A good resume can catch the attention of a hiring manager – but a great resume? That can land you the job of your dreams.
Choosing the best resume format for your needs and professional goals can be tricky. If you’ve never created a resume before, you might find yourself overwhelmed by all the options out there. Should your resume be chronological? Functional? A combination?
The choices are dizzying, but at the end of the day, the best resume format for you will be one that is professional and readable – the rest is just icing on the cake.
Here are some tips to find the best resume format to help you sell yourself as a skilled, adept professional with the talent necessary to get the job done each and every time.
Best Resume Format: Tips And Tricks To Follow
1. The Chronological Resume
The chronological resume is one of the most common formats that job seekers follow when creating their resumes. It is as simple as it sounds – a chronological resume merely lists your work experience in reverse-chronological order, with the most recent position at the top of the list.
This is by far the most traditional resume format, and according to many old-fashioned job-seekers, the only one worth noting. It is the most common and as a result, one of the easiest to implement – but that doesn’t mean it needs to be your only choice.
If you decide to follow this format, you’ll generally want to start with your contact information (something that’s true of most resume formats, in fact). Then, you can include information like your objective or summary statement (something that’s definitely more optional than required nowadays), your relevant skills, your work experience and education, and then any other information you feel needs to be included, like your volunteer work or special training you may have acquired.
A chronological resume is a good option if you are applying for a job in the same career path you are currently in. You might use this format if you’ve spent several years in the same industry and each role you held showed a linear progression – you slowly worked your way up to more senior positions over time.
However, if there are any gaps in your employment history or if you’re applying for a job in a new industry, another type of resume might be better.
2. The Functional Resume
The functional resume is the second most common resume you can choose from. This kind of resume will have more of a focus on your skills than on your work history. It will include your work history, but it will also have clear, detailed summaries of what you accomplished in each position.
Unlike the chronological resume format, which focuses more on the time you spent at each job and showcases a more linear progression, the functional resume will focus more on your skills. In other words, it’s what you got out of the job rather than what the job got out of you (your time).
Your functional resume will include information such as your contact information, an objective (if you choose to include one), a summary of your relevant skills, work experience, education, and then any other additional information you choose to include.
Again, a functional resume is preferred if you have gaps in your employment or are changing a career with very little experience (or perhaps no experience at all!) in the industry to which you’re applying. It’s also great for workers who are re-entering the workforce after a long time away, for example, mothers returning after lengthy maternity leaves or professionals who have been laid off for quite some time.
A functional resume can also be a good choice if you’re young and don’t have a lot of experience to fall back on, but you’ll need to get creative and really think about the skills you bring to the table. If you’re fresh out of high school, you’ll want to pull from your volunteer and extracurricular experiences (as well as the elective classes you took in high school) to show the very best that you have to offer.
Just remember, a functional resume can be limiting if you have a fair amount of experience. In that case, a resume that combines the best characteristics of both a functional and a chronological resume – known as a combination resume – might be best.
3. Combination Resume
A combination resume is one that combines the functional and chronological resume formats, just as it sounds. It will let you emphasize your relevant skills along with your work experience. The only downside to using this kind of resume is that your skills and work history will take up most of your resume space, so you’ll need to cut out other scents like a summary or list of your volunteer experiences.
Fortunately, these aren’t sections that will make or break your resume anyway, so you’ll still be likely to get a recruiter’s attention without these details.
In a combination resume, you’ll have more flexibility to design your resume as you see fit. You can list either your work experience or your skills first, depending on which pieces you think are more important. If you have a lot of unique skills that are valuable in your specific industry, you might want to list them before you detail your work experience.
A combination resume can really be used by anyone, but it tends to be best for job seekers making career transitions who have a very diversified employment history or lots of transferable skills.
4. Keep It Simple
More important than the resume format you follow is that you keep your resume clean, simple, and specific. Remember, recruiters don’t have a lot of time when it comes to reviewing resumes (or no time at all – which is why many companies use resume scanning software to do a bulk of the work for them).
Therefore, you’ll want to make sure your resume is simple and clean. You will also want to read the job posting carefully so that you can include any relevant keywords that are detailed there. If a job posting says you need experience working with C++, for example, you can bet that needs to be included in your resume.
5. Make It Attractive
Your resume should be attention-grabbing, but not so flashy that it becomes garish or hard to read.
Regardless of whether you choose a functional, chronological, or combination resume, you should include several key features when it comes to formatting your document.
For example, it should have appropriate margins (usually one inch). If you need a bit more space to detail your skills and experience, you can reduce the margins to .75 inches, but they should never be smaller than .5 inches. This can cause the document to get cut off when it’s converted to a PDF.
The font should be professional and readable – no Comic Sans, please! Better fonts to consider include Calibri, Times New Roman, Georgia, and Cambria. Sans serif fonts (fonts without tails) are best for resumes because they are crisp and easy to read.
It should be between 10-12 points – not too large, and not too small. You’ll want to include clear, distinct section headers and bullet points too. The cleaner and clearer, the better. If you have a sentence that is 15 words that could easily be condensed to eight words, do it. Being verbose won’t get you anywhere – except the rejection pile, that is.
6. Get Help
You don’t necessarily have to visit a professional career center to get some feedback, but you should get some feedback to make sure your resume reads as you want it to. For example, have a spouse or friend take a look at your resume to make sure it includes the information you think it should. This can also be helpful to make sure your resume is clear and cleanly formatted. Your reader might catch mistakes that you did not pick up on during your first, second, or even tenth read-through.
How To Pick The Right Resume Format
Still aren’t sure which format is right for you? There are a few questions you can ask yourself in order to decide.
First, what does your background look like? If you have a significant gap in your work history or are switching careers, you might want to go with a functional resume. Thinking about your job search objectives can help, too, as this will make it easier for you to decide whether your resume can be more generic or needs to be targeted with a specific goal in mind.
It never hurts to have a few different resumes on hand, with a different format for each that will help you accomplish various goals. You should always be tailoring your resume for each new job to which you apply. Without doing this, you run the risk of making serious mistakes in your resume or not landing the job because you didn’t address the search requirements effectively enough.
Remember, at the end of the day, the best resume format for you will vary depending on your career goals, background, and the kind of job to which you are applying. Keep the goal in mind, and you’ll be able to create an attention-grabbing resume each and every time.