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Resume Structure & Formatting Guide for 2024

A well-structured resume shows recruiters that you are a professional employee with good communication skills. Follow our expert tips to improve your resume structure.

Ho Lin Profile
By Ho Lin 3 minute read

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All you need to know about resume structure

When you write a resume, structure is key. Think of resume structure as an outline that you follow, incorporating all the information employers want to know, from your skill set to your past job experiences. Let’s show you how to put together a structure that leads to an effective resume.

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Why resume structure matters

So, what does resume structure really do? Why do you need to make sure your work experience and skills are organized a certain way? The truth of the matter is that your resume structure has an impact on how hiring managers read your resume.

The first benefit that a resume structure can have is in highlighting your strengths through design. A hiring manager will typically read your resume from the top of your resume to the bottom. In most resumes, that means the first thing they look at will be your resume summary, followed by your skills or work history.

Resume structure also has to do with the elements of your resume that you highlight. In some cases, you may want to focus on skills and less on previous jobs, while in others, you might include fewer skills and more robust job descriptions. Career changers and recent graduates might benefit from a skills-based resume, while people with a decade of experience in their field might prefer a resume that leans on work history.

The 3 ways to structure your resume

There are three common resume formats that you’ll see when writing your resume. These different formats emphasize different resume elements, and the right resume format will be different for different job seekers.
 
Employers are most familiar with the chronological resume format. This is by far the most common for professional resumes, and is a good choice if you have an employment history that lines up with the job you’re applying to. In this resume format, the experience section is more extensive, which can help in a job search where experience is key.
 
The functional resume format can be used if your previous career path doesn’t align with the company you’re applying to, or your skillset is more impressive than your professional experience. In this section, you’ll typically include different categories of hard skills and soft skills in your skills section, focusing on specific skills that the new job has indicated an interest in. Often, the experience section will be significantly shorter, with just the company name, job title, and dates worked included.
 
The combination resume format, also called the hybrid format, includes elements of both resumes. It will typically include an expanded skills summary with up to a dozen skills, but it may also include bullet points reflecting professional experience in the work history section.
 
There’s no such thing as a single “best resume format.” The perfect resume for you won’t necessarily be the perfect resume for someone else. Your best bet is to take note of the skills and experiences you have, how they match up with the particular job you want, and then use a format that best exhibits your strengths for that job.

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More formatting tips for success

Resume formatting tips can help you turn a decent resume into a great one. Here are a few tips to consider as you write a resume in any format:

  • Choose a great resume font. The best fonts are typically simple and widely used, like Arial and Helvetica.
  • Make sure your margins are between half an inch and an inch wide.
  • Include white space to make sure your resume has some room to breathe – you can do this by using bullet points and short, peppy phrases. A resume without any white space can look cramped.
  • Choose a resume template that looks right for your resume, whether it’s more traditional or modern.

One of the best ways to make sure that your resume looks amazing is to use our Resume Builder. There are dozens of resume templates available with our builder, making it a great way to write your resume that fits whatever style you need.

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FAQ: Resume structure

Have questions? We’re here to help.

When writing your resume, you’ll want to start with five key sections:

  • The header, which includes your contact information and social media links.
  • The resume summary statement, which is a two-to-three sentence overview of your best skills and experiences.
  • A skills section, work history section, and education section.

There are also optional sections that you can include, such as certifications, internships, hobbies, and extracurricular activities.

There is no single best structure for a resume. Any resume that makes a potential employer call you in for a job is using the best structure for your qualifications. The chronological format is definitely the most common format, but it’s not always the best option. Looking at multiple resume examples for your field is a great starting point to ensure that you’re using the best resume structure.

A resume builder can be a big help with job-specific suggestions to fill out your content, as well as professional layouts that can structure your resume more effectively. Creating a resume with a builder can also ensure your resume passes applicant tracking systems (ATS) that employers use to scan resumes for the right structure and content.

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Ho Lin Profile
WRITTEN BY Ho Lin

Ho Lin is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and editor with two decades of experience in content strategy, creation, and development. He holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University and his background includes experience aiding military veterans as they transition to civilian careers.

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