When it comes to resumes, many people get so focused on the details they’ll include in their presentation that they often neglect one of the most important decisions they need to make: the format. While there are no hard and fast rules where resume format is concerned, it is still wise to select from one of the resume format options that have the best track record for success.
There are currently three format options that are popular in the resume-writing industry, and with good reason.
Each of these format types has proved popular with recruiters. They are considered to be easier for software and human recruiters to review, and present information in a way that recruiters prefer to see. In short, they meet the target audience’s demands.
Which resume format is right for you depends on your work history, experience level and the position you are targeting. To better understand which option might be best for you, let’s take a look at each of them separately.
After reading this through you will know exactly which type of resume format is right for you.
The reverse chronological format is currently considered to be the most popular format for resumes and is one of the best resume formats in use today. It provides a well-structured format that enables applicants to highlight both their job history and work experience, beginning with the most recent job held. Basically, it is a tour through the applicant’s employment history that starts in the present and works backwards into the past.
Employers often prefer this format due to its simplicity. It provides them with an easy way to review job history, quickly identify potential gaps in employment, and locate specific achievements and responsibilities that could make the candidate a desirable prospect.
This format is ideal for candidates with a strong work history. To properly execute it, you should include some specific sections that identify your professional accomplishment, educational achievements, and other relevant skills that might apply to the job you’re seeking. The main objective, though, is to define yourself in terms of your actual career progression.
You can see our guide to writing an awesome chronological resume here.
Are you on a steady career path that demonstrates vertical progression and continual career advancement? Do you have a steady record of continuous employment without any significant gaps between jobs? Are you currently applying for a position that is in the same field that you’ve been working in, or one that is similar enough to make your previous experience relevant?
If so, then the reverse chronological format could be ideal for your resume!
The functional format takes a different approach. Rather than focusing on your employment history, the functional resume format emphasizes your actual marketable skills. Its entire objective is to showcase the abilities that you have that would make you a great candidate for the job you’re seeking. It de-emphasizes work experience, choosing actual skills over prior jobs.
Where the reverse chronological format begins with a recitation of your various jobs, the functional resume instead begins with the skills you bring to the table. It places those skills front and center, listing them right at the beginning of the resume – along with specific relevant achievements that further demonstrate your suitability for the job.
Of course, your prior employment does get a mention, but only in an abbreviated form that includes the names of the companies you worked for, your position at those firms, where they were located, and the dates of your employment. After that section, you include another brief section listing your educational accomplishments, in reverse chronological order.
As you can probably tell from the structure described above, the functional resume is designed to shine a white-hot spotlight on your qualifications for the job in stark terms that emphasize your actual, demonstrable skills.
It gives only scant lip service to how you developed those skills or where you’ve used them in the past. It instead places those skills front and center, enabling the recruiter to quickly assess your ability to do the job.
You can see our guide to writing an awesome functional resume here.
Are you looking for an effective employment gaps resume format that can successfully downplay any lengthy periods of non-employment? Are you returning from illness or injury and are trying to reenter the workforce? Have you perhaps been restless throughout your career, and found yourself frequently changing jobs? If so, then the functional resume format could be ideal.
Of course, there are other times when this format might be perfect as well. For example, you could just be looking for a change in career, and a way to transition to a new line of work. Or maybe you have concerns that you aren’t exactly what most recruiters might be looking for when they’re trying to fill certain positions.
In either of those cases, the functional format can provide a way to demonstrate that you have the right skills, even if you lack other qualities or experience that the employer thinks he needs.
The hybrid format is a combination format that combines elements of both the reverse chronological and functional formats. It can be an effective way to showcase both the skills that you possess and your successful history of applying those talents in the marketplace.
With the hybrid format, you can often begin with a profile or summary of your qualifications. This introductory section typically includes all you most relevant skills and abilities, as well as the achievements that demonstrate your ability to do the job. This focus on skills is obviously the functional component of this format style.
There is also a reverse chronological aspect, as the introduction is followed by details about your experience and education, as well as any additional information that you include. This fusion of the two main formats provides a clearer picture of everything that makes you qualified to fill any given position that you seek.
Have you spent a great deal of time developing relevant skills that you want to highlight? Do you consider yourself an expert at the things you do? Are you in the process of trying to change your career path to a new industry? If so, then this more complete and well-rounded format might be just the thing you need to properly position your candidacy for the job.
As helpful as it might be to better understand the various format types, that information is of little use if you don’t know when to use each type. Here’s a closer look at how to determine which resume format will work best for your needs.
To determine the type of format that you need to use for your resume, you should evaluate your current goals and the type of information that you need to present to your potential employer. With that analysis in hand, your choice should be obvious.
When to Use a reverse chronological format: If you’ve spent years climbing through the employment ranks and are seeking a new job that continues that vertical advancement in your career, then the reverse chronological format is almost certainly your best option. This format can emphasize your employment consistency, and demonstrate your competence in the field.
It is important to recognize, though, that this is not the best format to use when you’re looking to switch careers to an entirely new industry. It is also an inferior choice for anyone who tends to hop from job to job, or who has noticeable employment gaps.
When to Use a functional format: The functional format delivers information about your skills like no other format can. Its de-emphasis of job history and educational achievements keeps that skill focus right on target. As a result, it can effectively hide sketchy employment history.
It’s not, however, a format well-suited for anyone who wants to demonstrate career advancement. You also don’t want to rely on it too heavily if you don’t have the right kind of skills for the job you’re seeking, since it declares that lack of qualifications right away. Finally, it doesn’t really provide the best format for people with absolutely no experience.
The hybrid format can be ideal if you have great skills to highlight and a fairly solid work history. That makes it a powerful tool for anyone who wants to get into an entirely different industry – and can demonstrate your complete mastery of your skills while demonstrating that your expertise extends beyond the theoretical.
The hybrid format is not an effective way for people with no work experience to break into an industry. It’s also a less-than-effective way to showcase educational achievements and experience – which can be especially troublesome if that’s your main qualification for the job. Finally, it’s useless if you lack the needed skills.
There is near-universal agreement among the experts when it comes to which resume format is best suited for those who want to switch their careers. The hybrid format is ideal for that purpose – and for several obvious reasons:
In short, if you find that your career path needs a change, but are uncertain about which resume type will best enable you to get another company to notice you, the hybrid format definitely deserves consideration. Here are some more tips that can come in handy when switching careers.
Of course, there’s another type of format that deserves a mention as well, since it is one that can benefit millions of recent college graduates and others with no experience.
Since none of the three most popular formats really provide a proper vehicle for these new entrants into the employment market, it is important to take a look at some formats that might be of value for those new would-be workers too.
There are two competing schools of thought when it comes to the college grad resume format. Some experts believe that those entry-level applicants can be best served by adopting a resume format that focuses on skills and specific training right off the bat, with additional information about education. Prior employment and experience would be listed last.
If that sounds like the functional format, then you’ve been paying attention. The problem is, though, that the functional format is really designed for people who have proven skills – and for most college grads and entry-level employees, that simply isn’t the case.
We believe that the other option chosen by experts is preferable: a conventional resume that includes a summary statement at the top, with educational experience and course information listed next. Work experience can bring up the rear. Most of the hard lifting for that resume type would be done in the summary.
You can see our post for more information and examples to help you write a resume with little or no work experience.
One thing is for certain: the type of resume format you use can be every bit as important as the quality of the writing used in the resume itself.
After all, no matter how well written your resume might be, it’s all for naught if the recruiter isn’t immediately drawn in by the way that information is presented. So, choose your format wisely to ensure that you maximize your opportunity to achieve your objectives! Also, don’t forget these other common resume styling mistakes people often make on their resume.
As always, good luck with your job search. ZipJob offers resume writing services which are guaranteed to land you more interviews.
You can even get a Free Resume Review!