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Top Resume Styles and Formats: Tips and Examples

Resume styles are a great way to showcase your resume information. What’s the best resume style for your needs? Read our expert advice & tips and find out!

Ho Lin Profile
By Ho Lin 3 minute read

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What Are Resume Styles?

Creating a professional resume is crucial to ensuring your job search goes well. While the content of your resume and cover letter are important, your resume format or style is equally critical. In fact, your resume format determines not only how attractive your resume will look to hiring managers, but it will also help your resume pass through applicant tracking system (ATS) scans. Many companies now use ATS to process the bulk of job applications before recruiters step in, so it’s important that your resume is ATS-friendly.

The three major resume styles in use are:

  • Chronological (also known as the reverse-chronological) resume format
  • Functional resume format
  • Combination (also known as hybrid) resume format

This article will discuss each of these resume formats as well as their strengths and weaknesses and which job seekers are most likely to achieve their desired career progression by using them.

What Are the Three Resume Formats?

These resume formats are considered to be traditional resume styles in many ways because they tend to be quite simple and clean-cut in appearance. Nonetheless, these formats can be used with modern resume layouts and infographic styles if you work in a creative industry that benefits from displays of graphic design skills. These formats primarily determine the placement of individual sections (e.g., skills, work history) on your resume, and which sections receive more detail.

1. Chronological

The reverse-chronological resume style is the most common resume format. This style prioritizes the work history section and presents job titles in reverse chronological order, meaning the current or most recent position job seekers have held is listed first. This format features a resume summary and puts less focus on the skills and education sections than on the work history section, making it best for job seekers with many years of experience. This format is less beneficial for people who have a short or spotty work history.

2. Functional

The functional resume format is also called the skills-based format because it showcases the skills section. This format is especially popular with recent graduates seeking entry-level work and job seekers who either have limited work experience or who are seeking a career change. The main strength of this format is the way in which it draws attention to practical skills and professional certifications, turning focus away from limited work experience. The drawback of this resume style is that it’s not the best format for people who want to highlight a good amount of work experience.

3. Combination

As the name implies, a combination resume format takes the best elements from both reverse-chronological and functional resumes to create a resume that balances the skills section and work history section. These resumes tend to have balanced skills and work experience sections as well as a small education section, giving job seekers the best of both worlds. The downside is that it prevents you from really focusing on a specific area, giving a broad but slightly shallower picture of your skills and experience to a recruiter.

As you can see, each resume format has its own appeal. Which format appeals more than the others can depend on where you are in your career. There is generally no format that is best or worst in a general sense, but you should be aware that the chronological resume is often preferred in traditional fields of employment, e.g., law or medicine, and may make it easier to get a new job in these fields. If you want more resume writing tips, check ResumeHelp’s blog for advice and support.

How To Decide on the Best Resume Style

If you have yet to decide on the best resume format for you, there are a few things you should consider. Choose a format that you feel will be best not only for the job you want to apply for, but also showcases your strengths and unique selling points. There are many resume examples and resume templates you can browse through to get inspiration for your own resume if you are undecided. If you need further help deciding on the best resume style, consider the following factors:

1. How much work experience you have

If you have many years of experience in an industry at varying levels and in many different positions, you should emphasize this. Unless you’re in a very creative industry where resume design elements can act as supporting evidence, a highly traditional resume will suit you well.

2. Your most recent job

The job description attached to your most recent job title isn’t the most important part of your resume, but it may impact how an applicant tracking system ranks your resume (especially if you are undergoing a career change). If your most recent job isn’t the best fit for the one you are trying to land, you should opt for a combination format, which stresses previous jobs with transferable skills rather than just laundry-listing all your previous jobs.

3. How many relevant skills you have

Whether it is robust or only just starting to develop, your professional skill set is one of the most important assets you have in a job search. If your practical skills far outweigh your work experience a functional format that prioritizes the skills section will be better for you.

If you consider these points before you decide on the best resume style for you and start writing, you will have a much better chance of creating your perfect resume and landing that new job you have been looking for.

FAQ: Resume Styles

Have questions? We’re here to help.

Yes, even if you don’t consciously choose a resume style, you will need to decide how to present your information. In doing so you will be choosing a resume format. Of course, it’s far better to actively choose a resume style that suits your skills and work experience than to just wing it. Consider using ResumeHelp’s resume builder if you are unsure where to begin, and our step-by-step guidance will help you create a resume.

Different resume styles and templates will work best for different people. Job seekers should consider the industry they work in and their work history. If you have a good amount of experience in a traditional industry, a chronological format is your best option. If you have an eclectic work history, a combination resume can feature both critical skills and work experiences. If you’re just starting your career, a functional resume may be the best style for you.

Yes, it is a good idea to have your resume and cover letter and complement each other, both in terms of looks and content. Use our cover letter builder in conjunction with our resume builder to create a cover letter that matches your resume, and follow our cover letter advice for creating a letter that expands on the most important skills and experiences you have.

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Ho Lin Profile

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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