Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest applicant of them all? The answer is simple: It’s the applicant with the best resume.
While you may have given a lot of thought to what your resume contains, it’s likely that you haven’t given much thought to how it looks. You probably change up your hairstyle every few years to stay current. Chances are, though, that your resume probably hasn’t had a facelift in quite some time. We live in a visual world, so just having the right content in your resume isn’t enough. So, how can you create a resume format that is both visually appealing and packed with the keywords and phrases that will help you get the job?
So, how can you create a resume format that is both visually appealing and packed with the keywords and phrases that will help you get the job? It’s time to hold up a mirror to your tired old resume and repeat these words: looks matter. Choosing a format is the first step in changing your resume’s appearance. There are three main resume formats to consider:
- the chronological format
- the functional format
- the combination – or hybrid – format
Which resume format you choose depends on a variety of factors, including your experience level and your work history. Read more below about the pros and cons of each of the resume formats to decide which approach can help make your resume the fairest in the land.
The Chronological Format
With more than half of all recruiters reporting a preference for the chronological resume format, using this layout is a no-brainer for many jobseekers. The chronological resume format provides a way to organize your skills, work history, and education in an easy-to-digest document.
Recruiters and hiring managers love this format because it’s linear and easy-to-read. Work experience is listed by date, in chronological order, from the most recent job to the least recent job. This resume format makes it very easy for hiring managers to track your career path and the way you’ve taken on more responsibilities and achieved more over time.
This straightforward approach works well for those who have an unbroken work history within a single industry. Be forewarned, though, that if you have blemishes in your professional past – jumping from job to job or long stretches of unemployment – this resume format will illuminate those.
Also, this resume format might not be ideal either for those jobseekers who have many, many years of experience. Showing a work history that stretches back 25 years can give recruiters and hiring managers the idea that you are older, which isn’t the first impression most jobseekers want to make. If any of these scenarios apply to you, a functional resume format or a combination resume format might be a better choice.
Pros & Cons of the Chronological Resume Format
- This is the resume format preferred by most recruiters
- A chronological resume format is linear and easy-to-read
- This resume format shows off a stellar work history
- This resume format reveals periods of unemployment
- A lack of work experience or many job changes is evident in this format
- The chronological resume isn’t ideal for applicants who have had very long careers as it can “age” them.
The Functional Format
As mentioned, the chronological format isn’t the right choice for everyone, particularly those with little to no work experience, or those whose work history is spotty or blemished. For these jobseekers, the perfect resume format is the functional format, which is designed to highlight your strengths and limit the visibility of your weaknesses.
Using the functional resume format helps you to zero-in on your marketable skills. Rather than listing your past jobs chronologically and detailing the duties and skills related to each one, the functional resume format instead groups together the critical hard and soft skills you’ve acquired through your education, volunteer work, and life experiences. Your work history is included. However, it appears as a simple list rather than as the meat and potatoes of the resume.
This resume format works well for students since it allows you to highlight details of your education that might be lost in a chronological resume. It also works well for freelancers who may have intentionally bounced from gig-to-gig over the course of their careers or professionals who have made or are looking to make a significant career change.
In short, this resume format helps you demonstrate your talents and frees you from the linear format of the chronological resume. The downside? Some recruiters find this format difficult to decipher and therefore it could put you at a deficit in the job search.
Pros & Cons of the Functional Resume Format
- The functional resume format zeroes-in on your marketable skills, note your employment history.
- For those with limited work experience, this format helps demonstrate skills acquired in school, or through travel, or other experiences.
- This is a great format for recent grads, freelancers and those who have changed industries.
- Some recruiters find this format difficult to read.
- This may not be the right resume format for those with solid work histories.
- For jobseekers with in-demand skills, this format might not highlight them sufficiently.
Combination Resume Format
The combination resume incorporates the best of the chronological and functional formats, borrowing from the strengths of each to produce a resume format that will work for many jobseekers.
The combination – or hybrid – resume is the love child of the chronological and functional formats, combining the best traits of each to form a new type of resume format. The combination resume highlights a jobseeker’s relevant skills and provides some details about the person’s work history, all in one document.
Because it combines elements of both of the other resume formats, the combination resume is appropriate for a variety of jobseekers. It is especially useful for those who have enjoyed solid work histories but who are seeking a change of industry. This format showcases their career trajectory but also highlights the hard and soft skills that apply to the new role at hand.
This format also works well for those who are reentering the workforce after a long break. For those jobseekers who may have left the workforce to raise children, to care for an elderly parent, or because of a layoff, the combination format allows them to showcase their past jobs and highlight skills they may have acquired during their time away, such as through volunteer work. Hybrid resumes can also help reduce the visibility of employment gaps by focusing on critical skills, rather than one the dates of past employment.
Pros & Cons of the Combination Resume Format
- This resume format combines the strengths of both the chronological and function resume formats.
- The Combination resume format highlights a jobseekers relevant skills and gives some details about their work history.
- This format works well for those who are reentering the workforce after a hiatus and for those making major career changes.
- While this style is gaining popularity, many recruiters still prefer the chronological format.
- This resume format can be longer than the other two types of resumes, which some recruiters see as a negative.
More Popular Resume Formats
Now that you understand the differences between the three major resume formats let’s take a look at some real-world examples to see how they look.
Professional Resume Format
This Resume Format is Great For:
Our Professional resume format is our most popular chronological resume template. This format offers jobseekers a clean, classic look that highlights a solid work history. Professionals of all shapes and sizes – anyone and everyone who has some work experience and is looking to land a new job in their chosen industry or take the next step in their career.
Professional Resume Format Pros:
Our Professional resume format is another popular chronological resume template. The clean, classic look gives a well-rounded, linear overview of a jobseeker’s accomplishments. The understated design maximizes the use of space on the page while still presenting your abilities in an organized, easy-to-ready layout.
Professional Resume Format Cons:
Career-changers, academics, and others who have a non-linear career progression may find they need a different format, such as the Functional format, which focuses more on skills than work history.
Additional Writing Tips for the Professional Resume Format:
Don’t forget to quantify your past accomplishments by adding metrics when detailing them in your work experience section.
Student Resume Format
This Resume Format is Great For:
The Student resume format is great for – you guessed it! – students and other jobseekers with limited work experience. This combination resume format has a touch of personality and focuses on the jobseekers skillset more than on her work history.
Student Resume Pros:
This resume format combines the strengths of both the chronological and functional resume formats, which allows you to show of the work experience you do have while focusing on your hard and soft skills that might be relevant to the job at hand.
Student Resume Cons:
The Student resume format is a combination resume, and while this style is gaining popularity, many recruiters still prefer the more traditional chronological format.
Additional Writing Tips for the Student Resume Format:
As a student, you might not have a lot of work experience, but you have acquired some hard-won hard and soft skills. Use the Student resume format to your advantage by highlighting the hard and soft skills you’ve acquired through your education, volunteer work, and even travel.
Executive Resume Format
This Resume Format is Great For:
Those jobseekers with a solid work history who are looking for a management or executive role.
Executive Format Pros:
Using our Executive resume format helps to highlight your professional accomplishments and managerial successes using a traditional, chronological format that is appropriate for use across industries. Plus, the chronological format is the resume format recruiters prefer.
Executive Format Cons:
If you’ve had periods of unemployment, this chronological format will make those more obvious that some other formats. Additionally, the chronological resume may not be ideal for applicants who have had very long careers as it can inadvertently reveal their age.
Additional Writing Tips for Executive Format:
Those at the executive level have typically enjoyed great professional success. Be sure to back up your accomplishments with stats and data that show what you’ll be bringing to the table for your next employer.
Simple Resume Format
This Resume Format is Great For:
Whether you’ve been working for a year or ten years, the Simple resume format is a great choice for anyone with some professional experience. The sleek design and fresh font make this format a classic, with a twist.
Simple Format Pros:
The Simple resume format puts the spotlight on your accomplishments while adding a splash of personality, which can help you stand out in a sea of plain black-and-white resumes. The chronological format calls attention to your steady work history and allows you to detail the skills you acquired in each role.
Simple Format Cons:
For those with very limited work experience or jobseekers who’ve experienced periods of unemployment, the chronological layout of the Simple format can make those more obvious that some other formats.
Additional Writing Tips for Simple Format:
This format is simple but mighty, especially when you take the time to highlight both your hard and soft skills, like stellar written and verbal communication.
Modern Resume Format
This Resume Format is Great For:
Jobseekers who are looking for a classic chronological resume template with some personality will like the Modern resume template. It’ll show off your professional progression and your hard and soft skills without skimping on style.
Modern Format Pros:
The Modern resume format will stand out in a stack of black and white resumes while honoring the traditional chronological format that recruiters prefer. This format works best for jobseekers who have work experience and who haven’t experienced major employment gaps.
Modern Format Cons:
Multiple job changes, periods of unemployment, and other blemishes on your work history are made more obvious in this resume format. For these types of workers, a functional or combination resume format may be more advisable. Additionally, the Modern format might not be ideal for applicants who have had very long careers as it can inadvertently give clues to their age thanks to the chronological format.
Additional Writing Tips for Modern Format:
Jobseekers who have solid work histories are always working from a place of power. Rev up your resume even more by adding in the relevant soft skills that make you great at your job