Resume formats provide different ways of advertizing yourself to employers. The three basic resume formats are chronological, functional, and combination. They all begin with your name and contact information, but the body of each resume format is quite different. This article will introduce each of the resume formats, along with their advantages and disadvantages.
Chronological Resume Format
This is the resume format most people use when learning how to write a resume. It is the most widely used and recognized of the different resume formats. Although it’s called a chronological resume, it is meant to list your work experiences in reverse chronological order.
A modern chronological resume might start with a brief skills summary followed by a professional experience section, then an education section, and finally, a list of relevant skills, professional affiliations, civic leadership roles, or awards. This format includes all the classic elements, like company names, cities, titles, dates of employment, and job accomplishments or duties.
Here’s a sample chronological resume from Colorado State University’s Writing Studio.
- Highlights career progression
- Emphasizes the companies you’ve worked for
- Preferred by many employers and recruiters, especially in traditional industries (banking, accounting, law, etc.)
- Makes job hopping obvious
- Usually reveals your age
- Draws attention to an unconventional career path
You should consider the chronological resume format if you…
- Have a stable work history
- Have worked for prestigious employers
- Plan to work with recruiters
- Plan to work in traditional industries
- Are applying for a job within the field you’ve worked in or studied for
Functional Resume Format
The functional resume format is the least conventional of the three main resume formats. It is meant to make hiring manage notice your skills and achievements instead of your work history.
Thus, this resume format tends to begin with a section titled “Skills and Career Accomplishments,” or something similar. In this section, you present what you have achieved and what you’re especially good at. The functional resume still includes an “Education” section, but this tends to be toward the bottom, after the skills gained from your education have been covered. The functional resume format is quite flexible—you choose the category names and what they include. Some functional resumes don’t include company names, job titles, or dates of employment at all!
Here’s a sample functional resume from Pine Technical College in Minnesota that shows how this flexible resume format can be optimized for a job seeker with no paid work experience.
- Ethically covers up gaps in employment
- Conceals age
- Can show off skills gained from volunteerism, academic activities, or life experiences
- Can be confusing if not organized well
- Most job websites do not accept this format
- Recruiters and traditional hiring managers tend to dislike this format
You should consider the functional resume format if you…
- Have long gaps in employment in your work history
- Would like to de-emphasize the companies you’ve worked for
- Have a tendency to stay at each job for less than a year
- Are an older or younger person concerned about age discrimination
- Are changing careers and applying for a position unrelated to your experience or education
Combination Resume Format
The combination resume format is a hybrid of the chronological and functional resumes. It is meant to combine the best of both resume formats, presenting functional experience in a reverse chronological format.
The typical combination resume format is like a mermaid. The top half looks like a functional resume, while the bottom half looks like a chronological resume. Like the functional resume, it tends to start with a strong section detailing skills and career accomplishments, followed by a short employment experience section, then a brief section covering education. The combination resume format usually includes company names, job titles, and dates of employment while still highlighting skills. Like the chronological resume, it tends to close with professional affiliations, civic leadership roles, or awards—skills were already covered above.
Here is a sample combination resume, again from Pine Technical College, with a strong emphasis on skills.
- Can show how a few work or educational experiences provide many skills, filling out an otherwise short resume
- De-emphasizes specifics like titles, company names, and dates of employments without concealing them
- Catches the hiring manager’s attention, like the functional resume, but appeals to their desire for dates and names, like the chronological resume
- Provides a middle ground between the chronological and functional resumes
- Will still show an unsteady career path and provide clues about your age
- Many job websites will still not accept this format
- Recruiters and traditional hiring managers still generally prefer a chronological format, although this resume format is more acceptable to them than the functional format
- Can lead to repetition, adding unnecessary length
You should consider the combination resume format if you…
- Want to show off your skills, achievements, and work history
- Have kept one job for a long time and accomplished or learned a lot there
- Have held few jobs, but learned many skills or racked up many achievements
- Have had a combination of different experiences, such as freelancing and long-term jobs
- Are going in a different career direction still somewhat related to your experience and education
The bottom line on resume formats…
Clearly, no resume format is better than any other. The type of resume format you choose depends on not only your skills, accomplishments, and work or educational experiences, but how you would like to present them to employers. You can even write a resume in each format and choose which one you want to use in various situations. Different resume formats are there to give you options, not restrict you. Always customize your resume to fit your needs.