There are three main resume formats:
- Chronological (traditionally most preferred by employers)
- Functional (traditionally least preferred by employers)
It is well worth your time to understand why one format may be right for you, and how it highlights you and your own career path best.
Chronological resume format
Chronological resume formats are generally preferred by employers, and generally the best fit for workers who have traditional career paths. That is:
- Steady work history in one or two fields.
- Few breaks in employment.
- Solid progression of titles and accomplishments.
This format best highlights a progression of roles and a steady employment history. It puts your employment or education at the top, which is the first thing employers see.
Chronological resume formats are best for those who:
- Plan on staying in the same field.
- Have minimal gaps in their employment histories.
- Have a track record of roles with increasing responsibility.
Skip chronological resume formats if you:
- Change employers and career fields frequently.
- Have breaks between jobs.
- Have no work experience in your targeted career field.
Functional resume format
Functional resume formats emphasize skills and achievements over job titles and places and dates of employment. They are essentially the opposite of chronological resume formats. Functional resumes are best for those just entering the job market, or who have less traditional career paths.
Relevant skills and achievements are clustered together. Doing this allows you to clearly highlight your areas of expertise. For example, you would list all of your event marketing experience from each of your previous roles under a single header titled “Event Marketing Experience.” Then, after your key skills areas, you provide a brief education and/or work history.
Some people omit their dates of employment completely from their functional resumes. This is not recommended (and contributes to functional resume formats being seen as less desirable by many employers).
- Re-entering the job market after an absence, or who have gaps in their work history.
- Reconstructing their resume for major career change.
- Applying for their first job (such as new college graduates).
- Who wish to highlight specific skills, knowledge, and abilities from a wide variety of roles and fields.
Skip functional resume formats if:
- Your skills lack relevance and cannot stand alone.
- Your work history shows growth and progression in one or related field(s).
- An employer asks for a specific number of years of experience.
Because functional resumes rely on featuring your core skills and achievements, your use of resume keywords can really make this resume format pop.
Hybrid resume format
If you guessed that a hybrid resume format (also known as a combination resume format) marries the best aspects of the chronological and functional resume formats, you are correct. Using a hybrid resume format allows job seekers to showcase their skills and achievements, while still giving employers the detailed work history they want to see.
- Who want to highlight transferable skills from a wide range of jobs or volunteer work.
- Whose work experience doesn’t align with their desired career path.
- Who have work histories with numerous seasonal, contract, or freelance roles.
Skip hybrid resume formats if:
- You have a solid and stable work history and are seeking a traditional role.
- Your skills don’t quite match the employer’s requirements.
Everyone’s work history is unique, and the best way to highlight it can also depend on your future goals. It doesn’t hurt to try each resume format to see which works best for you.
Free online resume analysis tools, such as Jobscan, can help you determine how well you have customized your resume for a given job. No matter what resume format you choose, you can get advice on how to tailor it even better.