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Each resumes is written to tell a story about what you’ve done, what you will bring to the company, and eventually who you are. The more conveying a story is, the more chances you have to land an interview. At the same time, a resume is an extremely flexible document that allows job seekers to adjust their experiences and skills depending on their target jobs and career goals.

In other words, candidates can alter the format of the document as well as tweak their content based on their needs and wants. However, the challenge is to know which resume format will help you tweak the story in a way that will land more interviews.

Unfortunately, not many job seekers are concerned about choosing the right resume format to showcase their accomplishments and skills. One format doesn’t fit all (and unlikely ever will).

1. Reverse Chronological Format

This is the number one choice for most job seekers.  Although it may seem that a reverse chronological resume is somewhat ordinary, employers and recruiters prefer this format over the others. The reason is simple – a reverse chronological format allows hiring managers to quickly skim through the document and locate necessary information (remember that decision-makers on average spend 6-10 seconds on reviewing a resume).  

This format implies you will list your work experiences starting from the most recent ones. This helps to hire managers to see one’s recent experiences first, which is exactly what they want.  Besides, this layout helps see career progression, including which positions you have held and for how long.

Therefore, candidates with a consistent work history that have an upward career trajectory should choose a reverse-chronological format. It helps narrate a story with the most recent plot and flows in the reverse order of occurrence.

Because this particular resume format places a huge emphasis on work experience it is sometimes criticized for being experience-based rather than accomplishments-based. However, one can easily substitute generic bulleted statements with the list of accomplishments. This way you will be able to show the results of your work under each employment.

If you are an entry-level candidate or you have significant career gaps and inconsistent employment history, you may want to consider one of the resume formats below.

Use this format if:

  • You have no employment gaps.
  • Your recent work experience relates to the target job.
  • Most of your work experience is in the career field you want to land your next job in.

2. Functional Format

A functional resume format emphasizes skills more than work experience (it is sometimes called a skills-based format). It is probably one of the least used formats today as job seekers are afraid their resume is going to be discarded by employers just because of this format. However, if you know how to write an effective functional resume and understand when it is appropriate, there is nothing to worry about.

Writing a functional resume is different from writing a reverse chronological format one.

First, you have to choose the skills and proficiencies that best represent your value for the job.

Secondly, you will have to categorize them (i.e. customer service skills, administrative functions, etc.).

Usually, these categories should be based on job requirements.

Thirdly, provide further details that demonstrate your skills and accomplishments under each of those headers. Thus, your experience will be all about your key strength rather than a history of employment.

It will look like a relevant skills section with specific results of your work. After you list your skills and experiences you will still have to add your employment history (just including job titles, company names, and dates).

The reason why you won’t find many fans of functional format among recruiters is that it is hard to track where and in what context you gained your skills.

Some employers may even suspect that a candidate is trying to hide something if a functional resume format is used. But once again, if you know what a prospective employer wants and you think that this format will help you tell a more convincing story, don’t hesitate to pick this one.

The truth of the matter is that such a format allows showing off your strengths like no other layout.  It all boils down to whether you know how to make your skills and accomplishments shine brighter than any doubts hiring managers may have.  

Use this format if:

  • You have employment gaps.
  • You are seeking to change your career completely.
  • You are a recent graduate or just starting your career.

3. Combined Resume Format

As you might have guessed already, this resume format combines the previous two. Although it sounds like an absolute winner, the process of developing a hybrid resume takes an understanding of resume writing standards and techniques.

Today more and more job seekers use this format as it helps them both clearly outline their key strengths as well as show off their career progression.

In a combined resume format, the list of key skills and accomplishments that replace the traditional work experience section in a reverse chronological resume is provided at the beginning of the document (usually called a summary or overview of qualifications).

This is the place where candidates can highlight 4 to 6 skills or accomplishments relevant to the target job. Another option is to have both a summary section and a major accomplishments section if you’ve got a lot to offer. The key here is to be relevant and concise (which takes an understanding of resume writing standards as mentioned before).

After you create a summary section you should also add your work experience where you would list your jobs and brief descriptions starting from the most recent ones. In this section you have to make sure that each statement earns its spot – otherwise, your resume will be too long (and probably boring too).

So basically a combined format has both a section that summarizes relevant skills and accomplishments as well as a traditional work experience section. This format gives employers a chance to both quickly scan your recent experiences as well as see our relevant achievements and skills.

Use this format if:

  • You have a lot of work experience and a solid list of achievements.
  • You are making a career change with a skill set that can be applied across industries.
  • You have a wide range of skills to offer.

Other Resume Formats

Even though most people know only the aforementioned resume formats, there are more layouts you could use.  Below you will find other resume formats you might find helpful in overcoming your current job search challenges.


Photo Credit- cvease.com

1. Infographic Resume:

This format implies the use of graphic design in addition to written text. While traditional formats use only text to tell a candidate’s story, infographic resumes are more about color, icons, fonts, and layout when it comes to organizing content.

The problem is that usually, HRs prefer traditional formats unless they request otherwise. Besides, application tracking software (used by many companies today) may not be able to scan such a resume.

So before sending your infographic resume make sure the employer would love reading it. Alternatively, you could just add it to your LinkedIn profile and/or attach it to your email along with your traditional resume.

2. Video Resume

A short video describing one’s skills and accomplishments is usually used to supplement a regular resume. The biggest advantage is that it is a creative way to present yourself to a potential employer. A video resume offers a great chance to stand out from the crowd.

However, such resumes require way more time from hiring managers to review (watch) them. And that is something most hiring managers don’t have. But if you are applying for a job that assumes presenting yourself a lot, sending a video resume is the shot worth taking. If you are sending it as an addition to your traditional resume, you’ve got nothing to lose.

3. Business Card-resume

This one is not common among job seekers today. Nevertheless, it has great potential to help you land a job interview. The thing is that career opportunities usually come up more often than we plan. To make the most out of each opportunity job, seekers have to be prepared.

A business card-resume is meant to help you be prepared to present your professional self anytime.  To cut the story short, it is a brief version of a traditional resume in the form of a common business-card. The great thing is you can always carry it with you and hand it out to anybody who can potentially help you land the job.

4. Resume Website

With the rising trend for HRs to Google candidates, resume websites are gaining more ground than ever. A resume website with targeted content will also help you come up in search results for the specific type of jobs you want.

Having such a website will also demonstrate the potential employers that you are web-savvy, which is vital for many positions today. It can also help you show your personality as it gives more freedom to express yourself.

Key Takeaway

Choosing the right format depends on three things: your career goals, your experience/skill set, and specific employer’s requirements. So before making any choice you have to understand what you are after, what you’ve got to offer, and what employers want to see.

Balancing these three things should help you find the right format that should work best for you.

As soon as job seekers figure out what type of resume they need, they are quick to search for resume templates online to make the resume writing process go faster.

However, using resume templates is not always a great idea.

Although resume templates can certainly help if used wisely.

Lastly, you may want to work on your additional resume versions to send along with the traditional ones (video resume, resume website, or infographic resume). Often it will not even be reviewed but it will never hurt. And it may well be that one time it will make a huge difference between you and the other candidate.

Written By
Having worked for 7 years as a professional writer at Prime-Resume , Roy Maclaughlin has become one of the most prominent company’s leaders today. From helping to overcome various career challenges to providing guidance in launching new career services, Roy has become instrumental in making a great difference both at Prime-Resume as well as in the careers of its clients. Prime-Resume has been serving job seekers for over 8 years now providing resume writing as well as other career assistance services.

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