What's the Top Resume Format?

Chronological? Functional? Combination? What do employers consider the top resume format and which one should you use?

In real estate it's all about location. In resume writing it's format, format, format. Why is resume format so important to your job search? The right resume format for your situation will tell the recruiter or employer why you're qualified for the job — all within a quick scan of your resume.

The Top Three Resume Formats

There are three commonly known resume formats: chronological, functional, and combination (a hybrid of the chronological and functional formats). Let's look at these three options.

When to Use the Chronological Resume Format

The chronological resume format presents your professional experience according to your work chronology. Each career achievement statement is placed under the job title and company name where the achievement took place.

Use a chronological resume if you want to:

  • Remain in the same field as your current or most recent job.
  • Make a vertical career move that makes total sense to the hiring manager when he looks at your work history.

When to Use the Functional Resume Format

The functional resume format presents your relevant achievements under Skill Headings in the body of your resume. The work chronology is in a separate section near the end of the resume. That Work History section is very brief, listing only dates, job titles, company names, and location.

By separating the achievements from the work chronology, achievements are emphasized and the work history is de-emphasized. This may sound like a good idea to someone who has a troubled work history. However, for most job seekers, I recommend NOT using the functional format. Here's why: Most employers see the functional resume as a technique for hiding employment problems (which is usually true) and therefore they see it as a red flag.

The only time I recommend using the functional resume is when the other two resume formats (the chronological and combination) absolutely don't work for you.

One solution: If you have work history problems and don't want to use the functional resume format, use my Ready-Made Resume Builder. Ready-Made Resume offers chronological and combination formats that have work history solutions built right into the resume templates. You'll be surprised how good you can look on paper, despite having problems in your work history.

When to Use the Combination Resume Format

The combination resume format is the chronological format with a key feature: achievement statements under each job title are organized according to skill subheadings. These skill subheadings help you highlight your transferable skills, much the way the functional resume format does.

The combination format is ideal for anyone who wants to:

  • Make a career change.
  • Give dynamism to a long work history at one job.

So, what's the top resume format for you? Answer: the one that -- in just a few seconds -- presents you as the candidate with the most impressive qualifications and the least amount of risk to the employer.

Ready-Made Resume Formats

If you don't like creating resume formats from scratch, use my Ready-Made Resume Builder. You'll get a good choice of chronological, functional, and combinations resume templates in an array of designs. It also has ready-made resume phrases that you can copy and paste into the resume templates. Check it out!

8 thoughts on “What's the Top Resume Format?

  1. I am a recent college graduate and has a quick question pertaining to my degree layout. I was wondering is there a specific way to write my bachelors degree under my education section?

    • Congratulations on your new degree, Raqeem!

      Usually a new grad will place the Education section near the beginning to the resume. This helps the employer see that you are fresh out to school, have a relevant degree, and may not have a steady work history (if you were a full-time student).

      Check out these sample resumes for new college graduates to see how others have listed their new college degrees.

      Happy job hunting!

  2. Hi, I am came from Spain. I am looking for a job in Canada and I was wondering what is the correct format to use. Thanks

    • Hello Rafael,
      Try to use either a chronological or combination format. They are the most traditional resume formats and are welcomed by most employers.

      Good luck with your job search!

  3. Hi,
    I am in the IT department and looking to relocate to New Jersey (in Connecticut now) on my resume should I put a NJ address (would be using my FIL address) or does that not really matter? and also what format is best for System Annalist?

    Thanks for your time,

    • Hello Doug,
      It depends on your current work status. If you’re still working in Connecticut, your address should be in that state. If you’re no longer employed, then you could list an address in New Jersey. Either way, you’d want to mention in your cover letter that you are relocating.

      Regarding your resume format. Use either a chronological resume format or a combination resume format.

      Best to you in your big move!

  4. Hi,
    I was recently laid off from a job that I held from 2001-2013 at a big box hardware store. In this time I had various job changes within the company. Such as shipping/receiving, team lead, merchandisers and up to department manager. I am unsure about what format of resume to use so that I may highlight my steady work history and knowledge. My biggest issue is how to make my resume shine and not short or blah. Can u please help with some advice to accomplish that. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you.

    • Hello Jose,
      I suggest you use a chronological resume format. Under the name of your employer list your most recent job title followed by bullet point statements about that job. After that, list your next most recent followed by bullet points. Keep going in that vein for your full work history. Your early job titles may need only one or two statements each. That’s okay.

      This format will show off your career growth nicely.
      Happy job hunting!

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