Functional, chronological, or combination – which resume format is the right one for you? Your resume format should highlight the most important aspects of your resume and help you open doors to new career opportunities. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the crucial guidelines you should adhere to when choosing your resume format.
How to Choose a Resume Format that Supports Your Career Goals
There is a myriad of ways to organize the information on your resume, and no two resume formats will be the same. So, keep this in mind as you go through these guidelines. The resume format you choose should catch the reader’s attention and make it clear that you are the perfect match for the position. It should highlight your achievements and deemphasize any aspects you don’t want the employer to focus on. When choosing your resume format, consider the employer’s needs as well as your experience and qualifications for the job.
The first thing you should decide is whether you will use a chronological, functional, or combination format. Each of these has its benefits depending on your career level and background. Essentially, there is no single correct way to format a resume. For example, if you are switching careers, you may want to use a different format than someone who has gaps in employment. Mainly, the resume format you choose should reflect your personality and support your career goals. Here’s how to find the organizational approach that will help you achieve just that.
Main Types of Resume Formats
Chronological Resume Format
Generally regarded as the most popular layout, this resume format lists your work history in reverse chronological order. That is, the latest position is listed at the top, and jobs are listed backward until the very earliest. It also includes a summary or an objective, and your education and credentials. This resume format is straightforward and easy to navigate for hiring managers. It highlights the progression of your career and puts the most timely and relevant experience at the top. Also, it is suitable for most positions and often required for teaching, government jobs, and similar.
- Highlights the progression of responsibility throughout the career.
- Preferred by recruiters, especially for executive and managerial positions.
- Proves that you are experienced and qualified to take on the job.
- Highlights well-known and impressive employers who will add weight to your credentials.
- Perfect for demonstrating a stable work history.
- Not suitable is you have gaps in employment, are changing careers, or have various experience in many fields. In this case, you should consider either a functional or combination resume format.
Functional Resume Format
The functional resume format is often referred to as skill-based, as it primarily highlights your skills. Rather than organizing information chronologically, the functional format emphasizes key skills listed in categorized sections. In turn, this style highlights your unique qualifications and expertise. Work experience is often omitted or downplayed. First, you list your best skills, and then you expand on them in a few concise sentences. Qualifications and accomplishments are also highlighted in this format. Work history, on the other hand, is only mentioned briefly at the bottom of the resume.
- Perfect if you have gaps between jobs.
- Suitable for those returning to a career after a prolonged time off for personal reasons.
- Takes attention away from the limited experience of recent graduates and instead emphasizes valuable skills.
- Suitable if applying for jobs in a new area due to moving or spouse relocation.
- Deemphasizes upward career mobility and long-term experience.
- Not suitable if you lack transferable or relevant skills.
Combination Resume Format
As the name implies, the combined resume format blends the chronological and functional style. While not as popular as the first two, this format might be suitable if neither of the other two formats fit your needs. Essentially, the hybrid format combines the best parts of the chronological and functional format to create one that is customizable and effective. Typically, a hybrid resume format will put key skills and achievements at the top, followed by a chronologically ordered career history. This format is flexible and you can customize it to highlight your best strengths.
- Highlights both strong work history and key abilities along with accomplishments.
- Perfect if you’re switching careers and have a work history that demonstrates your qualifications.
- Longer than the chronological and functional format.
- Lengthiness is sometimes seen as negative by recruiters.
- Can appear repetitive if the same skills and responsibilities appear in every position.
Best Practices for Formatting Your Resume
Make effective font choices
To keep your resume format from being overwhelming, avoid using more than two fonts per page. In general, you can use one font for headings and one for body text. To further improve the look of your resume, use the same font and size for every heading and the same font and size for all body text. Here, you can make an exception for your name, which can be larger than other headings. For body text, stick to a font size that falls between 10.5 and 12, and make sure you’re using a legible, professional font. Some of the best resume fonts are Helvetica, Calibri, Arial Narrow, or Georgia.
Formatting your margins and spacing
White space is the key when it comes to improving the overall look and readability of your resume format. So, make sure to add sufficient line space and leave white space between the sections of your resume. To do this, use the Format – Paragraph – Spacing command in MS Word or a similar word processor. When setting your margins, balance them so that there isn’t excessive space at the top or bottom of the page. At the same time, leave big enough margins that no text will get cut when printing the resume. The standard margin size for professional documents is one inch on all sides.
Choose an appropriate resume length
In most cases, your resume should not be longer than one page. However, there a few exceptions to this guideline. If you have 10 or more years of experience relevant to the position you’re applying for, you may need more than one page to present it effectively. Similarly, if you’re applying for a management or executive level position, you can include more relevant information. But in general, you should try and stick to one page only.
Highlight your objective statement
An objective statement is typically situated at the top of your resume under your name. In a sentence or two, it should summarize your career goals within the company. Although this is nowadays sometimes replaced by a professional summary, both of these are a key element of a good resume. In your objective statement, focus on what you want to achieve as part of the company, rather than your overall career goals. To highlight this section, place it close to the top of your resume and use a clear heading to draw attention to it straight away.
Apply effective graphic elements
Using bold, underlined or italicized text can help you draw the reader’s attention to specific elements of your resume, like sections or headings. Apart from that, they help make the resume easy to navigate and scan through. When listing your experience, skills, or education, use bullet points to communicate the details effectively. In general, you should use bullet points for any three or more pieces of information. If you have less than three ideas to share, simply list them without bullets or in a sentence. Finally, make sure to divide paragraphs longer than seven lines into two, starting each with a relevant category title.
Remember: The resume format you choose will significantly impact the success of your resume. Thus, it is crucial to choose a format that fits your experience and needs.
The guidelines above will help you figure out which resume format is suitable for you and your career goals. From there, you can personalize your resume format to reflect your personality and represent you as the ideal candidate during your job search.