Choosing the right resume format could be the difference between landing your dream job and going back to the drawing board. This guide will break down all the best resume format types, as well as help you choose one suited to your needs.
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Table of Contents
- What are the 3 Main Resume Format Types?
- Resume Format Examples
- How to Choose the Best Resume Format for You
- Quick Tips for Resume Content Format: Fonts, Margins, & More
The Three Main Resume Format Types
When it comes to resume formats, there are three main types that are widely regarded as the best and most effective by resume and HR experts across the globe. The three best resume formats are as follows:
Each of them has their own unique characteristics that make them better suited for certain situations or types of job seekers.
1. Chronological Resumes
As the name suggests, the reverse chronological resume formatting presents your work experience information from newest (most relevant) to oldest (least relevant). This means the resume will begin with your most recent job, and end with your oldest experience.
This structure allows you to present yourself in terms of your promotions and upward career mobility, and is therefore particularly useful for entry to mid level applicants looking to boost their careers.
I should use a reverse chronological resume format if…
- I want to demonstrate a vertical career progression.
- I want to apply to a job in a similar field.
- I don’t have large work experience gaps
I shouldn’t use a reverse chronological style if…
- I have multiple gaps in my employment history.
- I am considering working in a new industry
- I frequently change jobs
2. Functional Resumes
The functional resume format frames the candidate in terms of the skills and abilities he/she believes are most relevant to the job opening.
Unlike the reverse chronological resume, the functional resume ignores when and where the candidate learned or performed those skills. Instead, it simply lists them at the top of the resume in order of most relevant to least relevant skills. Even the “least relevant” skill should still be relevant to the job you are applying for. “Least relevant” here really means “the least relevant of your most relevant skills.”
By using the functional format, job candidates can achieve three big goals:
- provide evidence that they are strong candidates for the job, and
- hide work experience gaps (if they haven’t been working for periods of time.)
- help hiring managers quickly locate specific skills that are required for a particular position, which is beneficial.
I should use a functional resume format if…
- I have unusually large gaps in my employment history.
- I am in the midst of a big career change into a new industry.
- I want to promote a specific skill set.
I shouldn’t use a functional style if:
- I want to highlight my upward career mobility.
- I am a student or entry-level candidate that lacks experience.
- I lack relevant or transferable skills
3. Combination Resumes
A combination resume is literally a combination of the reverse-chronological and functional resume formats. Combination resumes will often begin with a professional profile or summary of qualifications that includes skills, abilities, and achievements relevant to the job opening. (This is the functional part.)
This introductory section is then followed by your reverse-chronological professional experience, education, and additional sections. (This is the reverse-chronological part.)
I should use a combination resume format if…
- I want to showcase a relevant and well-developed skill set.
- I want to transfer to a different industry.
- I am a master at what I do.
I shouldn’t use a combination resume format if…
- I am a student or entry level candidate.
- I want to emphasize my educational experience.
- I lack relevant qualifications and skills.
Resume Format Examples
To help you better understand the types of resume formatting above, our experts have created a library of resume format examples and in-depth guides for each. Click the image below to view examples from your industry and learn more about how to use each style. Or, keep reading to find out which format is right for you.
How to Choose the Best Resume Format for You
As you may have seen above, job seekers have three options when it comes to formatting their resume: Chronological, Functional, and Combination. Each resume format has its own set of advantages and disadvantages for different kinds of job seekers, so be sure to choose wisely.
You can use the chart below to get a quick idea of which resume formatting would be best for presenting your unique job experience.
Resume Formatting: A Quick Guide on Fonts, Margins, & More
In addition to using one of the three resume formats above, it’s also essential to know how to format the content of your resume. This includes things like length, alignment, fonts, and margins. Below are a few quick tips to help you make sure your resume is not only formatted correctly, but also looks great.
1. Left-Align the Content
Generally speaking, your the body of your resume should always be left aligned. Any other type of alignment looks messy and can be confusing to read for hiring managers.
When it comes to your contact information, however, it’s perfectly acceptable to center align the text – especially if you want that information to stand out.
2. Maintain a One Page Length
There are some unique circumstances when you might need to create a resume that exceeds one page, but 99% of the time it’s better to stick to one page in length.
Maintaining one page keeps all your information organized and easily viewable in one place.
3. Use .63″ by 1″ Margins
A little trick developed by our experts is to use .63″ left and right margins and 1″ margins on the top and bottom. Traditional resume formats use 1 inch margins all around, but by modifying the left and right sides to be .63″ it allows you to include more content and also makes your resume appear more robust by eliminating white space.
It’s ok to use other margin lengths, but you should never go lower than .5″ or high than 1.25″ for any of your margins.
4. Stick to a Recommended Resume Font Style & Size
Recommended Font Styles:
- Bookman Old Style
- Times Roman
- Times New Roman
Recommended Font Size:
A general rule of thumb is to use a font size of either 11 or 12. That being said, depending on the font style you use there is some leeway with the size, as some fonts appear bigger (or smaller) than others.
As long as the font is easy to read and clearly presented on the page once printed, don’t be too concerned about going over or under the recommended size.
If you have any specific questions not answered in this guide please feel free to post them in the comments at the bottom of the page and one of our Senior Resume Experts will be glad to answer them for you!
PS. Need that job? Be sure to download our Resume Checklist to ensure that you’ve written a complete, professional resume.