What is the Best Resume Format for 2020? [+ Examples]

What Is The Best Resume Format For 2020? [+ Examples]

It’s 2020 and time for a new job. You probably know you need to update your resume with your most recent experience and achievements. Did you also know you have to update your resume format? Things have moved on and you need to keep up with hiring managers’ expectations. In this article, we’ll help you understand how recruiters and hiring managers think. Also, we’ll take you through the choices you should make.

Table of content:

  1. The resume format employers want to see
  2. How to choose the right resume format
  3. The chronological resume format
  4. The functional resume format
  5. The combination resume format
  6. Things to keep in mind when choosing a resume format

But first, take our 2020 professional resume format quiz and see how many you score. For each question, mark yourself as a ‘Yes’, a ‘No’, or a ‘Maybe’.

Did you know?

  • Only 1% of candidates get offered the job they apply for.
  • The ‘look’ of a resume is at least as important as the content.
  • Many employers simply won’t read an unsuitable resume format.
  • 99% of applicants confuse resume format with resume style.
  • 9% of people confuse resume format with resume formatting.
  • 99% of people choose a resume format once and stick with it forever.

If you didn’t score 6 solid ‘yeses’, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Five minutes thought, and making the right resume format choice, can lift you into the very top tier of applicants.

1.   The resume format employers want to see

Recruiters and employers have one simple question in mind – “Does this applicant match our requirements?” Unfortunately, the time they’re willing to spend finding that out has become vanishingly small.

PROFESSIONAL TIP - As a result, your resume must speed their analysis, not get in the way. Therefore, your mission is to choose a format that enables you to deliver your information effectively. Use the guidance below. Be smarter than the other applicants and choose your format to the best advantage.

2.   How to choose the right resume format

Recruiters and hiring managers simply want to see if you match what they need. As a result, they want information about you and they want it fast. Content is obviously king. That’s because if you haven’t got what it takes they won’t consider you. Clearly, it’s all about showing that content effectively.

To do that, choose one of the three main professional resume formats. These are the:

  • Chronological resume format;
  • Functional resume format;
  • Combination resume format.

3.   The chronological resume format

Present your work experience in time order, but in reverse, to best use the chronological resume format. That’s because your most recent experience is the most important for employers to consider.

Use this format unless there is a reason to use one of the other two. That’s because readers know how to both scan and read this format quickly. Also, ATS (applicant tracking system) software deals well with this format.

Sections should typically show the following in this order:

  • Contact details;
  • A short profile summary;
  • Current position;
  • Previous experience;
  • Qualifications;
  • Other relevant interests or voluntary work.

If you add a sidebar, use it to summarize your skills or competencies.

It’s fine to use 2 pages but use page 1 to show your profile summary and current experience. Everything else should be on page 2 although do put your contact details on both pages.

Best for:

  • Career professionals with a continuous work history.
  • People who have worked in the same field for many years.
  • Individuals who show good career progression.
  • Being sure applicant tracking systems (ATSs) will scan accurately.

Consider using it when:

  • You’re not sure which resume format to use.
  • You want to apply for a job in the same or a similar field.
  • You can present a clear story of promotion from role to role.

Benefits:

  • A format well understood by recruiters and hiring managers.
  • It provides a full picture of your whole work history and background.
  • An easy-to-read narrative of your career history.

Worst for:

  • When you have significant or strange gaps in your work history.
  • You’ve changed jobs frequently.
  • Your work history does not show vertical progress.
  • You’ve been unemployed for several months.
  • You’d like to change your industry or sector.

The Chronological Resume Format Example

PROFESSIONAL TIP - Showing your experience in reverse order is important. However, think of your resume as a marketing pitch, not a historical document.

4.   The functional resume format

Unlike the chronological resume format, this format enables you to give priority to your capabilities for the job. Your experience gets pushed back, ideally right on to the second page. Some experiences may be completely excluded from your resume if they’re not relevant.

As a result, this format is sometimes called a skills-based resume format. It helps you present your main achievements and thereby demonstrate your strengths.

Be aware that some recruiters are suspicious when faced with a skills-based resume. That’s because they fear a candidate may be trying to hide something.

Sections should typically show the following:

  • Contact details;
  • An extensive profile summary;
  • A skills or competencies section (often within the profile);
  • Qualifications;
  • Selective work experience summary;
  • An additional summary of work experience (often deliberately incomplete);
  • Other relevant interests or voluntary work.

Best for:

  • People with limited work experience in the field.
  • Individuals with several work history gaps.
  • Those who are changing industry, sector or type of role.
  • Applicants fresh out of college with a short work history.

Consider using it when:

  • You are fresh out of college.
  • You’ve had a career break due to pregnancy, illness, unemployment or a sabbatical.
  • You have a broken history from frequently changing jobs.
  • You particularly want to highlight your relevant and transferable skills as a career changer.
  • Your significant achievements are spread across several roles.
  • You’re an unconventional fit or not an ideal fit for the company.

Benefits:

  • Competencies and transferable skills are emphasized.
  • Attention is diverted away from your work history.
  • Your most important accomplishments can be showcased

Worst for:

  • Causing confusion after recruiters have been reading many chronological resumes.
  • Recruiters becoming suspicious that candidates may be hiding or masking their background.

Resume Format Functional

PROFESSIONAL TIP - Match the titles, language, and keywords used in the ad. That will help ensure you meet the main requirements. However, consider using a professional resume writer if you struggle. They’re experts at crafting a resume that will present you in the best possible light.

5.   The combination resume format

Obviously, this is a mixture of both the chronological resume format and the functional format. Skills and work experience share the spotlight in this format.

It gives recruiters and hiring managers confidence. That’s because it ensures a timeline remains both visible and complete, after your profile summary.

Aim to show more skills and achievement content in your profile summary. A chronological resume format would show more in the employment section.

The advantage of this format is you have more space in the profile section to tell your story in a rounded and more compelling way. Additionally, you have more scope to show any added value you offer, over and above other likely candidates.

Sections should typically show the following, usually in this order:

  • Contact details;
  • A medium-length profile summary, incorporating main relevant skills;
  • Current job information;
  • Previous work experience summary;
  • Qualifications;
  • An additional summary of work experience (often deliberately incomplete);
  • Other relevant interests or voluntary work.

Best for:

  • Senior or executive management positions where it’s necessary to pick experiences from several roles held.
  • People with a diverse employment history.
  • Students and recent graduates.
  • Professionals with strong achievements making a career change.

Consider using it when:

  • You want to highlight both competencies and a strong history.
  • You need more space to show or explain a story in your profile summary.
  • You’re looking to change careers.
  • You have a strong history but are re-entering work after a break.

Benefits:

  • Any added value can be clearly presented.
  • Both skills and work experience share the spotlight.
  • A full work history is still visible to recruiters and hiring managers.

Worst for:

  • Entry-level candidates and fresh graduates.
  • Early-years career professionals.
  • People who do not possess all the skills required for the job.

Resume Format Combination Copy

PROFESSIONAL TIP - Use a sidebar to summarize your key competencies. Not only will it help you create a killer page 1 but also it presses the right buttons. Short bullet points to the left of the page can help you. Firstly, to match your capabilities to those demanded. Secondly, to include keywords an ATS and the reader will scan for. Thirdly, to easily tailor your resume for future opportunities.

6. Things to keep in mind when choosing a resume format

Firstly, choose the format that’s correct for you. Secondly, add your content to build a compelling document. Thirdly, once it’s complete, follow the submission instructions specified.

  • Think about the extent of your experience. This will help you to choose the resume format that is right for you.
  • Think about your audience. Your resume may go through an applicant tracking system (ATS) initially. That means the chronological format is most easily read without errors. To make sure you include the right content, look at this best-practice advice.
  • Don’t use gimmicks. Use a design that looks professional, not garish. Pick your fonts, colors, and any graphic elements to look classy. A template produced by a professional designer is a great starting point. Choose from classic, modern or elegant styling. We have a large selection of templates for you.
  • Do you include a headshot? This is a matter of personal choice. Sometimes a headshot is specifically asked for, in which case definitely add one. Our templates include variations to let you make the choice that is right for you. If you want more information on how to choose the right template, check out this article.

If you have a choice, submit your resume in PDF format. That’s because it will look the same on any machine or operating system. Also, it’s harder for a recruiter, HR person or hiring manager to modify your resume before forwarding it.

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Career Coach Resume Writer Resumeway

Jon Gregory

Jon Gregory is a career adviser at Resumeway, National Careers Week Ambassador, Careers Expert Member for The Guardian, leading international careers trainer and writer, experienced in management, reorganization, and recruitment.

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