Resume Format Guide, Tips, Last Updated: March 24, 2023
- 30% higher chance of getting a job
- 42% higher response rate from recruiters
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The three top resume formats are the chronological resume, the functional resume and the combination resume.
While these resume formats have standard elements, such as a summary, skills and education sections, each format structures those sections differently to focus on one in particular. The right resume format for a job will depend on your years of work experience, your skill set and how your qualifications match the job you want.
In this article, you’ll learn the differences between each resume format and how to choose the right one for you. Use our examples to understand the different resume styles and create an organized, polished resume that appeals to employers.
You can also save time by using a preformatted resume template in our Resume Builder.
The three main resume formats
CHRONOLOGICAL RESUME FORMAT
Best resume format for:
- Jobs that emphasize experience (such as creative director or retail manager).
- Candidates with multiple years of experience in the same field who’re seeking a job in the same industry (for example, moving up from a construction worker position to a construction project manager position).
- Job seekers with no employment gaps in their work history.
FUNCTIONAL RESUME FORMAT
Best resume format for:
- First-time job seekers or candidates with no work experience.
- Entry-level jobs (such as administrative assistant or warehouse associate).
- Jobs that place heavy importance on skills (such as a machinist or web developer position).
COMBINATION RESUME FORMAT
Best resume format for:
- Midlevel candidates with some experience in their industry (such as a nurse practitioner or marketing manager position).
- People switching to a different career with some transferable skills and work experience.
- Candidates who are re-entering the job market or have employment gaps in their career.
Chronological resume format
The chronological resume (also known as the reverse-chronological format) is the most popular format and the best resume format for experienced candidates. The chronological resume emphasizes your work history section, where you list information about current and past jobs with the most recent job first.
Name: Leighton Evans
Address: San Diego, CA 92111
Phone: H: 555 555 555, C: (555) 555-5555
Goal-oriented warehouse manager with 13 years of distribution industry experience focused on delivering practical strategies to drive productivity, personnel retainment and process efficiency. Excellent skills overseeing warehouse operations, data management and logistics to meet business needs. Well-coordinated and decisive leader with expertise in program management, team building and operational optimization.
Warehouse Manager 11/2018 – Current
Hellmann Worldwide Logistics – San Diego, CA
- Handle day-to-day shipping and receiving for more than 2,500 packages per week and keep documentation and records with 99% accuracy.
- Oversee and motivate a team of 60 employees in the warehouse and increase efficiency by 40%.
- Negotiate with 12 freight companies and receive annual contracts resulting in cost savings of 25%.
Assistant Warehouse Manager 09/2013 – 10/2018
Costco Logistics – San Diego, CA
- Evaluated supplies and product inventory to check for quality and quantity issues and returned inappropriate materials to vendors.
- Managed benefits for an office team of 55 employees and trained new staff on job duties, company policies and safety procedures for rapid onboarding.
- Designed a comprehensive $10,000 office budget and oversaw the upkeep of equipment and the physical condition of the warehouse.
Warehouse Clerk 01/2009 – 08/2013
BAE Systems – San Diego, CA
- Checked over 350 packages and merchandise for damage and notified vendors.
- Loaded approximately 100 boxes each hour into trucks.
- Answered around 50 calls daily, greeted visitors promptly and kept documentation and records accurate and up-to-date with the latest data to prevent errors in processing or delivery.
- Documentation and reporting
- Warehouse logistics
- Shipping and receiving
- MS Office
- NetSuite WMS
- Attention to detail
- Time management and multitasking
- Communication and teamwork
BBA: Business Management
San Diego State University – San Diego, CA
- Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) – 2018
To make the most of this resume format, focus on unique, detailed work achievements that show you’ve made steady and 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 resume format example above, which emphasizes 13 years of distribution industry experience and 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, detail accomplishments that make you stand out.
Work history example:
- Designed a comprehensive $10,000 office budget to handle supply, labor and maintenance requirements.
- Maintained 99% accuracy while updating databases with qualifying data and verifying continuous changes.
- Managed benefits for office team of 55 employees.
- Answered around 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) and any specific certifications or courses you’ve taken that apply to the job you want.
Chronological resume format pros and cons
- 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.
- 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
When you think of “function,” you think of skills and abilities that fulfill your work duties — in other words, your work functions. The functional resume format thus focuses on all the skills and training you have that fit the job description, like this functional resume format example below:
Name: Tom Larson
Address: City, State, Zip Code
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.
- Medical office administration
- Sealant application
- Problem-solving skills
- Root planning and scaling expertiseDigital radiographs
- Preventive oral health education
- Infection control and aseptic procedures
Company Name, City, State
Associate of Science Dental Hygiene
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
February 2018 to Current
Company Name, City, State
January 2017 to February 2018
Company Name, City, State
Dental Hygienist Assistant
Are functional resumes bad? Some experts discourage using 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, a functional format is a good resume format for presenting your qualifications.
In this latest resume format, 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. For more tips on this resume format, see below:
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, start off this professional resume format with an objective statement (also known as a career objective). In it, write two to three sentences explaining your employment goal, along with your best skills and qualifications. If your experience places more value for the role, go with a standard summary statement.
Resume objective example:Recent graduate with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, seeking a 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 describes your best skills and how these skills were 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, 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 about relevant additional training or certifications (e.g., a certification in Adobe Creative Suite for graphic design work) to complete this resume format.
Functional resume format pros and cons
- Useful resume format for recent graduates or first-time job seekers.
- Excellent resume format for jobs with a premium on specific skills, particularly transferable skills across jobs or industries.
- Good format for presenting a wide range of qualifications.
- 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
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. Check out the sample resume format below and use it as inspiration:
Name: Kaia Williams
Address: Pittsburgh, PA 15206
Phone: 555 555 555, (555) 555-5555
Professional business analyst with advanced knowledge of business
operations, data analysis, portfolio asset management systems and skill
in driving positive outcomes. Exceptional organizational, project
management and leadership skills. Adaptable assessor of business
health and product success with expertise in optimizing solutions for
changing industry landscapes.
- Well-versed in new market identification and functional analysis methodologies.
- Vast knowledge of business best practices and regulatory standards.
- Diligent and detail-oriented with strong communication and task prioritization skills.
Business Analyst, 06/2021 to Current
UPMC – Pittsburgh, PA
- Work with a team of 12 and analyze key aspects of a business to evaluate factors driving results and summarized them into quarterly presentations.
- Perform competitor benchmarking analysis to identify manufacturing savings opportunities and potential product enhancements boosting 35% of revenue.
- Derive conceptual designs from business objectives to deliver software and applications according to specifications for usability, performance and functionality.
Assistant Operations Analyst, 09/2017 to 05/2021
Dice – Pittsburgh, PA
- Designed three plans to improve operations and suggested changes to systems for the overall organization and 150 team members.
- Scanned system for frequent technical issues, employing troubleshooting techniques for resolution and generated monthly reports of findings to help management with making key decisions.
- Drove operational improvements which resulted in savings and improved 50% of profit margins.
Junior Data Analyst, 06/2014 to 08/2017
UPMC – Pittsburgh, PA
- Installed 60% of system updates to address vulnerabilities and reduce security issues.
- Synthesized current data to produce monthly reports and polished presentations, highlighting ROI estimations, findings and recommending changes.
- Improved systems with the addition of new features and infrastructure and resolved 75% of issues regarding the integrity of data flow into databases.
- Technical design documentation
- Strategic planning
- Industry trend analysis
- BI tool and system design
- Critical thinking
- Decision making
MBA, Business Administration & Business Analytics, 06/2019
University of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh, PA
Bachelor of Science, Business, 06/2014
University of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh, PA
- Business Administration in Business Information Systems
The combination resume format 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 is the best resume format to 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.
Writing tips for the combination resume format
- Summary: Provide a two- to three-sentence summary of your best skills and work experiences. If you’re coming from a different 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 format gives you the option of splitting your skills into two sections: a summary of qualifications and a key skills section. In your summary of qualifications, describe your prime abilities, referencing how you’ve used them in previous jobs. Your key skills section will focus on specific abilities that address the requirements from the specific job.
Summary of qualifications example:
- Ability to synthesize and relate program information in an effective, positive way.
- Proficient at using databases and spreadsheets and performing office management.
- Efficiently uses software and CMHC to achieve successful outcomes.
- Understands cognitive behavioral therapy, theories of addiction and dynamics related to criminogenic risk factors.
Key skills example:
- Referrals and networking
- Case management
- Crisis intervention
- Life skills development
- Critical thinking
- Work history: As with the chronological resume 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
- Spotlight skills and work experience equally in this resume format.
- Emphasize relevant work highlights from your career.
- Contextualize your skills with work achievements.
- Not the best resume format for first-time job seekers or workers who lack experience.
- Skills and work achievements must complement each other for the format to be effective.
- Resume format can be difficult for applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan.
What is the best resume format for you?
Selecting the best 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 resume format, which focuses on work history, you’ll end up with an underwhelming resume.
To pick the best resume format for you, just answer these questions.
Are you a first-time job seeker or applying for an entry-level position?
If yes, then go with a functional format. If no, move on to number two.
Do you have more than five years of experience and are applying for a job in the same field?
If yes, then use a chronological format. If no, move on to number three.
Are you changing careers?
If so, do you have experiences that can apply to the new job? If so, go with a chronological resume. If you’re short on related experience but have skills that match the new job, then a combination resume is your best resume format option.
8 resume formatting tips
Having a professional resume format is only one major piece of the puzzle — the other is making sure your finished resume is laid out correctly.
Stick to 1 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 1 inch will give your document the best look.
2. Font size.
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 — just take a look at our resume format examples.
3. Font style.
Keep it 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 points.
Use bullet points and short, punchy phrases to describe your skills, certifications, work experience and achievements.
Make sure the spacing between your sections is consistent, and go with single or 1.5 line spacing between lines.
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.
Your resume format will determine how sections on your resume are organized. In short:
8. File format.
Most employers welcome resumes in PDF or Microsoft Word format. If you use our Resume Builder to create your resume, you can download it in these formats or check out our PDF template and Word template sections for more resume examples.
Resume format templates
Get started on your resume using our preformatted resume templates. We have a number of options for different industries and plenty of free downloadable templates with all three resume formats you can edit on your own.
Functional modern resume template
This functional modern resume template includes a summary of qualifications that highlights your top qualifications and abilities, despite not having a lot of work experience under your belt.
Combination creative resume template
As you can see from this creative resume template, combination resumes are a great option for people switching careers who have transferable skills and experience. This job seeker utilizes the work history and skills sections to show the employer that they’re well-rounded and have the qualifications that it takes to excel.
Chronological professional resume template
This chronological professional resume template 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.
Chronological simple resume template
As you can see, the focus on work experience makes this simple chronological template the best resume format for people with years of relevant experience in their field. However, note that if you have an employment gap, it will be quickly noticeable in this resume format.
Additional resume help to create the perfect resume
Now that you know what the best resume format is for you, based on your needs and experience, here are other expert resources to make the best resumes:
- How to Write a Resume – From the contact information to the education section, our expert teaches you everything you need to know about writing a resume.
- 1000+ Resume Examples – There are a lot of resume examples out there, but we have the best ones for a number of different industries.
- How to Write a Cover Letter – Every strong resume needs a cover letter. Use our writing guide to put together a professional cover letter.
- Cover Letter Templates – Make sure your job application looks professional with a cover letter and resume combo featuring a similar design.
- Cover Letter Examples – Need inspiration? We have over 500 cover letter examples made by experts.
For more articles, make sure to explore our Career Center.
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 as 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 takeaways
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: 1 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.
To make it easier for you to remember everything, we’ve put together this table that summarizes all the differences between the resume formats:
|Chronological resume format||Functional resume format||Combination resume format|
|Main focus||Work experience||Skills||Skills and experience|
|Work experience section||At the top, after the professional summary||At the bottom, doesn’t have bullet points||In the middle, next to or below the skills|
|Skills section||In the middle, after the work experience||At the top and divided into different categories||Next to or above the work experience|
|Best for||Candidates with a lot of steady work experience||People with little to no work experience and employment gaps||Midlevel candidates with a few years of experience and people changing careers with transferable skills|
|Not ideal for||People with employment gaps, little work experience and candidates changing careers||Experienced professionals||Entry-level candidates and people with many years of experience|
- Main focusWork experience
- Work experience sectionAt the top, after the professional summary
- Skills sectionIn the middle, after the work experience
- Best forCandidates with a lot of steady work experience
- Not ideal forPeople with employment gaps, little work experience and candidates changing careers
- Main focus Skills
- Work experience section At the bottom, doesn’t have bullet points
- Skills section At the top and divided into different categories
- Best for People with little to no work experience and employment gaps
- Not ideal for Experienced professionals
- Main focusSkills and experience
- Work experience sectionIn the middle, next to or below the skills
- Skills sectionNext to or above the work experience
- Best forMidlevel candidates with a few years of experience and people changing careers with transferable skills
- Not ideal forEntry-level candidates and people with many years of experience
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 should I include in my skills section in my resume?
A resume skills section should display at least five abilities or attributes relevant to the job. Employers want to see hard skills and soft skills, so include a mix of both types. If you are applying for your first job, highlight your transferable skills, such as interpersonal and time management skills.
What is the correct 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 make sure you have an updated resume format and include them in your work history section.
What is the best resume format for 2023?
The reverse-chronological job resume format is the most popular resume format in 2023. It’s very easy to read and skim through, as the information is organized in a single column. However, despite this format being the most common, it doesn’t mean it will be the best resume format for you.
The chronological resume places a big emphasis on work experience, so any gaps or lack of work experience will be very evident. Consider the functional resume format or the combination resume if they might help you better present your qualifications.
Which resume format is best for ATS systems?
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.
What is the most common resume format?
The most common resume format is the chronological resume format. This format is also known as the reverse-chronological resume format because work history is written from most recent to backward. It emphasizes work history, so recruiters and hiring managers can see a job applicant’s career progression right away.
While the most popular, you might want to steer away from using the reverse-chronological resume format if you have no experience, are changing careers or have a significant gap between jobs. For these situations, there are other formats from which to choose.
What resume format do employers prefer?
Employers prefer resume formats that show a job applicant’s qualifications clearly, so use a format that highlights what you want them to see. For example, if you are applying for your first job, a functional resume format will showcase your skills and if you have been working in the same profession for more than 10 years or want to move up in your career, then a combination resume is a great choice.
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 a functional or combination resume format. It all boils down to what you want the employer to know about you and your abilities.
Should I use a resume format or a CV format?
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.
How should I format my work experience on my resume?
No matter which resume format you choose, always format your work experience section in reverse-chronological order. That means start from your current or most recent job and work your way backwards up to 10 years. Include the name of the company you worked for, the location, years you worked there and your title. Our resume templates ensure your work history section is in the correct format.
Does resume format matter?
Yes, resume format definitely matters. A resume format determines the way your resume is organized and how your information is featured. Do you want your resume to focus on your work experience or do you want it to focus on your skills?
Resume formats aren’t one-size-fits-all. So use our handy guide to check which format will work best for your situation and choose accordingly to create the best resume.
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