The Four Basic Resume Formats, and Which to Use at the Right Time.
There are four basic types of resumes: Chronological, Functional, Combined (Chronological/Functional), and Targeted. See examples of all four below, but note that these are typical examples and should only be used as a guide to see how the formats differ from each other.
What is a Chronological Resume?
The best-known resume format, favored by recruiters and hiring managers because of its simplistic style and layout.
The Chronological Resume is considered by most as the safest resume format to use that almost everyone recognizes. Let’s talk about what it is. The Chronological Resume is the most traditional resume format also known as the reverse-chronological resume because of its structure and how work experience is listed, starting from your most recent employer or work history to your earliest or first job.
The main parts of the chronological format consists of a timeline or body of work at a specific time in your career, highlighting job duties, responsibilities, achievements and accolades for each of your positions.
Depending on your preference, some may include more sections about their professional experience that relates directly to the role. Some people even include personal experience such as volunteering work with non-profit organizations as well.
In a chronological resume the structure is as follows, an objective or summary statement, a list of positions held from the most recent to the last, and finally the educational section with academic accomplishments, special training, etc.
The chronological resume structure is the most traditional resume format. The experience section becomes the focal point of the resume because each of your past jobs is described in detail, along with sections of skills and/or accomplishments at the beginning of the resume. This format is primarily used when you are staying in the same profession and in the same type of work. The chronological resume should always have an objective statement or summary section to grab the reader’s attention.
Advantages: Traditional, conservative readers like this format best because it’s easy to understand your current and former job duties, it doesn’t require much analyzing of the resume, and this format highlights the employer, especially if this past position was impressive.
It allows you to highlight all your various job responsibilities and accomplishments from your current and past positions. This can be highlighted in bulleted form describing each job duty or responsibility.
This also allows the person reading your resume to see all the relevant details about your company, title, work history, dates of employment, and accomplishments.
Disadvantage: This format is rarely appropriate for someone making a career change. It’s also more difficult to highlight what you do best in the chronological format.
This might work better for job seekers who have gaps in their employment for various reasons. This format focuses heavily on what the experience that the candidate has, and what they can bring to the table.
One more disadvantage of the chronological resume is that it might look like all the rest of the resumes that a hiring manager or someone in human resources might receive. This sometimes presents a challenge when you want to make your resume stand out.
The functional resume is a highlight of your major skills and accomplishments from the beginning. This helps the reader to clearly see what you can do for them, instead of having to read through the job descriptions to find out. This format is best if you are planning on going into a new career direction or field because it focuses on key skills and qualifications you have from past employers.
This shows a prospective employer that you are a successful applicant in your field. While the functional resume is a must for career changers, it is also appropriate for those with divergent careers, those with a wide range of skills in their profession, military officers, students, and for homemakers returning to the job market, etc.
Advantages: It is a very effective type of resume, and is highly recommended. It can help you reach a new goal or direction. This format starts with the job seekers contact information followed by a summary of qualifications or objective that relate to the job opening.
The summary section of this format is typically where you would highlight your skills. The skills could be listed as simple bullet points or a bullet points with a number rating of each skill (1 being the lowest, and 10 being the highest competency level), for example: Microsoft Word: Expert Level 8, Mac and Windows OS: Expert Level 9, etc.
In the bullet points, you should try to be creative and write about how you were able to achieve desired results, or were able to accomplish a goal for your company.
A well know method that is used for this format is listing work history by years worked, and not listing the specific months you worked. This works well if you had gaps in your employment or took time off for school, traveling, parenting, etc.
Disadvantages: The functional format makes it hard for the employer to know exactly what you did in each of your jobs, which could be a problem for some interviewers. It is not the easiest format for applicant tracking systems. The reason being is the applicant tracking software scans the resume, then it’s available to view by a hiring manager or recruiter.
In some cases, if they have problems viewing it, they could simply discard it and not even give you consideration for the position.
When writing a functional resume, always keep in mind that an employer might view it as a way of hiding work history gaps which you might not want to share. It’s always a good practice to be honest about any gaps in employment so that there’s no mistrust or any discrepancies that may come up with the hiring manager.
A combined resume has elements of both a chronological and functional format. It’s typically a shorter chronology of job descriptions followed by a brief skills and accomplishments or qualifications section. It may also be a standard functional resume with your accomplishments for the different jobs held.
One of the most notable is that you can group skills and abilities according expertise. Employers don’t like this format for several reasons. The main ones are its harder to follow the chronology of employers, skills, accomplishments, etc., and not so easy to read.
Advantages: The combined format shows advantages of both kinds of resumes, avoiding the potential negative effects of either type. If you happen to have little to no work history, this format highlights your skills without focusing on the lack of work history.
If you’ve made a career change into a completely different industry or line of work, this will help to show you have some work experience.
Disadvantage: The combined format makes for a longer resume. It can also be repetitious: You can highlight your accomplishments and skills in both the “functional” section and the “chronological” job descriptions.
If you are trying to avoid showing your age, this format will probably reveal your age to the employer. In the case where you have changed jobs or are considered a “job-hopper”, this will also alert the hiring manager as well.
This is a customized format that specifically highlights the experience and skills you have that are relevant to the job you are applying for. When you are writing a targeted resume, you need to know what audience is going to read your resume (general manager, senior manager, CEO, etc.). The key here is to match up your real skills and experience to the position for which you are applying.
If you choose this format, it’s important to emphasize or even bold some of the specific keywords on the resume that relate to the position. Since many resumes these days go through a screening process by a software application, you want to give yourself as chance by at least meeting the minimum skills qualification to be considered for an interview.
The job market is ultra competitive, and a resume that isn’t written professionally doesn’t stand a chance. For a targeted resume format, you probably want to customize your resume for each position you apply for especially if you are considering applying to several jobs.