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There are three main resume formats: the reverse chronological, the functional, and the combination. Even though one is better than the others, it can still take time to decide which one to choose.
This article will dispel any doubts and show you all the differences. Read on to find your perfect resume format for you.
Sample resume made with our builder—See more resume examples here.
The Three Main Resume Formats
Here are the resume format types to choose from:
- Reverse-chronological resume format, which focuses on your work experience.
- Functional resume format, which focuses on your skills.
- Combination resume format, which focuses on both your experience and skills.
While the reverse-chronological format is, in my opinion, the best format for a resume (also preferred by most recruiters!), you can pick the type of resume that fits your career history most. But how to choose the resume format that’s best for you? First, let’s learn more about each one of them.
1. Reverse-Chronological Resume Format
The reverse-chronological resume is the most popular resume format. Using it, you list your relevant work experience, starting with the most recent one. You continue to list your positions and achievements going backward, placing them in reverse chronological order.
This resume format is perfect for candidates with several years of professional experience who have progressed steadily and preferably in one industry. It’s also great for those who don’t have any significant gap in their employment.
Reverse-Chronological Resume Format Example
Here’s an example of a chronological resume created in our online resume builder.
This resume format focuses on your work experience. However, it’s not the only section you need to remember about.
Let’s find out how to structure a reverse-chronological resume:
- Resume Header
- Resume Profile (Resume Summary or Career Objective)
- Work Experience
- Additional Information
These 6 sections form a complete document that will make recruiters’ jobs easier. They’re familiar with this resume layout, which helps them spot all relevant information within 7.4 seconds of looking at a resume. On the other hand, you need to put some extra effort into making your resume stand out from the other candidates.
Let’s see some simple resume tips to help you get noticed and impress recruiters even more:
- List your relevant achievements (not only responsibilities) in your work experience section. That way, you'll show your career progress and your uniqueness.
- Follow the reverse chronological order in your education section as well. List only your highest level of schooling if you have a few years of relevant work experience.
- Highlight your key skills. But don’t just list them. Make them mirror your quantifiable work achievements and adapt them to the job ad.
- Include some additional sections that might be useful for proving your skills. Give them context to make your recruiter realize how much value you’ll bring to the company.
- Write your resume profile last, but place it on the top of your document. Select 2–3 accomplishments and skills from your resume that are most relevant to the job ad.
Time for a quick summary.
Reverse-Chronological Resume Format Pros & Cons
Reverse-Chronological Resume Format
Let’s move on to our second resume format.
2. Functional Resume Format
The functional resume format, also called a skill-based resume, showcases transferable skills over work history. Its purpose is to disguise having little experience. With this format, you list your relevant skills, emphasizing how you’ve practically used them in the past.
This structure will work well for creative jobs where a portfolio matters most, military transitioners, and candidates who don't want to seem overqualified.
Functional Resume Format Example
Let’s look at a functional resume sample created in our online resume builder.
The skills summary is the most important section of this resume format. But you still need more than that to impress your recruiter.
Let’s look at how to structure a functional resume:
- Resume Header
- Resume Objective
- Skills Summary
- Additional Skills
- Work Experience
As you can see, these sections differ from those in the reverse-chronological resume format.
The listed transferable skills are divided into subcategories and explained further. That gives recruiters an understanding of how those skills can be helpful for this job opening.
Take a look at these tips to improve your functional resume:
- Write a career objective explaining your professional goals. Include your skills and qualifications and add a link to your online portfolio, a blog, or a personal website.
- Pick 4 to 5 hard and soft skills relevant to the job you’re after. Give examples of when and how you applied them. Use either bullet points or go for plain paragraphs.
- List additional skills. They can include your language skills, software you’re proficient in, tools you’re familiar with, etc.
- Briefly list your work experience. Add job titles, dates, and name locations of the companies you’ve worked with.
- Add an education section. Your alma mater name and date of your graduation should be enough; however, if you have some relevant coursework, include it as well.
Let’s see some advantages and disadvantages of choosing this resume format for a job you’re trying to land.
Functional Resume Format Pros & Cons
Functional Resume Format
It’s time to see what our last resume format has to offer.
3. Combination Resume Format
The combination resume format combines elements of a chronological resume and a skills-based resume. It places equal emphasis both on your skills and work experience. The skills summary section lists relevant skills, while the experience section validates them with examples of past accomplishments.
This resume format is great for seasoned professionals targeting a specific position, career-changers, and candidates with employment gaps.
Combination Resume Format Example
Below, you’ll see an excellent example of a combination resume created in our resume builder.
Let’s explore how to structure a combination resume:
- Resume Header
- Skills Summary
- Work Experience
- Additional Skills
One section is missing in the combination format—it’s a resume profile. Describing your skills and experience will give your recruiter enough information while keeping your document readable and brief.
Take a look at these tips to improve your functional resume:
- Build the skill summary section with both your hard skills and your soft skills. Add up to 4 bullet points describing your professional achievements that prove those skills.
- Make your work experience section correspond with the skills summary. Build this section the same way you’d do in a chronological resume.
- List additional skills, just like in a functional resume format.
- Add your education section and list your relevant coursework or other academic achievements, such as cum laude or Phi Beta Kappa.
It’s time for a quick recap of what’s great and what’s wrong with the combination resume format.
Combination Resume Format Pros & Cons
Combination Resume Format
The same rules regarding a resume header apply to all three of these formats:
- Make it stand out most because you don’t want your recruiter to miss it.
- Include your name, job title, and contact information because you want your recruiter to contact you quickly.
- Add a link to your LinkedIn profile. Your recruiters will surely check your online presence, so make it easier for them.
Now that you’ve learned about all 3 resume formats let’s see which one’s best.
If you’re writing a resume that will be read in the USA, you should follow these additional rules: US Resume Format (American Style Resume Template)
What Is the Best Resume Format?
As of 2024, the reverse-chronological format is the most favored. This format is not only the most common but also highly effective for the majority of job seekers. It's a preferred choice for recruiters, making it a reliable option for you.
However, a lot depends on your professional history. And that’s because you choose a resume format that works best for you as a job seeker. It’s important to tailor your resume to the job offer, but better stick to one resume format for all applications.
Still, trying to figure out which format is for you? Let me show you an easy way to find out:
Simple Resume Format Comparison
You have probably picked your resume format already, so now it’s time to learn some tips that work for all three.
There is another one. It's not really a format but an exciting way to show your skills and experience. Read more: Infographic Resume Templates
How to Format Your Resume
No matter which resume format you've chosen or whether you’re writing a CV or a resume, make sure it looks professional, readable, and consistent. Here are a few simple resume tips for formatting your document. All 12 of them apply to all 3 resume formats. Follow them if you want to end up with a job-winning, perfect resume.
Resume Formatting Tips
- Set one-inch margins on all four sides.
- Pick an 11 or 12-point resume font and stick to it.
- Create a proper resume header format for your contact information.
- Divide your resume into legible resume sections.
- Use bullet points for each entry to make your document readable.
- Be consistent with your date format.
- Use single or 1.15 line spacing.
- Add an extra space before and after each section heading.
- Aim at having a one-page resume. If you have a lot of experience, a two-page resume is also a good idea. Anything above that is different from the right resume length.
- Don’t use photos on your resume unless the job description specifically asks for them.
- Decide on a good name for your resume file. Your name, job title, and the word “resume” should do the trick.
- Send a PDF resume file unless stated otherwise in the job description.
Now, you know which resume format to choose and how to format a resume. It's time to select a perfect template.
Pro-tip: As many as 7 out of 10 large companies use the Applicant Tracking System resume checker. Choosing a good resume template and a suitable resume format is only your first step in creating an ATS-friendly resume. Using specific resume keywords, selecting proper resume fonts, and labelling resume sections with headings will help you pass that test.
When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building a professional resume template here for free.
Resume Templates in Different Formats
Get started with professional resume templates directly from our builder. All these templates are great for all resume formats, they're ATS-friendly, and you can freely adjust them to your needs.
1. Reverse-Chronological Resume Template
This neat and well-organized reverse chronological resume template is one of the all-time favorites among our users despite being a super simple resume format. It has a very universal design with lots of white space, which allows you to highlight your experience and achievements. It will work well for most candidates.
2. Functional Resume Template
With a strong focus on skills and experience, this combination resume template enables you to showcase your abilities, even if you don't have an extensive work history to present.
3. Combination Resume Template
This template demonstrates how a combination resume melds the best features of a chronological resume and a skills-based resume. It's an excellent choice for seasoned professionals, career-changers, or those with employment gaps seeking to reenter the job market.
That’s all! You’ve learned everything about resume formats, know all three types, and can decide which is the best for you. Let’s do a quick recap and explore the FAQ section below!
Now that you know all there is to know about a resume format, it’s time to learn how to format a cover letter. It’s a document you can’t skip to get invited for a job interview. Find out how to ace it: Cover Letter Format
A great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our cover letter builder here. Here's what it may look like:
There are certain things I need to remind you of before you create your job-winning document with a perfect resume format.
- There are three main resume formats: reverse-chronological, functional, and combination.
- All these have pros and cons and are all created for a specific type of job seeker.
- Reverse-chronological resume format is the best resume format for 2024. It’s the most commonly used among job seekers today. It’s also the easiest to scan for the recruiters.
- Apply the standard resume formatting rules: one-inch margins, elegant font, 11–12pt font size, single line spacing, and additional space before and after headings.
- Divide your resume into proper sections such as resume header, summary, work experience, education, skills, and extra sections.
- Save space using bullet points in your work experience and education sections.
- Make sure always to write an ATS-friendly resume to boost its chances of landing in your recruiter’s hands. Choosing a correct resume template from a professional resume builder will help you achieve it.
- Pick the proper resume format for your individual situation.
All check? Start working with the selected resume format that will impress entire HR departments and get you hired ASAP! You got this!
Do you have any questions about choosing the best resume format for your position? Is there anything else you’d like to know about formatting a resume? Give me a shout in the comments. Let’s chat!
About Zety’s Editorial Process
This article has been reviewed by our editorial team to make sure it follows Zety's editorial guidelines. We’re committed to sharing our expertise and giving you trustworthy career advice tailored to your needs. High-quality content is what brings over 40 million readers to our site every year. But we don't stop there. Our team conducts original research to understand the job market better, and we pride ourselves on being quoted by top universities and prime media outlets from around the world.
Frequently Asked Questions about Resume Format
What is the best resume format for 2024?
The reverse-chronological resume format is the best resume format. Listing your work experience and education in reverse-chronological order, i.e., starting with the most recent position and working backward through previous jobs or degrees, works for both candidates and recruiters. There are several reasons why it’s the best job resume format to use:
- Recruiters are familiar with it and find it easy to skim;
- It enables you to place your best, most relevant experience and professional accomplishments near the top of the page, where the reader is likely to look first;
- It’s the most ATS-friendly resume format, meaning that recruitment software has no trouble processing it.
All of Zety’s resume templates are available in the reverse-chronological format: you just need to fill in the blanks, and you could be ready to apply for your dream job in minutes!
What are the three resume formats?
There are three types of resume formats to choose from:
- Reverse-chronological resume format: considered the standard resume format, it focuses on work experience and/or education, highlighting your accomplishments.
- Functional resume format: also known as a skills-based resume, this professional resume format focuses on your skills and how you acquired them, providing only basic information about your work history. Although it can help to conceal gaps in employment, most recruiters aren’t very familiar with it, so it carries a risk of rejection. Plus, it’s not always ATS-friendly.
- Combination resume format: a hybrid of the other two formats, it gives equal attention to your key skills and work history. However, it suffers from the same issues as the functional format: both recruiters and ATS software may have a problem with it.
The reverse-chronological format is the best choice for most candidates: go with a functional or combination resume only if you’re sure a non-standard format will give you an advantage.
Is there a separate student resume format?
Most student resumes follow the standard reverse-chronological format, assuming you’re applying for a job. However, you do need to use a different format if you’re applying for a job in academia or writing a graduate school resume. In those cases, go with an academic CV rather than a resume.
Is the resume format the same as the resume template?
No. The term resume format usually refers to the layout of a resume. It’s, for example, the type and order of information featured on the resume and the way it’s organized on the page, including document settings such as margins and line spacing.
Meanwhile, a resume template is a blank document you can fill with your information—it’s much quicker than building your resume from scratch. If you’re interested, check out our list of free resume templates.
Can I get creative, or is a simple resume format always better?
Regarding resume formatting, it’s usually best not to get too creative and keep it simple. You want your document to be readable both to recruiters and to ATS software, so sticking to basic resume templates is advisable for most candidates.
However, you may want to opt for a more complex resume design if you’re writing an artist resume or otherwise applying for a job in a creative field. Creative resume templates typically follow the standard format but feature bolder colors and graphic elements.
What does an ATS-friendly resume format mean?
ATS-friendly resume format organizes information into clear sections and features key information as plain text—most ATS software can’t read text within images, for example.
ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System(s)—software used by recruiters to sort incoming resumes. ATS software scans applications for specific resume keywords, such as key skills required for the role, rejecting irrelevant applications.
To check whether ATS can read your resume, copy its contents into Notepad. If your information is still there and looks more or less organized, ATS should be able to make sense of your document.
Which file format should I use for my resume?
Unless the job ad specifies a different format, submit your resume as a PDF. This file format keeps formatting intact and can be opened on any device, even a smartphone or tablet. Remember to give your resume file a professional name with no spaces, i.e., John-Smith-Waiter-Resume.pdf.