Ch. 3: Resume Format

Resume Format

 

In the last chapter, Ch. 2: The Best Fonts for Your Resume, we covered the which fonts that will best make you stand out as a candidate, and the worst. Here we will discuss the three professionally recognized and widely accepted resume formats that recruiters have come to expect from candidates. Recruiters have come to expect specific layouts when browsing resumes and searching for candidates to fill their positions, so it's vital to learn how to how to format a resume properly.

In order to portray yourself as professional, formatting your resume correctly is key. The goal with your resume should always be to inspire the recruiter to pick up the phone to schedule an interview. However, if your resume is in complete disarray and difficult for them to extract information from, you may be quickly rejected. An easy way to avoid this mistake is to follow one of the three tested resume formats that will continue to be the cornerstones of resume-building.

 

Choosing a Resume Format

 

Depending on your situation, the position you're applying to, and/or the company that you're interested in, different formats will be needed. It's up to you to decide on which is most appropriate. Thankfully, we've created this guide to help you along in the process. Below, you'll find each format, when, and when not, to use each, and resume format examples.

 

1. Reverse Chronological

 

A reverse chronological resume format is traditionally the most familiar and widely used format due to how the information is streamlined and easily interpreted for the reader. 

 

Use reverse chronological if:

Avoid reverse chronological if:

You want to emphasize positions, career growth, and achievement by showing continuous professional development.

You have extended gaps in your employment history.

You’re applying to a position that is aligned with your career goals and experience.

You’ve changed jobs quickly in the past, implying that you’re not dedicated to one position.

You have few gaps and want to logically display you career information in a clear way.

You’re looking to make a jump from one career to another.

 

The reverse chronological layout, top-to-bottom:

  1. Personal Information/Contact
  2. Qualifications Summary
  3. Professional Experience
  4. Education
  5. Skills
  6. Certifications/Awards/Other

 

Reverse chronological resume example:

In our opinion, the reverse chronological format remains the all-around best resume format due to its simplification of information and easiness to understand.

 

2. Functional

 

The functional resume format de-emphasizes specific job titles and companies, highlighting skills gained and accomplishments instead. This format is typically used if the applicant has held many positions that are unrelated to the one they're applying to or if there are gaps in the applicant's work history.

In order to build a functional resume, examine your skill areas and construct categories for each, ultimately targeting the position you intend to apply to. The drawback of using this format is that employers can find it confusing since your positions are not listed in chronological order, making it more difficult to interpret. 

 

Use functional if:

Avoid functional if:

You’re looking to apply to a position within, or closely related to, your field.

You’re looking to jump into a new career path or industry.

You have minimal gaps in your employment history.

You’ve frequently switched positions and have many gaps in employment.

You want to portray your experience in a linear.

 

 

The functional layout:

  1. Personal Information/Contact
  2. Qualifications Summary
  3. Skills
  4. Professional Experience
  5. Education
  6. Certifications/Awards/Other

 

Functional resume example:

We prefer the reverse chronological format to the functional resume format unless absolutely necessary.

 

3. Combination

 

The combination resume format is simply a hybrid of the reverse chronological and functional formats. It puts the spotlight on achievements and skills, while still including your former positions and employers within any skill categories that you construct. 

 

Use combination if:

Avoid combination if:

You want to emphasize a central, relevant, and highly-developed skill for the position you’re applying to.

You have little experience, are an entry-level candidate, or a student.

You’re very experienced and are highly-skilled in every aspect of your skill.

You’ve changed jobs quickly in the past, implying that you’re not dedicated to one position.

You want to make a career change and jump into another field.

You’re looking to make a jump from one career to another.

 

The combination format:

  1. Personal Information/Contact
  2. Qualifications Summary
  3. Skills
  4. Professional Experience
  5. Education
  6. Certifications/Awards/Other

 

The reverse chronological format is used in conjunction with skill categories to create a combination:

 

Summary

 

Depending on your situation and the position you're applying to, any of these formats can be viable choices. Carefully consider each of the above options and the reasons to use one vs another, and start building your resume from there.

However, of these 3 resume formats, we recommend staying with the tried-and-true reverse chronological format unless you have a good reason, like large gaps in employment. It streamlines your information, its easy to interpret, and, frankly, its easier to create than the others.

 

Next: Ch. 4: Resume Action Verbs