Resume Formats for 2023: Guide, Tips & Templates

Do you know which resume format is best for you? Learn about the three types of resume formats and find out which will help you land your dream job.

Three resume formats examples: chronological, combination, functional.
Chronological
Combination
Functional

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Best resume formats

There are three main resume formats: chronological resume format, combination resume format and functional resume format. The format you select can play a huge role in presenting your resume to the hiring manager.

How do you decide what resume format to use? It’s easy, if you follow the tips on this page!

Our guide will give you an overview of the most common resume formats, which one is best for your needs and how to put together a strong resume using each format.

Table of Contents

  1. What is a resume format?
  2. The 3 main resume format types
  3. Your resume format, made easy
  4. Reverse chronological resume format
  5. Functional resume format
  6. Combination resume format
  7. How to choose a professional resume format
  8. Resume templates for each resume format
  9. 7 resume formatting tips
  10. FAQ: Resume formats

Which is the right resume format for you?

What is a resume format?

Combination Resume formats example.
Chronological Resume formats example.
Functional Resume formats example.

To understand which is the best format to use, you first need to understand what a resume format is. A professional resume format defines how your information will be organized. Each resume format helps you emphasize different aspects of your work experience, career progression and relevant skills, depending on your years of experience.

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The 3 main resume format types

You’ll see three major resume formats regularly referenced when you're researching formats.

Chronological resume formats example with color sections.
1

Chronological resume format

The chronological resume format, also called the reverse-chronological resume format, is the most common resume format people use for their resumes. It typically centers on the work experience section, listing your most recent job first and going back through time to detail your earlier jobs. This is an extremely effective resume format if you’ve shown steady progress in a single field throughout your career.

Functional resume formats example with color sections.
2

Functional resume format

Also known as the skills-based resume, the functional resume format focuses on your skills instead of your work history. In a functional resume, your employment history will be brief with no bullet points and usually located at the bottom of the page, leaving space for the different skills sections this format features.

Combination resume formats color example.
3

Combination resume format

The combination format, also called a hybrid resume format, combines the best parts of the functional and chronological formats. It emphasizes your skills and work history by giving you ample space to provide information on both.

Your resume format, made easy

It can be extremely difficult to start a resume from scratch. A blank screen can be incredibly daunting, especially if you’ve never created a resume before. Luckily, our Resume Builder offers a number of different templates perfect for each resume format and step-by-step guidance to complete your resume in just a few minutes.

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Reverse chronological resume format

Reverse chronological resume format

A reverse-chronological resume format features:

  • A resume summary with two-to-three sentences summarizing your work experience and best skills.

  • A work history section with the most recent job at the top. Each job title should have three to five bullet points with your work accomplishments and major responsibilities.

  • A skills section with a mixture of 5-10 hard and soft skills.

  • An education section featuring your college and post-graduate experience, with the high school listed only if you have no college education.

The chronological resume format is ideal for job seekers with extensive work experience or applying for senior positions. It’s also a great resume format to pass the applicant tracking systems (ATS) that most employers use to filter through resumes.

That being said, despite the chronological resume format’s popularity, it’s not ideal for candidates who lack professional experience, are interested in changing careers or have employment gaps.

Functional resume format

Functional resume format

A functional resume format typically features more sections than chronological and combination resumes.

Your skills based resume format should include:

  • A resume objective below your contact information that indicates your strengths, skills and career goals.

  • Different sections for your key skills, such as the “Summary of Qualifications” and “Professional Skills,” to give the recruiter or hiring manager an idea of what you can do.

  • A reduced work experience section with no bullets per job title.

  • An education section where you can include a brief overview of your educational achievements, including certifications and professional training.

Recent college graduates often use the functional resume format, along with people choosing a new career path, candidates with employment gaps and anyone who generally doesn’t have a lot of employment history beyond entry-level jobs.

A functional resume format focuses largely on your skills rather than your work experience, so it might not be the best resume format for job seekers with extensive work experience to show off. This format can also be difficult for ATS to read, so it’s crucial to include keywords and key phrases from the job description.

Combination resume format

Combination resume format

You want to include the following when writing a hybrid resume format:

  • A summary statement or resume objective, depending on what you want to achieve with your resume.

  • A “Relevant Skills” section with 8-10 specific skills related to the job.

  • A work history section with your jobs in reverse-chronological order and three to five bullet points with your accomplishments. Your most recent job goes to the top.

  • An education section includes your highest education credentials, be it college or high school, and any other experiences that might benefit your job application.

Combination resume format pros


The combination resume format is ideal for mid-level professionals with three to eight years of experience in their field. They aren’t seniors yet but are not entry-level candidates either. It’s also a great resume format for career changers with transferable skills.

Despite its many benefits, the hybrid resume isn’t recommended for candidates with less than two years of work experience or candidates with more than nine years of experience. Like the functional resume format, the combination resume might not be an ATS friendly resume format, so include keywords from the job posting to make sure it passes applicant tracking systems.

Flapjack formats example with rainbow color top border.
Empire resume formats example with header contact info bar.
Blueprint resume formats example with blue color header flourish.

How to choose a professional resume format

What’s the best resume format for you? It’s not too complicated as long as you answer these questions:

What’s your work history?

1. Lots of relevant work history = chronological format. If your work experience is relevant to the job (and you have plenty of it), a chronological resume format will be the best resume format for you.

For example, if you’re seeking a product manager position and can point to 5-10 years in a similar role, that means you should have plenty of work accomplishments you can point to in your resume, which fits in perfectly with the reverse chronological format.

2. Skills are your strong suit = functional resume format. On the other hand, if you’re a first-time job seeker or don’t have much professional experience to fall back on, then you’ll want to use a resume format that emphasizes your relevant skills.

For example, maybe you’re applying for a teaching position but you’ve only just graduated from college. In this case, use a functional format (i.e., a skills-based resume format) that emphasizes the training and key skills you already have, rather than your lack of experience.

3. A good mix of skills and work history = combination resume format. You can also use the hybrid resume if you can show a good mix of skills and work accomplishments. This is also a good format if you’re changing your career field but can show relevant skills and work achievements.

For example, maybe you’re moving from an office administration role to a project manager role, but can show key skills and accomplishments that prove you know how to manage people and run projects; these can be highlighted in a combination resume.

Do you have employment gaps?

If you’ve taken an extended break from work at some point, you should lean towards a functional or combination layout rather than a reverse chronological resume.

Remember, a reverse chronological resume lists your previous jobs in chronological order, which means that any gaps in your work history will be readily apparent.

To avoid this problem, focus on your relevant skills in a functional resume, or significant experiences and skills in a combination resume.

What’s the next job you want?

For example, suppose you recently graduated from university and want to find your first job in accounting or an internship. In this case, the functional resume format is a great way to show the recruiter or hiring manager the skills you possess, without wasting time (and space) on the work experiences you don’t have yet.

Suppose you’ve been working as an accountant for six years and want to apply to a job at another company in the same position. In that case, the hybrid resume format will showcase the skills you have that are relevant to the job and the six years of accounting experience under your belt.

Similarly, if you’re looking for a job in another field, a combination resume can highlight the relevant skills and accomplishments from your current job that relate to the new opportunity.

But let’s say you’ve been an accountant for nine years and you’re ready to move to a senior position, or perhaps you’re already a manager interested in applying for another managerial position. In this case, you can show off your years of experience and related achievements with a reverse chronological resume.

For more pointers on what you can feature in your resume, look through our resume examples page, where you’ll find hundreds of examples for specific jobs, featuring each resume format.

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Resume templates for each resume format

We have dozens of professional resume templates you can use to create a resume that fits any format. From a creative resume template to a simple resume template, we have all the resources you need to take your resume to the next level.

7 resume formatting tips

Choosing the best resume format is the first step to writing a good resume. Having the correct resume layout is also key. Follow these resume formatting tips to make a professional resume that stands out:

1. Use bullet points and concise phrases.


Recruiters and hiring managers usually spend less than a minute reviewing a resume. Make it easier for them to read your information using bullet points and short phrases.

For example, an accounting assistant’s skills section might look like this:

Skills

2. Keep the right margins.


Using the proper margins on your resume format will ensure the information fits within the page. All sides of your resume should have 1-inch margins — it’s the industry standard.

Having 1-inch margins is also helpful for entry-level job seekers who might not have much work experience to include in their resume, as it lowers your chances of having a lot of white space.

On the other hand, if you’re an experienced professional who needs extra space to include relevant skills or work accomplishments, you can reduce your margins to half an inch. Just make sure it’s consistent throughout your resume.

3. Use professional fonts.


A resume isn’t the place to get too creative. Your resume font should be clear and easy to read for the prospective employer. Your font choice also plays a big role in whether your resume will make it through ATS, which might have a harder time reading eccentric fonts.

There are two types of fonts to choose from: serif and sans serif.

A serif font features small lines or strokes that extend from the letters. Popular serif fonts include Times New Roman and Garamond.

A sans serif font, on the other hand, is considered more modern. They don’t have small lines or strokes, making them ideal for a resume that’s minimalistic and clean. Popular sans serif fonts include Arial and Verdana.

Some reliable and professional fonts for your resume format that you can consider are:

  • Arial
  • Times New Roman
  • Helvetica
  • Georgia
  • Calibri
  • Avenir
  • Franklin Gothic

4. Don’t make your font too big or too small.


Readability is crucial — and that includes the font size.

Generally, the body text on your resume should be between 10 and 12 points. Your name on the header can be 16 or 18 points, while the subheadings should stay somewhere between 12 and 14 points.

You should adjust the sizes depending on your space. If you have a lot of white space, feel free to use a 12-point size on the body text. If your resume is packed with important information, however, consider taking it down to 10.

5. Use “normal” headings.


You might be tempted to replace the “Work History” header with “My Professional Background” but you shouldn’t do it. It’s unprofessional and ATS might have difficulty reading your resume sections.

3 things you can do to make your resume format stand out:

  • Bold the heading
  • Underline the heading
  • Increase the size by one or two points so it’s different from the body text

On some occasions, you can also use a different font to differentiate the subheadings from the body text. This isn’t typically recommended but if you work in a creative industry and know how to choose the correct font combinations, you can play around with them to create a dynamic resume.

6. Keep your resume one to two pages long.


Generally, resumes shouldn’t be longer than a page but if you have an extensive work history that requires two pages, it’s OK to submit a two-page resume.

The key to creating a good resume format is ensuring the skills and experience featured are relevant. If you have a lot of work experience related to the job, include it and use bullet points to make your information concise.

7. Save in a readable format.


Unless the job description specifies the format they want, it’s best to save and submit your resume in Word DOCX or PDF format. They’re universally accepted and easy to access.

Our Resume Builder allows you to download your preferred resume format in a number of file types. You can also create as many resumes as you want for different jobs. So if you’re unsure whether you need a chronological, functional or combination resume and feel like creating all three, you can.

More resume resources


At ResumeHelp we offer more than just a thorough explanation of each resume format. Check out the rest of our expert resources to create a strong job application.

  • How to Write a Resume: Learn from our experts how to craft a professional resume that effectively captures your qualifications.
  • Career Blog: From the best resume writing tips to career advice, our blog has dozens of articles for you.
  • Resume References: To include references on a resume or not? Our article answers that question and tells you what to do.
  • How to Write a Cover Letter: A great cover letter can amplify your resume and take your job application to the next level. Here are our tips to write the best cover letter.
  • Cover Letter Builder: Take the pressure out of writing your cover letter by using our Cover Letter Builder. It’s easy and efficient.

FAQ:
Resume formats

Have questions? We’re here to help.

What is the best resume format in 2023?

It’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as a “best” resume format. There’s only the right resume format for your needs.

In general, if you have more applicable work experience, you should go with a chronological resume format. If you have less applicable work experience, you should consider a combination format. If you’re a first-time job seeker or applying for a job emphasizing skills over experience, you should consider a functional layout.

If you’re still unsure, remember that you can always “try-out” multiple formats using the ResumeHelp Resume Builder. Try writing a professional resume in each format and see which one you like. You can also review our resume examples to see the best resume formats in action, along with our templates.

You may find that once you see it on paper, it’s much easier to decide on a specific resume format that effectively presents your information.

What are the 3 resume formats?

The three resume formats are the chronological resume format (also known as the reverse-chronological resume format), the combination resume and the functional resume. They’re not interchangeable, so choosing the correct resume format is important.

Each resume format has a purpose and will impact how hiring managers receive your information.

The reverse chronological resume highlights your career progression in reverse chronological order, so it’s ideal for candidates with extensive experience.

Functional resumes highlight your skills, so it’s best for job seekers with little work experience who want to show hiring managers they have potential.

The combination resume format focuses on both, making it perfect for mid-level professionals with just a few years of experience.

Can I use a resume template for any resume format in 2023?

ResumeHelp offers over a dozen different resume templates that can be adapted for any resume format. If you like how a specific resume template looks, you can customize it to work for your specific resume format. If you’re using the ResumeHelp Resume Builder, you can change your template at the click of a button.

Our resume examples library is a great place to view our templates in action. Our samples are made by experts following the standard resume formats, so you can find inspiration or use it as a base.

How do I make sure that my resume is ATS-friendly?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a type of software that automatically scans incoming resumes to look for the presence of certain keywords that fit the job being applied for. If your resume doesn’t have those keywords, the applicant tracking systems could reject it outright without ever sending it to recruiters.

This is why it’s important to consider getting your resume ATS-ready when writing it. On average, employment history is important when you’re being scanned by applicant tracking systems, which means the reverse chronological resume format typically works more effectively.

If you need to submit a functional format and want it to be ready for an applicant tracking system, use a polished, readable resume layout based on our templates and focus on your resume summary or objective along with your skills, making sure you address keywords in the job posting.

With ResumeHelp, you can make it easy to hit all the keywords using our builder.

Our step-by-step approach and job-specific suggestions will ensure you make a proper resume format that gets you in a great position for your career change. Utilize our resume formatting tips and advice to get the most out of your resume, no matter who’s looking at it.

Which format do most employers prefer for resumes?

Most employers and recruiters prefer the chronological format because it’s the easiest to read. However, not everyone has the experience necessary to fill this resume format. That’s why it’s important to consider the other formats and how it might benefit you to use them.

For example, if you’re a recent college graduate with no experience, your reverse chronological format will have a lot of white space, whereas your functional format will look full.

What is the difference between a reverse chronological and functional resume?

There are several major differences between the three main resume formats but especially the chronological and functional resume.

One thing that differentiates them is their purpose. The chronological layout is the best resume format to present extensive work experience and career progression, while the functional resume is the best format to showcase a wide range of skills and abilities.

The heart of the chronological resume is the work history section. It’s almost at the top of your resume, right below the resume summary and takes a good chunk of space. It organizes your professional history in reverse chronological order, so your most recent job is at the top.

The chronological format also only features one skills section after the work history, followed by the education section. Its strong emphasis on career progression makes it the best resume format for people with extensive careers.

On the other hand, the functional resume has multiple skills sections and reduced work history. This format doesn’t place that much importance on your previous work experience because it places it on your abilities. That’s why we always say it’s the best resume format for candidates with little to no experience.

Does resume format matter?

Yes! A good resume format will determine how your resume looks and reads. Each of the main resume formats serves a different purpose and is targeted at different job seekers, so you need to review each carefully to make sure the format you choose is a good fit for you.

For example, choosing a chronological layout when you have little to no experience might do more harm than good. A reverse chronological resume is ideal for candidates who have a long professional history, so recent graduates may have a hard time making their resume look full.

Resume formatting is also a big part of ensuring your resume looks professional. The best resume formats follow standard formatting guidelines, such as using appropriate fonts, clear resume section headings and the right margins across the document.

For more ways to have the best format for a job, check our resume formatting advice further up on this page. You can also choose one of our resume templates and remove all formatting guesswork.

What’s the best file format for a resume?

You should save and send your resume in a PDF format, even if you created your resume as a Word document. PDFs are the safest file format and the most commonly accepted by prospective employers. Saving your resume as a PDF ensures it will look good digitally and printed.

If the job description specifically requests a different file format, go with what the employer is asking for and follow their guidelines to format a resume the way they want to receive it.

How do you structure a resume?

The structure of your resume will be determined by the resume format you choose. However, generally speaking, most resumes will have the following structure:

  1. Name and contact information
  2. Resume summary or resume objective
  3. Skills
  4. Work experience
  5. Education

You may include additional sections to your resume such as certifications, relevant training, extracurricular activities, volunteer work or awards. The key is to ensure that the information you feature on your resume is relevant to the job and company.

How do I make my resume look professional?

There are different factors that contribute to your resume design looking professional.
First off, the layout itself needs to be clean and sophisticated. The easiest way to ensure your resume fits the bill is by using a professional resume template. As tempting as it is to use overly colorful designs, it’s not the right way to attract a hiring manager’s attention.

The second aspect you should consider is resume formatting. Are you using a professional resume font? Are the margins consistent throughout the document? Did you write the correct subheadings? These small details come together to make a professional resume that not only reads well but looks great.

At ResumeHelp, we have dozens of resume templates you can use that are pre-formatted to fit industry standards, so you don’t have to worry about spacing or margins and can focus on your information.

What’s the best resume format for job seekers with little to no experience?

Candidates who are making a college resume or a resume with no experience should use the skills-based resume format.

The functional resume features different sections that focus on highlighting skills summary information as opposed to work history. So, your resume will have a skills summary, “Summary of Qualifications” and a “Professionals Skills” section, while the work experience section is moved to the bottom and only details the company’s name, the dates of employment and your job title.

Job seekers with little to no experience should also think outside the box when it comes to their past experience. Internships, volunteer work and extracurricular activities count as experience if it’s relevant to the job you want.

For example, if you’re an aspiring graphic designer who finished an internship at an advertising agency, you can include that experience. Likewise, if you’re an aspiring journalist who wrote articles for your school’s newspaper, you can include that too.

Lastly, candidates with no experience should write a resume objective.

In two-to-three sentences, include your top skills relevant to the job and state your desire to get hired. A resume objective is meant to establish your career goals.

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