There are different resume formats and styles. There are different types of content that should and shouldn’t be included. All of this varies from job to job. The best resume template for one applicant may be the worst resume for another. The perfect resume must be constructed based on the industry, the job, your work history and career objectives.
The purpose of a resume is to accurately convey a clear and thorough story of who you are, where you’ve been and what you have to offer.
This guide will take you step by step through the process of creating your own custom resume.
What resume format should I use?
The first step is choosing the resume format that will communicate the most relevant information effectively.
Why Is Resume Format So Important?
Applicants need a way to quickly and effectively convey what they know, what skills they have, what work history they have and highlight any relevant accomplishments.
The 3 Main Resume Formats Are
- Chronological (Reverse-Chronological) Resume Format
- Functional Resume Format
- Combined Resume Format
Chronological Resume Format
A chronological resume is the most common resume format and is what its name implies. Your work history is listed towards the top and ordered by date. Your jobs are listed in reverse chronological order, so you’ll start with your current (or most recent) job. This is a popular and effective way of giving a clean and clear overview of your work experience.
The chronological resume format is ideal for those with solid (gapless) work history. It is also an excellent option if most of your work history directly relates to the position you are applying for.
If your work history isn’t that long, just include as much as you have. You may need to shorten that if you have changed jobs numerous times. In most cases, it’s best not to have an entire page taken up by work history alone.
The chronological resume format should include:
- Professional Title
- Contact Information
- Resume Summary
- Work Experience (the focus of resume)
Pros and Cons of Reverse Chronological Resume Format
- Shows a clear career progression and highlights relevant experiences
- Familiar format to recruiters, making it easy for them to read
- Suited to applicant tracking software (ATS) that automatically extracts employment history
- Accentuates any employment gaps you might have
- Less creative
- Requires a sufficient level of relevant work experience
The chronological resume format is best for:
- All levels of work experience
- Gapless or near gapless work histories
- Apply for a job closely related to their work experience history
- Professions in a traditional industry like accounting, finance, engineering, etc.
Functional Resume Format
A functional resume focuses on your skills, abilities, achievements, and experience. Work history is deemphasized and is secondary to your achievements & skill sets.
A functional resume is a good choice if you are changing careers, have gaps in your work history, or have limited experience.
The functional resume format should include:
- Professional Title
- Contact Information
- Skills Summary (a focus of resume)
- Additional Skills/Achievements
- Work History/Experience
Pros and Cons of Functional Resume Format
- Hides gaps in employment history
- Hides a lack of relevant work experience for career changers
- Highlights a diverse range of technical and soft skills
- Can make you look ‘inexperienced’ in terms of formal work experience
- Not a familiar style for more traditional recruiters
- Automated systems (E.g. ATS) have a hard time extracting key resume sections
The functional resume format is best for:
- Categorizes skills sets
- Highlights different relevant experience
- Preferable for those with lapses in employment
- Can be great for new graduates with limited employment history
- Can be preferable when making a career change to an unrelated field
- Great for those with high levels of work experience
- Great for those applying to creative or skills-based jobs like designers, computer programmers, etc.
Combination Resume Format
The combination resume combines the best parts of both worlds:
Chronological resume: A complete work history
Functional resume: Details relevant skills, achievements, and qualifications
With the combination resume, you’ll highlight all your skills plus provide a chronological listing of your work history.
The catch is space. You only have so much of it available. To make the most of the space you’ve got, list the most relevant and advanced degrees first. List the most recent and relevant work experience in reverse order. From there, focus on listing relevant skills and achievements that help you stand out.
Because you’re giving equal attention to both skills and work experience, you may need to leave out other sections like the resume summary, volunteer work, interests, etc.
Using a combination resume format won’t change what most recruiters want. Your entire resume should fit on one page. A two-page maximum may be is acceptable for those with an extensive work history.
The combination resume format should include:
- Contact Information
- * Work Experience
- * Skills Summary
- * Additional Skills
- Education (most relevant)
*The layout for this type of resume is flexible, so you can choose the order of the skills and work experience section. But “Additional Skills” should always follow “Skills Summary.”
Pros and Cons of the Combination Resume Format
- A more exciting format compared to reverse chronological
- Flexible to differing levels of experience and skills
- Helps hide employment gaps
- Leaves little room for the educational experience
The combination resume format is best for:
- People making a career change with skills or work experience that apply across industries
- People with some employment gaps
- People with a diverse range of skills and experiences
- People applying to either creative or traditional roles
How should I style my resume?
Choosing the best format is important for properly communicating the most relevant information effectively. But, to make your resume really stand out, capture the viewers’ attention and make a lasting positive impact, we need some style.
There is a wide range of resume styles for your resume. Different styles may include different fonts, coloring, accents, etc. The best style depends on several factors including the resume format type, your personal style, the personality of the institution you are applying to and so on.
Considering the sections below can help you determine the best styles for your resumes.
This isn’t so much a matter of style but a universal necessity. Be honest! Don’t exaggerate, pad or otherwise manipulate your skills or work experience to gain favor. It may well cost you the job, earn you an undesirable reputation and haunt you for some time to come.
Know Your Audience
You should keep your audience at the forefront of your mind when flushing out your resume style. For example, online resume submission (in most cases) should be easy to read and ATS (applicant tracking systems) compatible.
Unless you’re in a design field, you’re probably better off not get too fancy. Keep with standard easily readable fonts and keep style elements to a minimum.
From there, adjust the style to fit in with the culture of the organization you’re applying to.
Use a Traditional or Clean style if you’re in finance or another more traditional field. Stay away from the Creative and Artistic templates.
For those applying to more creative industries and jobs like marketing, advertising and design getting a little creative can really help. Just don’t go overboard. Again, mirror the vibe and culture of the organization you’re applying to.
Whether leaning toward the creative or the traditional, keep it clean & professional. Avoid being cute and gimmicky. Don’t use scented paper, glitter, unusually cut paper or anything that could, even remotely, require an explanation. On the other hand, do NOT use standard, cheap, paper. Invest in your future and show the employer you’re serious about the job.
You don’t have the paper space to write at length and the employer won’t likely take the time to read a lengthy paragraph. Convey what you need to with as few words a possible. Do NOT use passive language. Keep your wording clear and active.
Focus on value
Don’t itemize your skills and experiences as features. Present them as benefits. Don’t simply state that you can do X, Y or Z. List those skills by stating how they will benefit the company.
Don’t simply list the jobs you’ve had. Focus on what you did for the company (employer) and how that was a benefit to them.
How to Select a Font
Choose a font that is easily readable in print or on-screen. Avoid anything cute or distracting like Comic Sans. Your resume is a professional representation of who you are. Make sure it looks professional.
Stick with fonts that are clean, crisp, and scanner-friendly and visually appealing.
Some great choices include Arial, Century Gothic, Gill Sans MT, Helvetica, Lucida Sans, Tahoma, Trebuchet MS, and Verdana.
Keep the font sizes between 10.5 and 12 points. Avoid the temptation to go smaller so you can fit more. If you’re running out of space consider reorganizing the content or rewriting some of it.
Use a quality laser or inkjet printer to print your resume. You want a crisp, clean and clear resume. Most copier paper is at 20 lb. weight. Use paper rated at 24 lb to print your resume. In most cases, it’s best if the paper color is white, off-white, cream, ivory, light gray or another light neutral color.