The 3 Best Resume Formats for 2023

You have a choice of three formats for your resume. Learn which is best for you, and follow our tips and examples to professionally format your resume.

Three resume formats examples: chronological, combination, functional.

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Resume Formats

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

There are three types of resume formats: chronological, combination and functional. The resume format you select can play a huge role in presenting your resume to the hiring manager. Each format helps you emphasize different aspects of your work experience, career progression and relevant skills, depending on your years of experience.

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 each resume format, which one is best for your needs and how to put together a strong resume in each format.

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What Are the Three Resume Formats?

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

Chronological resume formats example with color sections.

Chronological resume format

The chronological resume format, also called the reverse-chronological resume, is the most common 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.

Functional resume format

The functional resume format, also known as the skills-based resume, 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.

Combination resume format

The combination format, also called a hybrid resume, 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.

An Easy Place to Start Your Resume

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. If you’re thinking, “How do I even start to build my resume?” ResumeHelp’s resume builder is the perfect place to get started.

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How Can You Choose the Right Resume Format for Your Needs?

What’s the best resume format for you? To answer this question you need to review:

1. Your years of experience

2. Employment gaps, if any

3. What you want to accomplish with your resume

For example, suppose you recently graduated from university and want to find your first job in accounting or an internship. In that case, the functional resume format is a great way to show the recruiter or hiring manager the skills you possess without focusing on your lack of work experience.

Suppose you have 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 combination resume will showcase the skills you have that are relevant to the job and the six years of accounting experience under your belt.

But let’s say you’ve been an accountant for nine years. 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 have enough years of experience to complete a chronological resume.

If you’re unsure, look through the ResumeHelp resume examples page, where you’ll find examples with each resume format.

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7 Tips for Formatting Your Resume

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

  • 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.
  • Keep the right margins. All sides of your resume should have 1-inch margins. If you need to make extra room for more information, you can take it down to half an inch.
  • Use professional fonts. A resume isn’t the place to get too creative. Stick to professional, readable fonts like Arial, Times New Roman or Helvetica.
  • Stay consistent. Make sure that the spacing between sentences and sections is the same across your resume.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Save in readable format. Unless the job description specifies the format they want, it’s best to save and submit your resume in PDF or Word DOCX format. It’s universally accepted and easy to access.

More Resume Resources

  • How to Write a Resume: Learn from our experts how to craft a professional resume that effectively captures your qualifications.
  • Resume Builder: Let us do the heavy lifting by guiding you through your resume creation and helping you create a resume in minutes.
  • 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.

Resume Formats

Have questions? We’re here to help.

What is the best resume format?

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. If you have less applicable work experience, you should consider a combination resume. If you’re a first-time job seeker or applying for a job emphasizing skills over experience, you should consider a functional resume.

If you’re still unsure, remember that you can always “try-out” multiple resume formats using the ResumeHelp resume builder. Try writing a professional resume in a chronological format, a functional format and a combination format, and see which one you like best. 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 standard resume formats are the chronological resume, the combination resume and the functional resume. They’re not interchangeable, so choosing the correct format for your resume is important.

Each resume format has a purpose. The chronological resume highlights your work history, so it’s ideal for candidates with extensive experience. The functional resume highlights your skills, so it’s best for job seekers with little work experience. The combination resume 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?

ResumeHelp offers over a dozen different resume templates that can be adapted for any format. If you like the way 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.

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

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are 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 ATS, which means chronological resumes typically work more effectively. If you need to submit a functional resume and want it to be ATS-ready, use a polished, readable 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 the resume 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 resume because it’s the easiest to read. However, not everyone has the experience necessary to fill out a chronological resume. That’s why it’s important to consider the other resume formats and how it might benefit you to use them. For example, if you’re a recent college graduate with no experience, your chronological resume will have a lot of white space, whereas your functional resume will look full.

What is the difference between a chronological and functional resume?

There are several major differences between the chronological and functional resume.

One thing that differentiates them is their purpose. The chronological resume is the best format to present extensive work experience 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. The chronological format only features one skills section after the work history, followed by the education section.

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 recommend the functional format to candidates with little to no experience.

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