How to Choose the Right Resume Format

Create my resume

Our customers have been hired by:

Resume Formats

Not all resume formats are created equal. Choosing the proper resume format can make or break how a hiring manager views your qualifications and work history, so it’s critical to choose the one that’s right for your level of experience. The resume format you choose will determine which parts of your background get the most attention. Transferable skills should be the highlight for some applicants, while others will want to draw attention to an impressive career trajectory or a long work history. This page will teach you about the three most popular resume formats, provide tips about which type is right for you and offer you sample resume formats to study.

The 3 most popular
professional resume formats

Resume formats refer to how your resume is organized. Functional, chronological and combination (sometimes referred to as hybrid) are the three standard resume formats used across most industries. You should choose the professional resume format that best highlights your work experience and skills. However, many job seekers are unclear on how to choose the best resume format for the job they want.

LiveCareer offers a wide selection of resume templates, all of which can be organized into any of the three most popular professional resume formats. In addition, you decide whether to download your chosen resume format in Word, PDF or Simple Text files. Here is a guide to choosing the best resume format for your experience level.

Chronological Resume Format

The choice for experienced professionals

This is a good resume format for:

  • Job seekers who have worked in the same industry for many years
  • Applicants who want to show off an impressive career progression
  • Anyone who is applying for an executive-level position
Create my resume
Resume Sales Manager Pacific Chronological
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

How is a chronological resume organized?

Here’s how the sections of your chronological resume format should be listed:

  • Header

    Include your name, email address, phone number and location. Your mailing address is not required on a modern resume, but highly experienced candidates should consider adding links to their LinkedIn profiles or their professional website, if applicable.

  • Professional summary

    Your professional summary is your elevator pitch, a two-to-five sentence teaser that highlights what you bring to the table. Name your most sought-after skills and experience here.

  • Work history

    This section is the primary focus of a chronological resume format. Work history should be listed in reverse-chronological order, with your most recent job at the top of the list. In a chronological resume, this section should be detailed. Use data and metrics wherever possible to show the impact your work has had on past employers.

  • Skills

    List your most relevant hard and soft skills in this section, paying close attention to those called out in the job ad.

  • Education

    List your last degree (i.e., MBA, JD or BA/BS). If you don’t have a college degree but have a lot of work experience, feel free to leave this section off your resume.

Functional Resume Format

The best format for entry-level applicants

This is a good resume format for:

  • Job seekers who have little to no work experience
  • Applicants who want to show off their skills and education
  • Those with multiple gaps in their employment history
Create my resume
Functional Resume Examples
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6

How is a functional resume organized?

Here’s one of the ways you can organize the sections of your functional resume format:

  • Header

    Be sure to add your name, email address, phone number and location. Your mailing address is not required on a modern resume.

  • Summary statement

    A functional resume’s summary statement or career objective is your introduction to an employer. Unlike the other two resume formats, which use a Professional Summary focused on what you can offer an employer, here it’s OK to mention the type of role you seek since many users won’t have an extensive work history.

  • Skills

    Study the job ad to determine the role’s most critical hard and soft skills for the role. Then, add in any other relevant skills and training that will make you stand out. Since a combination resume focuses on skills and experience, feel free to make this a comprehensive list.

  • Professional skills

    In this section, refer to the three top skills you possess and make sure they are based on both hard and soft skills. They can also come from a formal job description. All skills selected should be as relevant as possible. Then break down in sentence form a list of at least three job duties associated with each of the three skills you chose.

  • Work history

    Here, note any relevant work experience you have had, even if it isn’t directly related to the role you seek.

  • Education

    List your degrees in reverse-chronological order, with your most recent degree at the top of the list. If you did not get an advanced degree, list your high school education and completed professional certifications.

Combination Resume Format

The preference of mid-career professionals

This is a good resume format for:

  • Job seekers who have had at least two jobs in their field
  • Applicants who have a solid mix of skills and experience
  • Those entering a field wherein they have work experience after an extended leave
Create my resume
Retail Associate Qualified Combo
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6

Key elements of a combination resume:

Here’s how you can list the sections of your combination resume format:

  • Header

    Include your name, email address, phone number and location. Mid-career applicants should consider adding links to their LinkedIn profiles, professional website or online portfolio, if applicable.

  • Professional summary

    Your professional summary should be two to five sentences that highlight the most impressive skills and experience you have cultivated up to this point in your career.

  • Summary of qualifications

    Your summary of qualifications should include information about your degrees, relevant training, academic achievements, and a high-level overview of your professional skills.

  • Key skills

    Study the job ad to determine the most critical hard and soft skills for the role. Then, add in any other relevant skills and training that will make you stand out. Since a combination resume focuses on skills and experience, feel free to make this a comprehensive list.

  • Work history

    List your work experience in this section in reverse-chronological order, with your most recent job at the top of the list. This section should be detailed, so be sure to include any metrics that will highlight your professional successes.

  • Education

    List your advanced degrees in reverse-chronological order. If you don’t have a college degree, list high school in this section. Otherwise, leave it off.

Our customers prove our resume builder is better

3 things to consider when choosing a resume format

Before you begin writing your resume, you should figure out which resume format is the best fit 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:

Choose Your Format

  1. What’s your experience level?

    Different resume formats highlight different aspects of your background. If you want to demonstrate that you have a strong career progression, choose a chronological resume format. With some work experience and a strong set of industry-specific skills, a combination resume is a great choice. If you are new to the workforce but want to emphasize the skills you’ve developed in school, a functional resume format would be a better fit.

  2. 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 been laid off, let go, or 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 and can draw emphasis to your particular skill set. Alternatively, the chronological resume format is a solid choice for a professional with a robust work history and an impressive career trajectory.

  3. Is it ATS-friendly?

    A well-organized resume is critical to getting past an applicant tracking system (ATS). ATS software is used by the majority of companies in the U.S. and is designed to weed out unqualified candidates by scanning resumes for keywords. Crafting 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. 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.

Format The Resume

6 things to keep in mind when formatting resumes

Employers have only a short time to look through your resume, so the goal of formatting is to create a professional-looking, easy-to-read document that best showcases your valuable experiences. Below are the six tips you should keep in mind when formatting so that relevant information is clear and easy to find:

  1. Monitor your margins

    Make sure your margins are in the “business formatting” style, which means one inch on all sides of your resume.

  2. Check your font size

    The point size of your document should be consistent and readable. Stick to between 10 to 12 point fonts on both your resume and cover letter.

  3. Keep it professional

    Don’t choose a distracting font that is hard to read or will take attention away from the contents of your document. Stick to classic font types like Times New Roman, Arial and Georgia.

  4. Use proper line spacing

    Typically, resumes should be one page in length so keep your line spacing at 1.5 points for easy readability without looking too cramped.

  5. Be careful with bullets

    Bullet points are great for condensing information but make sure you don’t overload your resume and only use bullets to emphasize the key skills you have that match the job description.

  6. Double-check your downloads

    To best showcase your resume and to make sure the formatting is easily readable, the best file format for downloading and sending your document is either a PDF or DOC file.

Resume format FAQ

Which format do most employers prefer for resumes?

While the chronological resume format is the most commonly used resume format, it’s important to choose the best resume format for your career history and experience level. If you have a strong employment history and career progression, then the chronological is perfect for you. However, if you are an entry-level candidate, making a major career change, or having serious gaps in your employment history, a functional or combination resume would be a better fit.

Can I use more than one resume format?

If you are applying to multiple jobs at once, you may consider several resume format examples. For every job that you are applying to, you should tailor your resume to that position, as the job posting contains specific keywords the employer and ATS systems are looking for. This applies to your resume’s format as well. 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?

Once the builder finishes guiding you through the resume sections, you’ll be able to customize your document by adding and customizing relevant resume format features. On the left-hand side of the editing dashboard, click the plus sign that says “Add a Section,” and 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.”

Build a resume with LiveCareer

Build my resume
x