Resume Format: How to Pick the Best and Get Hired in 2019

There’s not much you can do in less than 6 seconds. But it’s still enough time for more than 200k posts to be created on Facebook, 21 babies to be born around the world, and for Bill Gates to earn $1,250.

As you can see, you can still make those 6 seconds count. In fact, you have to, especially if you’re hunting for a job.

Why? Most hiring managers only spend about 6 seconds on each resume. It doesn’t take them long to decide whether to shatter your hopes and dreams, right?

What can you do to make them invite you to a job interview, then?

Well, there are many ways to achieve that. But out of the things you can do at the very beginning, choosing the right format for your resume has probably the biggest impact.

That’s because a fitting resume format helps hiring managers assess your experience fast. Like in “under 6 seconds” fast.

What’s more, if you choose the right format for your resume, you might find that it makes telling your personal story feel much more natural.

This guide will take you through each of the most common resume formats and show you when and how to use them.

Three main resume formats

There are three dominant resume formats in use today. Recruiters are used to seeing them every day. Each of  serves a different purpose.

  • Chronological resume format. Probably the best choice for most experienced professionals. Revolves mainly around the candidate’s current and past experiences.
  • Functional resume format. Great for fresh graduates or anyone switching careers. Emphasises skills instead of experience.
  • Combined resume format. As the name suggests, it’s a combination of the previous two. Requires a good understanding of what you want to achieve with your resume.

Let’s take a closer look at each of them now.

1. Chronological resume format

The most frequently used resume format, a chronological resume is easy to read and easy to update.

With your employment history listed in a reverse chronological order, this format enables recruiters to see job seeker’s career trajectory and stable work history.

That also means that the work experience section receives the most attention and is given priority over the applicant’s skills and education.

Chronological resume format layout:

  • Contact information
  • Resume summary
  • Work experience (bulk of content)
  • Skills and Strengths
  • Education
  • Additional sections (Achievements, Hobbies)

resume format 2019

2. Functional resume format

This layout zooms in on your skills and strengths with much less emphasis on your work history. Its purpose is to highlight transferable skills and achievements that are relevant to the role being pursued and that employers expect their future employees to have.

However, the lower frequency and relative unfamiliarity of the skill-based resume format in the world of recruiting makes it more difficult to read.

Functional resume format layout:

  • Contact information
  • Resume summary
  • Skills and Strengths (bulk of content)
  • Work experience
  • Education
  • Additional sections (Achievements, Hobbies)

3. Combination resume format

This hybrid format blends aspects of the chronological and functional resume in a way that some job seekers find appealing. The layout attempts to shine an equal light on transferable skills and work history.

Being a flexible and versatile document, the combination resume helps job seekers to incorporate a variety of experiences into a single document.

Combination resume format layout:

  1. Contact information
  2. Resume summary
  3. Skills and Strengths
  4. Work experience
  5. Achievements
  6. Education
  7. Additional sections (Hobbies)

The layout for the combined resume format is flexible, so you can choose the order of these sections yourself. But “Achievements” should always follow “Skills and Strengths” or “Work experience.”

How to choose the best resume format?

Now that we’ve summed up the main features of the three different resume formats, it’s time to help you choose the one that best suits your needs.

Think about which elements you’d like to showcase. Is it your most recent work history? Or would you rather emphasise your skills? Or both at the same time?

1. Chronological resume format:

  • At least some work experience.
  • Looking for a job in a field similar to their existing work experience.
  • No large employment gaps.
  • Applying for a job in a traditional industry (accounting, finance, engineering, etc.).
  • Wants to show off an impressive career trajectory and a record of consistent employment.

2. Functional resume format:

  • Making a significant career change to a field unrelated to their past work experience.
  • Possess a range of diverse skills.
  • Unusually large employment gaps and needs to downplay a spotty work history.
  • Young job seekers applying to creative or skills-based roles (art, design, marketing).
  • Recent graduates with limited work experience.

2. Combination resume format:

  • Wide range of skills and experiences.
  • Shorter employment gaps.
  • Applying to either traditional or creative roles—doesn’t matter.
  • Making a career change with skills or work experience that apply across industries.
  • Re-entering the workforce (e.g. women returning to work after maternity leave).
  • Job seekers with a rich employment history who want to emphasise their skill set.
  • Entry-level candidates with internship or professional work experience.

You’ve surely noticed some overlaps in these descriptions. The truth is that most of the time you’ll have a decision to make.

To help you make that decision, let’s now consider the subtlest pros and cons of the three resume formats. Because the end of the day, you’ll inevitably end up sacrificing one thing over another.

Pros and cons of different resume formats

First of all, remember that any of these formats has the potential to help you get out from behind your computer screen and into the interview chair.

So let’s break it down and see the advantages and disadvantages that these resume formats come with:

1. Chronological resume format

This one is a true classic. It is a thriving dinosaur among resume format species.

This option will always work in case you’ve got lots of work experience to showcase. But once you decide to use this format, you will need to think hard about how to make your resume stand out using various layout elements.

One of the ways would be to try using paragraphs and bullet points in a creative way.

Pros

  • An easy-to-read format that recruiters are familiar with.
  • Shows a clear career progression and highlights job seeker’s relevant experience
  • Suited to applicant tracking software (ATS) that automatically extracts work history.

Cons

  • Accentuates employment gaps that might be rather uneasy to talk about.
  • A rather conventional format with little space for creativity.
  • Requires a sufficient level of relevant work experience to make a good impression.

resume format 2019

2. Functional resume format

A functional or skill-based resume format can become really tricky. Use it only if there’s a reason for it.

Regardless of the industry, a mere list of unique skills won’t do. Recruiters will always ask about who you worked for in the past and what your contributions were.

And if you’re eyeing your next job in a creative industry, don’t forget to send in your portfolio along with your resume to provide tangible proof of your skills.

Pros

  • Downplays gaps in employment history.
  • Hides a lack of relevant work experience for career changers.
  • Good at highlighting a diverse range of technical, transferable and soft skills.

Cons

  • Can make job seekers look ‘inexperienced’ in terms of formal work experience.
  • An unconventional format that recruiters are rather unfamiliar with.
  • Applicant tracking software (ATS) may struggle to extract keywords and relevant resume sections.

3. Combination Resume Format

The combination – or hybrid – resume format is great if you have plenty of skills and experience to draw from when creating your resume.

But it’s also often seen as the best option for job seekers with little or no experience and career switchers, as this format will let them play up skills that are relevant in their target industry.

Its flexibility lets you prioritise certain sections in favour of others. What you need, though, is a strategy that you’ll use consistently throughout your resume. Otherwise, it can end up a messy document that’s hard to read.

Pros

  • More creative layout compared to the chronological resume format.
  • Very flexible when it comes to various levels of work experience and skills.
  • Helps hide employment gaps.

Cons

  • As it focuses primarily on skills and work experience, this format leaves little room for education.
  • Demands a sufficient level of either skills or experience in order to make sense and look good.
  • Requires caution to avoid overlaps or repetitiveness across the work experience and skills sections.

Final resume format considerations

The resume format is just a tool. Your ultimate goal is to help recruiters extract key information about you as quickly as possible. Remember that the proper layout of a resume with well-defined individual sections will make your resume look eye friendly and professional.

Finally, let’s recap 4 main points concerning the format of your resume:

  • Open up with a summary statement. Objective statements are things of the past. Create a summary statement instead which is basically just a 2-3 sentences long elevator pitch about why you’re the best fit for the job.
  • Make that format choice. Think about things you’re proud of. Is it your extensive work history or a broad array of skills? If it’s a no-brainer, use either chronological or functional resume. If it’s all closely intertwined, though, go for a hybrid resume format.
  • Put the best parts first. The top one-third of your resume is a valuable real estate. Whether it’s your skills, work history or education, be sure to make it shine like a diamond.
  • Fit your resume on one page. A maximum of two pages is acceptable for job seekers with an extensive employment history.

With this guide in your pocket and these tips up your sleeve, you are ready to customise your own resume to your profile and the job you’ve been hoping to land. Good luck with that!

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