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What are the three main resume formats?

The three standard resume formats are the chronological resume, the functional resume and the combination resume.

While all of these resume formats have standard elements, such as summary, skills and education sections, each format structures those sections differently. The right format for you will depend on your years of work experience, your skill sets and how your qualifications match the job you want.

Chronological Resume Artwork

Chronological resume format

Best resume format for:

Functional Resume Artwork

Functional resume format

Best resume format for:

Combination Resume Artwork

Combination resume format

Best resume format for:

What is the best resume format for you?

Picking out the proper resume format can spell the difference between having a resume that wows recruiters and one that leaves them cold. For example, if you don’t have any experience but use the chronological format, which focuses on work history, you’ll end up with an underwhelming resume.

To pick the right format for you, just answer these questions.

Best Resume Format

Once you’ve picked a good resume format for your needs, read through our tips below on creating the best resume, as well as our resume-writing guide.

Chronological resume format example

Name: Pamela Sanders

Address: City, State, Zip Code
Phone: 000-000-0000
E-Mail: email@email.com

Professional Summary

Well-organized Senior Office Administrator professional bringing excellent multitasking abilities developed over 13 years of distribution industry experience. Commended for consistently driving team success with knowledgeable enforcement of company procedures and skillful personnel training. Proficient in Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle with expertise in database management.

Work History

April 2018 to Current

Company Name, City, State

Senior Office Administrator

  • Interpret management directives to define and document administrative staff processes.
  • Design comprehensive $10,000 office budget to handle supply, labor, and maintenance requirements.
  • Establish and update work schedules to account for changing staff levels and expected workloads.

January 2011 to April 2018

Company Name, City, State

Office Administrator   

  • Supported logistics for programs, meetings, and events, including room reservations, agenda preparation, and calendar maintenance.
  • Tracked and recorded expenses and reconciled accounts to maintain accurate, current, and compliant financial records.
  • Maintained 99.0% accuracy while updating databases with quantitative data and verifying continuous and discrete changes.

June 2007 to January 2011

Company Name, City, State

Office Administrative Assistant

  • Answered over 50 calls and greeted visitors in a friendly manner every day.
  • Sorted, opened, and routed incoming correspondence and deliveries to help senior leaders respond quickly to business and customer requirements.
  • Transferred and directed phone calls, guests, and mail to correct departments.

Skills

  • Documentation and reporting
  • Operations oversight
  • Office administration
  • Filing and paper management
  • Relationship building
  • Self-motivation
  • Customer service
  • Calendar and Docketing

Education

Company Name, City, State

Associate of Science Business Administration

Save time by using a preformatted resume template in our Resume Builder.

The chronological resume (also known as the reverse-chronological format) is the most popular resume format. The chronological resume emphasizes your work history section, where you list information about current and past jobs with the most recent job first.

To make the most of this format, focus on unique, detailed work achievements that show you’ve made steady, significant progress in your career. You should also highlight key skills that fit the job description. Follow the lead of our chronological sample resume format above and these tips:

Writing tips for the chronological resume format

Resume summary: In a few sentences, give an overview of your top qualifications for the job, emphasizing career longevity and achievements. See our example above, which emphasizes “13 years of distribution industry experience” or expertise in an important area such as database management.

Work history: This is the heart of a chronological resume format. Don’t list standard, mundane tasks — instead, present accomplishments that make you stand out, using specifics when possible.

Work history example:

  • Designed comprehensive $10,000 office budget to handle supply, labor and maintenance requirements.
  • Maintained 99.0% accuracy while updating databases with qualifying data and verifying continuous changes.
  • Managed benefits for office team of 55 employees.
  • Answered 50 calls and greeted visitors promptly every day.

Skills: Feature skills you have that are most relevant to the specific job you’re applying to, including practical skills (such as documentation and reporting) and soft skills (such as customer service or attention to detail).

Education: Present your highest academic credential (e.g., name of college and degree), along with any specific certifications or courses you’ve taken that apply to the job you want.

Chronological resume format pros and cons

Pros:

  • Preferred resume format of recruiters and hiring managers.
  • Provides a concise snapshot of your work history.
  • Easy to see your career progression and important skills.

Cons:

  • Any employment gaps are noticeable.
  • Not the best resume format if you don’t have much experience (e.g., you’re a first-time job seeker or are switching over from a different career).
  • Might not be the proper resume format if you haven’t had steady, standard career progression.

Functional resume format example

When you think of “function,” you think of skills and abilities that fulfill your work duties — your work functions, in other words. The functional resume format thus focuses on all the skills and training you have that fit the job.

Are functional resumes bad? Some experts discourage the use of functional resumes because they’re organized differently from chronological resumes, and thus might confuse recruiters. Our advice: As long as your situation fits the format (see What is the best resume format for you? above), a functional format is a valid option for presenting your resume.

In a functional resume, your skills are broken into important subcategories (e.g., “Technical Skills” or “Soft Skills”). Be sure to tailor your skills sections to fit the skills that the specific job needs. Your education section should also feature any specialized classes or training that match the job you want, as the functional sample resume format below shows:

Name: Jeremiah Arnold

Address: City, State, Zip Code
Phone: 000-000-0000
E-Mail: email@email.com

Professional Summary

Good-natured Social Worker dedicated to finding healthy adoptive homes for children lacking appropriate adult caretakers. Committed to meeting the individual needs of children and foster parents for support, education, and legal assistance. Helpful and accommodating professional possessing a strong sense of compassion and patience. Skillful in needs evaluation, treatment planning, and facilitating a group or individual counseling sessions.

Summary of Skills

  • Fast-acting and self-motivated when responding to crises such as health emergencies and child abuse.
  • Known skilled identifying people and communities in need of help; follow up with clients to ensure that their situations and life have improved.
  • Excellent communication and writing abilities.

Key Skills

  • Referrals and networking
  • Case management
  • Crisis intervention
  • Empathy
  • Life skills development
  • Critical thinking
  • Fluent in Spanish
  • Structured Decision Making (SDM) tools knowledge

Work History

February 2018 to Current
Company Name, City, State
Social Worker

  • Apply Functional Behavioral Assessment and Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan to identify the cause of problem behavior, formulate strategies to address behavior, and teach new behavioral skills.
  • Complete detailed charts to summarize interactions with patients and booked follow-up sessions.
  • Attend over 20 hours of meetings, conferences, and training courses to advance social work professional knowledge.

March 2015 to February 2018
Company Name, City, State
Social Worker Assistant

  • Supported program leadership in handling day-to-day management needs of a busy office.
  • Conducted home visits across Tallahassee to check on patients’ well-being.
  • Assisted on treatments and casework programs for an average of five patients per month.

January 2014 to January 2015
Company Name, City, State
Hotline Volunteer

  • Worked with clients to improve life choices and maximize the benefits of programs.
  • Determined needed and relevant interventions based on each client’s cognitive abilities and current needs.
  • Actively listened to 30+ callers’ requests, confirming full understanding before addressing concerns each day.

Education

Company Name, City, State
Bachelor of Science Sociology

Writing tips for the functional resume format

Resume objective or summary statement: If you’re seeking a job in which you’re expected to define your career goals, open your resume with an objective statement (also known as a career objective) that’s two to three sentences long, explaining your employment goal, along with your best skills and qualifications. Otherwise, go with a standard summary statement.

Resume objective example:

  • Recent graduate with bachelor’s degree in accounting, seeking position that uses analytical, decision-making and problem-solving skills. Thoroughly versed in Microsoft Excel functions, including pivot tables, and proficient in Hyperion and Oracle. Brings a collaborative, positive, deadline-focused approach to work.

Skills: Unlike the other resume formats, a functional resume has several skills sections:

  • The “Summary of Qualifications” section is used to describe your best skills, along with evidence of how these skills are put into action. You can refer to internships, projects or extracurricular activities relevant to the job.
  • “Professional Skills” or “Relevant Skills” sections are used to explain hard skills further — abilities acquired through practice and education and repetition that are job-specific (such as data management, editing, translation or budgeting).
  • Make sure to also feature “soft” skills: intangible traits that lead to better job performance, such as organizational skills, problem-solving or interpersonal skills.

Work history: Keep this section concise, listing any previous positions or professional experiences, names of the companies you’ve worked for and your dates of employment, as seen in our resume format example above. If you don’t have formal work experience, include any relevant internships, volunteer work or extracurricular activities.

Education: In addition to your academic credentials, supply details on relevant additional training or certifications (e.g., a certification in Adobe Creative Suite for graphic design work).

Functional resume format pros and cons

Pros:

  • Useful format for recent graduates or first-time job seekers.
  • Excellent for jobs that place a premium on specific skills, particularly transferable skills across jobs or industries.
  • Good format for presenting a wide range of qualifications.

Cons:

  • Emphasis on skills rather than work history is not a great fit for jobs that require experience.
  • Not the best resume format for job seekers who can show off consistent career development and achievements at previous jobs.
  • Applicant tracking systems (ATS) can have difficulties scanning this format.

Combination resume format example

The combination (or hybrid) resume format, as its name suggests, combines elements of both the chronological and functional resume formats, marrying a meaty skills section with details on work achievements.

Combination resumes can work for a variety of circumstances. If you have a few years of experience in a particular field and are applying for a higher-level job, this format can feature career progression and key skills. It’s also a good option if you’re switching careers but can feature “transferable” achievements and skills from previous jobs. Use the combination sample resume format below as inspiration:

Name: Tom Larson

Address: City, State, Zip Code
Phone: 000-000-0000
E-Mail: email@email.com

Summary Statement

Skilled Dental Hygienist offering four years of experience caring for underserved and uninsured patient populations. Expert in providing preventive and restorative care while working to raise awareness of dental hygiene and oral care. Compassionate and understanding when treating and talking with individuals and families. Patient-focused and quick to build long-term relationships with patients and colleagues.

Skills

  • Medical office administration
  • Sealant application
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Root planning and scaling expertiseDigital radiographs
  • Preventive oral health education
  • Infection control and aseptic procedures
  • X-Rays

Education

Company Name, City, State
Associate of Science Dental Hygiene

Certifications

Licensed BLS/CPR – 2018

Summary of Qualifications

Good at working with hands in tight spaces and part of the body.
Proven ability to work without direct supervision of a Dentist.
Excellent interpersonal skills; advocate of patient care, being sensitive to them, their emotions, and worries.

Professional Skills

Dental Care and Evaluations

  • Exposed, developed, and mounted both intraoral and extraoral dental x-rays.
  • Maintained accurate medical and dental records by documenting essential patient data in Curve Dental.
  • Carried out advanced dental cleaning services, including Gross debridement scaling and root planing in more than eight patients daily.

Continual Learning

  • Continuous research and studies resulted in screening two to three patients for signs of oral cancer, lesions, or disease by visually and manually inspecting mouth and gums each month.
  • Improved and developed knowledge through continuing education courses and seminars.
  • Confronted by situations and emergencies and be able to assimilate and start using new information quickly.

Oral Communication

  • Educated patients on the importance of oral hygiene and demonstrated flossing techniques, brushing, and using mouthwash.
  • Actively listened to patients, handled concerns quickly, and escalated significant issues to the Dentist.
  • Served 15+ patients in a friendly, efficient manner following outlined steps of service every day.

Work History

February 2018 to Current
Company Name, City, State
Dental Hygienist

January 2017 to February 2018
Company Name, City, State
Dental Hygienist Assistant

Writing tips for the combination resume format

Summary: Provide a two- to three-sentence summation of your best skills and work experiences. If you’re coming from a different job field, this is also your opportunity to explain how your skills and experiences from previous positions fit your new career path.

Skills: A combination resume gives you the option of splitting your skills into two sections: a summary of skills and a key skills section. In your skills summary, describe your prime abilities, referencing how you’ve used them in previous jobs. Your key skills section will focus on specific abilities that address requirements from the specific job.

Summary of skills example:

  • Ability to synthesize and relate program information in an effective, positive way.
  • fashion with co-workers, families, agencies and the public.
  • Proficient with utilizing database, spreadsheet and office management.
  • software and CMHC to achieve successful outcomes.
  • Understanding cognitive behavioral therapy, theories of addiction
  • and dynamics related to criminogenic risk factors.

Key skills example:

  • Referrals and networking
  • Case management
  • Crisis intervention
  • Empathy
  • Life skills development
  • Critical thinking

Work history: As with the chronological format, focus on unique achievements from previous jobs, quantifying your results whenever possible (e.g., “Improved on accounting processes, gaining $4 million for the company in the last fiscal year”). Zero-in on accomplishments that can be applied to your new job or career (e.g., highlight your mathematics skills and attention to detail from an accountant job if you’re applying for a statistician position).

Education: Present your top academic achievements (e.g., high school diploma or graduate degree) and additional training that has a bearing on the job you want (e.g., first aid and CPR training for a medical assistant job).

Combination resume format pros and cons

Pros:

  • Skills and work experience share the spotlight in this resume format.
  • Emphasizes relevant work highlights rather than your whole career.
  • Contextualizes your skills in your work achievements

Cons:

  • Not a great fit for first-time job seekers or workers who lack experience.
  • Skills and work achievements must complement each other for the format to be effective.
  • Format can be difficult for applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan.

8 resume formatting tips

Having the right resume format is only one major piece of the puzzle — the other is making sure your finished resume is laid out correctly. Use one of our professionally designed resume templates, and follow these key pointers.

  1. Margins matter. Stick to one inch on all sides of your resume. If you’re trying to make room on your resume for more information, you can take it down to half an inch if needed, but one inch will give your document its best look.
  2. Get to the point. Your font size should be large enough to read but not so large as to look unprofessional. Typically, most fonts look good with a point size of 11 or 12.
  3. Keep the font professional. This isn’t the time to use a flamboyant font or a font that an employer might have a hard time reading. Well-used fonts like Arial, Times New Roman or Verdana are your best bet.
  4. Bullet it up. Use bullet points and short, punchy phrases to describe your skills, certifications, work experience and achievements.
  5. Give it some space. Make sure the spacing between your sections is consistent, and go with single or 1.5 line spacing between lines.
  6. Standardize your headings. Follow the lead of our resume format examples and use standardized headings for each section. Writing “My Career” rather than “Work History” runs the risk of confusing readers, especially if your resume is submitted through an ATS review.
  7. Maintain order. Your resume format will determine how sections on your resume are organized. In short:
    Chronological Resume

    • Summary
    • Work History
    • Skills
    • Education
    Functional Resume

    • Summary or Objective statement
    • Summary of Qualifications
    • Skills sections
    • Work History
    • Education
    Combination Resume

    • Summary
    • Skills or Summary of Skills/Key Skills
    • Work History
    • Education
  8. Go with a familiar file format. Most employers welcome resumes in PDF or Microsoft format. If you use our Resume Builder to create your resume, you can download it in these formats or check our PDF resume templates and Word resume template sections for more resume examples.

Formatting Tips

Free resume format examples

Get started on your resume using these free downloadable examples in each of the major resume formats. For more examples in hundreds of industries and jobs, visit our resume examples section.

Functional resume format example: artist

This functional resume format sample includes a professional skills section highlighting the candidate’s top three skills and downplaying employment gaps.

More aviation resume examples

Combination resume format example: business operations manager

As you can see from this example, combination resumes are a great option for people switching careers and having transferable skills and experience. This job seeker utilizes the work history, relevant skills and skills sections to show the employer that they’re well-rounded and have the qualifications that it takes to excel.

More business operations resume examples.

Combination resume format example: accounting assistant

Mid-level candidates who want to grow within the same industry can benefit from the combination resume format. This resume sample shows how to balance your skills and work experience to highlight your knowledge and potential.

More accounting resume examples

Combination resume format example: civil engineer

This chronological resume example demonstrates why this format is both common and popular. The work history section follows your professional summary, highlighting extensive experience and career achievements before diving into the skills you possess.

More civil engineering resume examples

Create a resume with the right format using our Builder

Our Resume Builder helps you create a resume from scratch. Just pick a template design, and we’ll provide you with all the professional formatting and content suggestions you need to fill out your document.

  • Professional designs, with formatting taken care of.
  • Build and customize as many versions of your resume that you need.
  • Create a resume in any resume format.
  • Download your resume in all the major file formats, including PDF and Microsoft Word.

Key resume format take-aways

To wrap up, let’s do a quick recap:

  • There are three standard resume formats: chronological, functional and combination (or hybrid).
  • The chronological format (also known as the reverse-chronological) is the most popular resume format and emphasizes work history.
  • A functional resume format is great for highlighting skills rather than work experience and is appropriate for first-time job seekers or people changing careers.
  • The combination resume mixes the chronological and functional resume formats and places equal emphasis on work experience and skill set.
  • Make sure to apply the standard resume formatting rules: one-inch margins, professional font, bullet points to describe skills and work history, 11-12 point size and single or 1.5 line spacing.
  • Save your resume as a PDF or DOC file format. When you’re done

Resume formats FAQ

What should a resume look like?

Ideally, a resume should be one to two pages in length and contain details about your top skills and qualifications, achievements from current and previous jobs, and information about your educational background, all laid out in an easy-to-follow, organized document. Just follow the resume examples on this page or use our Resume Builder to create a resume that not only looks like a resume should but also provides all the key information employers want.

What is the best resume format for a college student?

The functional resume format is a good choice for students and recent graduates with little to no work experience. However, if you’ve had part-time jobs, volunteer work or internships that apply to the job you want, or taken a relevant class, note these experiences in your work history or education sections. This also applies to high school students looking for their first job.

What is the best resume format for a job seeker with experience?

The chronological resume format is best for experienced job seekers. This format focuses on your work history, so you can use the bulk of the page to showcase your past duties and accomplishments. Hiring managers will be particularly interested in specific professional milestones you’ve achieved over the years, so include them in your work history section.

What is the best resume format for someone who has had the same job for over 20 years?

If you haven’t had a lot of change in your career, opt for the combination resume format, which emphasizes the skills you’ve acquired as well as specific job accomplishments. Show employers how you’ve developed professionally over this timespan, even if you’ve kept the same job title.

What resume format is ATS-friendly?

Many employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan resumes before humans read them; it’s estimated that at least 98% of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking systems, such as Workday and Taleo. In general, chronological and combination resume formats can be read by ATS with little difficulty. However, ATS systems continue to grow more sophisticated and can parse resumes in any format, as long as you use the right template. All the examples and templates on our site are professionally designed with these systems in mind, so you don’t have to worry about your resume not making it to the recruiter’s hands.

Do resume formats work differently in different industries?

Not necessarily. A resume format establishes how your resume will be organized and what information will be highlighted. For example, the chronological resume format stresses career progression and work experience, so the work history section is front and center. On the other hand, a functional resume format focuses on skills and what you can do, so it’s ideal for first-time job seekers and people changing fields.

That being said, if you’re a candidate with years of experience in one industry, but your potential employer places a bigger emphasis on skills rather than work history, you might want to consider using a functional or combination resume format. It all comes down to what you want the employer to know about you and your abilities.

Some jobs in fields such as education, science or entertainment may prefer the CV format and they’ll usually state it in the job description. A CV or curriculum vitae is a comprehensive document that details your top skills and complete work history while providing more detail on your academic background and related accomplishments (such as awards and publications) that are relevant to the job.

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Choosing the best resume format is only the first step to a perfect resume. Visit our career center for more resume help, including these top resources:

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