Tips for Choosing the Right Resume Format for Your Situation

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While many people think a resume is intended to get you a job, it’s really only designed to get you an interview. If someone hands you a sales brochure for a high-investment product, do you immediately want to buy the product? Probably not. If the sales brochure interests you enough, however, you might visit the store or call the salesperson to learn more about it. It’s the same with your resume; it must highlight your skills and accomplishments in a powerful way, so that you can stand out from your competition in the job market. In this way, you’ll be able to gain the interest of potential employers and recruiters, so that they'll call you to learn more.


To create the best possible resume, you need to use a format that highlights your strengths and competencies. There are three types of resumes that are commonly used, each with a different purpose.

  • Chronological Resumes

    A chronological resume features your employment history in reverse date order, starting with the most recent job and working back to your earliest job. You would use this kind of resume when you have a strong job history and few employment gaps.

    Employers and recruiters prefer this kind of resume because they can quickly see what jobs you’ve had, the tasks you’ve done, and if you've increased your responsibility over several jobs or positions.

  • Functional Resumes

    A functional resume focuses on your skills and qualifications rather than your job history. You might use this kind of resume if you have gaps in your employment.

    A functional resume is also a good option if you’re trying to move into a new industry or career. Featuring your “transferable skills” is an excellent way to show how you might succeed in a different job from one you’ve been doing. For example, as a personal trainer, you might have developed great coaching skills and a good understanding of human physiology – both of which would be transferable to a new career as a physical therapist. As a newly certified physical therapist, you would not have any direct experience in this type of job, but you can highlight the coaching and human physiology skills you've demonstrated as a personal trainer.

  • Combination Resumes

    A combination resume includes elements of both the chronological and functional resume styles. In this format, you would first list your skills and qualifications, followed by your employment history in reverse date order (that is, your most recent job first). If you’re transitioning to a new career, and have a stable work history in your prior career field, a combination resume is an excellent choice.

Many great templates and examples of chronological, functional, and combination resumes can be found on the internet. The Career One-Stop website, for example, provides a detailed analysis of an effective resume as well as links to numerous other samples:


Take a few minutes to think about your own situation. Here are some tips for deciding which resume format might work best for you.

  • Do you have a strong job history with few gaps in your employment? If yes, then a chronological resume is probably a good choice.
  • Do you have a lot of gaps in your job history? If yes, then a functional resume is likely the most suitable option for you.
  • Are you considering a career change, but have steady work history in your prior career field? If yes, then a combination resume will allow you to highlight both your transferable skills AND your job stability.


  • If you can, keep your resume to one page. This will force you to be to-the-point, stressing only the most important information.

  • Format your resume in a way that makes a positive impression on employers and encourages them to continue reading. The Career One-Stop website provides useful pointers here: This page also includes instructions for converting your resume to a "plain text" format from which to copy and paste when applying for jobs electronically on job boards and employer websites.

  • Carefully proofread your resume. Also consider asking a close friend or family member to review it and provide critical feedback. Remember, an employer who notices errors may form an overall negative impression of you and put your resume in the "no" pile.

  • Adapt your resume to the type of work you’re seeking. If you’re pursuing several different types of jobs, have a customized version for each. Also consider tailoring your resume to specific positions. In addition, as many employers conduct computerized searches, it’s in your best interest to include key words and phrases that you know are important to them, such as those included in the job ad.

Good luck!

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