs to hire candidates. These applicant tracking systems are programmed to only read chronological resumes.
What is the best resume format for me?
When deciding on a resume format, there are a few factors to consider. Key questions you need to answer yourself before committing to a resume format are:
1. How many years of experience do you have?
- If you have between 0-3 years of experience, the functional resume may be right for you.
- If you have between 3-10 years of experience, the combination resume may suit you.
- If you have 10+ years of experience, the chronological resume may be right for you.
2. What is your career situation or job search motivation?
- If you’re a student or recent graduate seeking an entry-level job, the functional resume is ideal for you.
- If you’re a mid-career professional, someone seeking a promotion or reentering the workforce, the combination resume is ideal for you.
- If you’re an experienced or senior professional with a long and consistent career looking for another job, the chronological resume is ideal.
3. Are you applying to a company that may use an applicant tracking system?
- If yes, you should always use a chronological resume.
- If no, you can get away with a combination or functional formats.
- If unsure, ask! Choosing a resume format is an important decision and it’s best to make an informed decision.
How to make your resume
pass the ATS?
As mentioned above, applicant tracking systems are part of the recruiting process for many companies. ATS can make or break your chances of landing an interview, so you should include everything needed to be an ATS-compliant resume.
- 1 Stick to simple formatting and a one-column layout. Avoid photos, graphics, text boxes, tables and multiple columns of text..
- 2 Use an ATS-friendly font such as Arial, Calibri, Georgia or Times New Roman. Stay away from fonts with too much flourish.
- 3 Use traditional section headings like “Summary,” “Work history,” “Skills” and “Education.”
- 4 Include keywords from the job description. The job ad will have resume keywords that hint at the essential qualifications the employer wants.
- 5 Don’t include acronyms by themselves. When writing concepts like “CPR,” always include the full version: “cardiopulmonary resuscitation.”
- 6 Use a widely-accepted file format like PDF or DOC. However, always follow the indications on the job application.
- 7 Proofread your resume to make sure it’s free of errors. Grammatical mistakes and typos are sure to get the ATS (or recruiters!) to reject you.
- 8 Use an ATS-friendly resume template that takes care of everything! Our resume templates are ATS-compliant and provide access to our Builder’s writing tips, database of hundreds of skills and integrated spell-checker.
Want 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.
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.”