3 Resume Formats Explained (+ Free Template Downloads for Each Type) 
When writing your resume, picking the right format is critical. Depending on the type of job you’re applying for, the format of your resume will decide what to include and how to include it. Understanding the three types of resume formats and their common uses can ensure that you’re sending in the right type of job application to your dream job.
There are three types of common resume formats:
- A chronological resume, often referred to as a reverse chronological resume because your most recent employment history is going to be included at the top of the page, descending down in order of date.
- A functional resume, which is often used by academics and science professionals and includes relevant publications, skills, and achievements.
- A combination resume or hybrid resume that inherits the best of both of these formats, which is used by a job seeker to apply for positions or a job title that requires heavy soft skills and hard skills.
Each resume format has its benefits and has its drawbacks. For example, a functional resume format is not going to be the best format to apply to a Software Engineering position. But might be suitable for those applying to an Administrative Assistant position when you have no previous work experience or large gaps in your resume. When a chronological format is the most common resume format as it presents your employment history in the most digestible fashion for the hiring manager or reader. And a combination format, which allows you to show your previous work history and a long list of technical skills, soft skills, and hard skills.
Chronological Resume Format
A chronological resume format or a reverse chronological resume format is the most common resume format. It lists your contact information, work history, education history, and optional sections like publications, certifications, skills, and more. This is most commonly used for those who have a work history that aligns with the job they’re applying for. Don’t let the name fool you, be sure to list your prior employment history in reverse chronological format (most recent job to least recent job). This resume format is most commonly seen when using a resume builder or resume example as your starting point.
Here is when you should use a chronological resume:
- When you have small employment gaps in your work history.
- When you have at least 2-3 previous jobs that align with the job you’re applying for.
- When you have at least 1 previous job.
- When you’re applying for common job titles in non-academic or science professional positions.
- When you don’t have enough employment history to write a career objective or resume objective.
Functional Resume Format
A functional resume is one that lists professional experience and relevant skills as a way of applying for a position. A functional resume may be used by academics, for example, a professor. This shows the skills that you can bring to the table and what you achieved while being employed by most commonly, a single university for their career. Skills listed are often transferable skills and relevant skills for the academic position. This format is often referred to as a curriculum vitae as well.
Here is when you should use a functional format:
- When you’re applying for academic or science positions that assess your abilities by skills, publications, or other achievements.
- When you’re applying for federal or military roles that look at skills, abilities, certifications, and course completion as a way of assessing your fit.
- When applying for administrative roles that require a heavy amount of skills and you lack prior experience.
- When you have more skills than you do relevant employment history and you want to present that first.
Hybrid Resume Format
When you want to list a professional summary, resume objective, or skills section along with your professional resume, then a hybrid resume format may be for you. This is also a very common resume format. It contains both skills, accomplishments, and employment history. This is why it is called a combination resume format. Because you combine what’s great from a functional resume and a chronological resume.
Here is when you should use a hybrid resume or combination resume:
- When you have sufficient work history to fill a section on your resume.
- When the employer wants to see skills and prior experience.
- When you feel the skills you can bring to the table is going to help you stand out from the other job applicants.
- When you have enough work history and employment history to write a strong career statement, resume summary, or resume objective.
The Traditional Resume
Regardless of the job you’re applying for, using a basic resume layout, like the layout used to make a chronological resume is your best option. It will display relevant experience and skills that will help your employer understand who you are as a professional.
Avoid trying to come up with your own resume format, like an infographic resume that displays your skills visually. This can be difficult for a hiring manager to print out or even comprehend. A creative resume and creative resume layout should not be used. A resume provides insights and information to the reader. And your time as a job applicant should be focused on writing and including relevant information to help your potential employer make a decision about you as a potential candidate.
Your resume format should align with your cover letter. Keep these formatting tips in mind:
- Use default business letter page margins.
- Use 1.5” line spacing at the most.
- Use a double line break between resume sections.
- Keep your resume font size to 11pt at the highest.
- Use a professional font like Helvetica, Arial, Garamond, Calibri, or Times New Roman.
- Include only relevant contact information like your email address, phone number, personal website, and LinkedIn URL or LinkedIn profile. Exclude links like your Instagram account.
Whether you’re applying for a federal position, making a career change, or just in a regular job search; you don’t need to think of ways to make a different resume than the other applicants. The content and information within your resume and how targeted it is to the company and the employer is what’s going to make you stand out.
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