Resume writing tips

3 Resume Types

Choosing a Resume Format that is best for you.

There are 3 resume types or formats, they are;

  1. Chronological Format

  2. Functional Format (this is also sometimes referred to as the creative or skills format) and

  3. Combined Format


Chronological resume format:

What is the chronological format?.

  • This is the first and most common of the 3 resume types or outlines.
  • This format lists your education and experience in REVERSE chronological order - in other words you list the most recent dates and work experience first.
  • This is also often the best way to start writing a resume from scratch because it is easy to do.

Points in favor of using this resume format.

  • This type of resume is easy to read, it is also easy for employers to scan this type of resume outline to get a sense of your career history.
  • This is by far the most accepted format - estimates vary but best indications are that it is preferred by around 80-85% of surveyed corporate Human Resources professionals.
  • This format is also preferred (and often enforced) by most Internet job boards (it may be hard to enter online job application questionnaires non-chronologically).
  • This format is great if you have a steady employment history with no major gaps or changes of career direction.
  • It is great if you have good organization names as ex-employers.
  • It effectively highlights recent experience, so it is good if your best achievements have been recent.
  • Best for international job seeking as it is a universal format.

Points against using this format.

  • It may not be the best way of presenting a career history which is:
    • Messy
    • Inconsistent
    • Has gaps
    • Is very long
    • Not relevant (i.e. when you are looking for a career change)

Functional resume format:

What is the functional format?

  • This is a resume outline or format that presents your skills and experience without putting them in a sequential date order.
  • Instead, you group your skills and experience by types or functions, hence the name.
  • The career history can be either reduced to a list of dates and company names as well as job titles towards the end of the resume, or no detail can be given at all - supposedly since this has all been stated functionally.

Points in favor?

  • Combines skills gained in a number of areas and groups them so they appear stronger.  Includes:
    • Paid employment
    • Volunteer work
    • Student activities
    • Work experience
    • Classroom work
    • Project work
    • Social organization e.g. club or team activities
  • Great for when the required skills are something you have, but a traditional chronological resume doesn't highlight them sufficiently.
  • Good for a poor career history with good skills - as the history is minimized at the bottom of the resume. 
  • Emphasizes what you have done and can do, rather than where or when you did it.
  • This format is good for starters with little or no career history such as recent graduates.
  • It is also good for people who have been out of the job market and are re-entering after a break.
  • It can be good for older workers who wish to de-emphasize the time span of their experience.
  • This is especially suited to applicants looking for a career change - change of field, sector or direction.

Points against?

  • Unfortunately this format is not always well received by employers. 
  • Many employers believe that this resume format/outline is designed to "hide something"!  This is an important point, so you should be careful of using this format.
  • Many internet application systems ask for dated information, so it can be hard or impossible to make online applications in this format.

Combination resume format:

What is the combination format?

  • A resume that begins with a functional summary of:
    • Your most relevant qualifications
    • Your key skills
    • Your key abilities
    • Your relevant experience
  • Then gives a chronological career history which is shorter than it would be in a chronological format resume, but which supports the summary.
  • This resume outline is a great compromise if you'd like to use a functional format, but are wary of employers disliking them.

Points in favor?

  • This format, if done properly is well accepted by employers.
  • It is great for giving a chronological resume but highlighting your particular skills and experience etc for the position.
  • This format is also very useful where your relevant experience was gained some time ago and therefore needs highlighting.
  • This format can result in well-targeted resumes, as you can tailor the functional section to the employer's requirements shown in the job posting.
  • Great where your career history is not straightforward or has gaps. 
  • Very good for justifying a career change.

Points against?

  • Some employers still don't like it - they want to see what you did in each job in detail. If you are considering a career change this format is strongly recommended, it this case your resume may exceed the typical two pages...
  • It can be hard to input on some online applications.