One of the most important choices in building a resume is its format. The proper resume format perfectly illustrates a prospective employee’s work history, skills and accomplishments while using the wrong format can all but ensure the resume won’t make the cut.
How to Pick a Format
Choosing a resume format depends on the amount and type of work experience you have, your skills, and the type of job you want. And by “resume format” we do not mean the design of your resume or the file format (.pdf or .doc, for instance) you use. We mean the way you organize and highlight your work history, skills, and achievements.
There are three standard resume formats with distinct functions:
Amy Wade, Secretary, Professional template
A chronological resume is the most commonly used resume format. It lists a candidate’s work history in order starting with the current or most recent job. Choose a chronological resume format if you have a strong work history and skills that closely match the job description and have followed a steady employment track.
Travis Burnard, Teacher’s Aide, Modern template
A functional resume is also called a skills-based resume because it highlights skills and achievements over job history. Consider a functional resume format if you have never held a job, have had a lot of short-term jobs, been out of the workforce for a while, your employment history spans more than 15 years or if you are applying for a job outside of your field.
Siliva Jordan, Medical Assistant, Unique template
As its name suggests, a combination resume combines chronological and functional formats, highlighting skills while briefly listing work history. Use a combination resume format if you have a long work history but have only worked for a few employers, have little experience or have a consistent work history but want to highlight your top credentials first.
Why Resume Formats Matter
The average job attracts 250 resumes. That’s a lot! And studies show that 75 percent do not make it past applicant tracking system (ATS) software, which filters applicants’ resumes based on relevant keywords. This is the reason why a well-organized resume can help ATS bots parse keywords and get your resume into the hands of the hiring manager.
Once your resume makes it to the hiring manager, it will be quickly scanned — in seconds — for relevant qualifications. A resume format that emphasizes your most significant job qualifications and helps the hiring manager easily navigate your professional story could be your ticket to an interview.
Nontraditional Resume Formats
You may have been advised to do something “different” with your resume — to format it in a visually compelling way, such as using an infographic or video resume — to grab recruiters’ attention. And, yes, there are several approaches beyond standard formats a job seeker might take for very specific types of work.
For example, artists, graphic designers and photographers might choose an infographic resume format to showcase their talents. A hiring manager might choose a news reporter who uses a video to display her on-camera acumen.
But if you are not pursuing a creative job or a position in which you will have to present your work in front of people, using an infographic or video format might backfire.
Resume Formats FAQs
What is a functional resume format like?
A functional resume is more skills-based than chronological. To create this type of resume, you typically start with a skills section. Follow each entry with a bullet point list of accomplishments that backs up your claim. If you have work experience to report, list it at the bottom in reverse-chronological order.
What is a chronological resume format like?
You format a chronological resume in reverse-chronological order, meaning you begin with your most recent position and work backward. This way, your prospective employer can see what you’ve done lately before digging into the jobs you had when you were less experienced.
What is the standard resume format?
Chronological style is usually considered the standard resume format. Recruiters are used to reviewing chronological resumes, so using this format may increase the likelihood that the hiring manager will read your document instead of passing it over.
What kind of resume format should I use?
The type of resume format you choose depends on your goals and where you are in your career. You usually can’t go wrong with a classic, chronological resume, but if you’re changing careers, you may want to consider a functional or hybrid format.
Which resume format is most versatile?
The hybrid resume is the most versatile. You may want to use it if you are changing careers or don’t have a lot of experience in the field yet. The advantage of the hybrid format is that it highlights your relevant skills while preserving the familiar chronological layout.
What resume is best for an entry-level position?
It’s best to use a chronological resume for an entry-level position, although it’s tempting to use a functional or skills-based resume to hide the fact that you don’t have much experience. Remember, though, that you can include volunteer work, internships and other unpaid experience in your employment history section.
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