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Choose the Right Resume Format

Whether you are a new college graduate, a seasoned executive or career changer, your resume is a vital tool in opening doors of employment opportunity.  If your resume isn’t generating interviews for you, you might be using a less-than-effective resume format.

In today’s electronic job market, the term resume format has two meanings:

  • The electronic version of your resume (.doc, .txt or PDF) 
  • How the resume content is arranged on the page(s) 

This article deals with the second version, how the textual content is arranged within the document of your resume. 

Basically, there are three standard resume formats:

  • Chronological
  • Functional 
  • Hybrid  

Once you understand which format best supports your career objective, you’ll know which format will be most effective for you. 

The chronological is the best known format and is one of the easiest to write.  It follows the reverse historical outline of your work experience.

Its strengths are:

  • Allows the reader to quickly identify the what where and when of your work experience
  • Shows effectively the progression of responsibilities through your chosen industry or profession


Its weaknesses are:

  • Does not promote the ability to move into a new industry or occupation
  • Hides early accomplishments at the end of your resume
  • Highlights employment instability
  • Highlights gaps in employment 

In response to the shortcomings of the chronological format, the functional resume format was developed.  This format focuses on clustering information around categories of transferable skills and minimizing the historical aspect of your work experience.

Its strengths are:

  • Highlights transferable skills, which promotes career changes between industries or occupations
  • Minimizes unfavorable aspects of job history, such as employment instability and employment gaps
  • Highlights the best accomplishments at the beginning of the resume regardless of when they took place in your career history 


Its weaknesses are:

  • Is not a popular format among recruiters and HR candidate screeners
  • Makes it difficult to connect accomplishments to employment history
  • Doesn’t promote steady career growth within a given industry or occupation 


The functional format should be used with caution.  If not carefully crafted, the resume can be confusing and cause the reader to believe the candidate has something to hide. 

A solution to the sometimes confusing functional format and the often limiting chronological format is the hybrid format, which combines the best of both.   

Its strengths are:

  • Showcases transferable skills and accomplishments at the top of the resume for maximum first-impression impact
  • Receives high approval from recruiters and HR candidate screeners for ease of reading
  • Displays a clear bottom-line impact approach, which is appreciated by executive hiring managers
  • Promotes the ability to transfer between industries or occupations  


Its weakness:

  • Is challenging to write effectively   

While the hybrid resume format is certainly the best format for job seekers of all levels, it is also the most difficult to write.  It requires the ability to identify and illustrate transferable skills with strong accomplishments that demonstrate bottom-line impact to organizational objectives.  
While competition for the best jobs remains high, give your resume a boost by presenting your work experiences in the format that best promotes your career objective.  

Re-thinking and revising your resume can lead you to new job opportunities and get you hired.


Deborah Walker, CCMC is a Resume Writer & Career Coach.