How you format your resume matters.
When reviewing your resume, the first thing hiring managers notice is how your resume looks, not what it contains.
And if the first thing they see is a messy, cluttered, crowded resume, chances are you won’t make a great first impression.
So, this begs the question: what are the best resume formats, and which one should YOU use?
That’s exactly what we’re here to explain! In this article, we’re going to cover:
- Resume Formatting Guidelines
- 5+ Resume Templates (You Can Steal)
- 3 Main Resume Formats (With Examples)
- Resume Format Pros and Cons
- How to Choose a Resume Format
- 7 Other Resume Resources
Let’s dive right in!
Resume Formatting Guidelines
If you’re formatting your resume from scratch, you’ll first want to pay attention to the layout.
That involves setting the margins, picking the font size, and determining your resume’s length.
To create a professional-looking resume, follow these general formatting guidelines:
- Don’t make your resume longer than one page. Unless you have 5+ years of relevant work experience, there’s no reason for your resume to be two or three pages long.
- Pick an 11 or 12-pt font size and stick with it throughout your resume.
- Pick an attention-grabbing (but professional) font. We recommend Ubuntu, Roboto, or Overpass.
- Use standard and legible resume sections. For example, your work experience should be called just that “Work Experience” and not “work history” or something else.
- Leverage bullet points to list information such as work achievements and responsibilities, academic details, etc. They help make the resume much more reader-friendly.
- Be consistent with resume formatting (e.g. use the same date format everywhere, instead of using 11.2018 in one place and November 2018 in another).
- Have good line spacing. You don’t want the information on your resume to look all cramped up.
- Always save your resume as a PDF file. It’s the safest choice, as it guarantees your resume layout will stay intact no matter what device opens it. Only save your resume as MS Word if the job you’re applying for specifically requires you to and never, ever, submit a JPEG or PNG of your resume.
New to resume-making? Give our resumes 101 video a watch before diving into the article!
6 Free Resume Templates (You Can Start Usign Now!)
Formatting a resume from start to finish can be a time and energy-consuming process.
If you’re building your resume with Word, for example, you’ll have to spend at least an hour tweaking the margins, making the headers and body text uniform, picking a font, and so on. You’ll spend an hour or two before you can even start filling in the resume contents!
And if all of that wasn’t enough, one misplaced sentence here or a wrong click there, and your resume layout starts spilling over to page 2!
Want to skip all the hassle of resume formatting? Check out some of our free, tried-and-tested resume templates, pick out your favorite, and fill it in as you go:
#1. Basic Resume Template
Good for conservative, traditional industries.
If you want to focus on your resume’s contents rather than its design, then the Basic template is for you. With a concise and well-organized layout, this resume format highlights everything the hiring manager wants to see.
#2. College Resume Template
Good for university students, recent graduates, and entry-level professionals.
If you’re applying for internships or entry-level jobs, you’ll want to show off your skills, academic achievements, and whatever work experience you have. Well, that’s exactly what this template does!
Not to mention, its contemporary style is perfect for younger candidates who want their resume to be as visually appealing as it is professional.
#3. Executive Resume Template
Good for senior executives who may be applying in creative or green industries. While very professionally formatted, it also shows off a tinge of personality with its blue color scheme.
#4. Modern Resume Template
Good for professionals in the business world or IT industries.
Square brackets, bullet lists, infographics, and icons work together in this template to attract the hiring manager’s attention and get them to go over your work experience and achievements in depth.
#5. Creative Resume Template
Good for anyone applying to creative industries such as marketing, design, publishing, and entry-level professionals.
If you’re looking to stand out visually as much as through your skills and achievements, this is the template for you. Creative is designed to be a stylish resume that makes a stunning first impression while remaining professional.
#6. Simple Resume Template
Good for senior professionals with a lot of work experience who are in conservative industries such as law or banking.
The well-organized and professional formatting in this resume template is visually modest, allowing your achievements to do the talking.
What Are the 3 Main Resume Formats?
Now that we covered all the basics, let’s talk about resume formats in detail.
The first thing you want to know is that there are three main resume formats out there, namely:
- The reverse-chronological resume format. This is the most common and practical resume format in 2023.
- The functional resume format is also known as the skills-based resume format.
- The combination resume format, or hybrid resume format, is a combination of the other two formats.
At this point, you’re probably asking yourself how these 3 formats are different from each other.
Well, the main difference is that they focus on different parts of an applicant’s experience by listing sections in different orders.
Here is what we mean by that:
So, in a nutshell:
- The reverse-chronological resume format focuses on your work experience, listing them from most to least recent.
- The functional resume format focuses on your skills that are relevant to the job.
- The combination resume format focuses on your experience and skills by aiming to prove that you possess the skills you list through your work achievements.
What’s the Best Resume Format For Me?
So far so good - you now know all about the three main resume formats and how they’re different from each other.
Now, you probably want to know what the optimal format is for YOUR resume.
Well, mainly, that depends on what point you’re at in your career. Meaning:
- If you’re a seasoned professional or if you’re looking to get hired in an industry where you have tons of experience, you should pick the reverse-chronological format.
- If you’re applying in a creative industry or for a position that prioritizes your skillset instead of your work history, then you can go for the functional resume format.
- If you’re looking to get hired in a position that requires both experienced and skilled applicants, then the combination format is your best bet.
And now, let’s go over each resume format to see how you can use them to your advantage, based on some real-life examples:
#1. Reverse Chronological Resume Format
As we mentioned before, the reverse-chronological resume format is the most popular format in 2023.
It usually looks like this:
The main thing about this resume format is that it’s useful for practically every job-seeker.
The reverse-chronological format has a very simple structure, it’s easy to skim, and overall, it’s the most popular format around the globe.
For this reason alone, we typically recommend using this format to most people - even if using one of the other formats also makes sense.
Here’s what you’d include in a reverse-chronological resume:
- Contact Information - Your name, phone number, location, and email address. In some cases, you can include useful links such as a LinkedIn or GitHub profile.
- Resume Summary or Objective - A brief 2-4 sentence summary of your work experience, or your objective for applying for a given position.
- Professional Title - Your title. This should mirror the exact position you’re applying for.
- Work Experience - Your work experience in reverse-chronological order. When possible, talk about achievements over responsibilities.
- Skills Section - Skills relevant to the position you’re applying for.
- Education - Your educational history. Pro tip - if you have a B.A., feel free to skip your high school education.
- Optional Sections - Sections like volunteering, projects, portfolio, hobbies, etc. While they’re not a game-changer, they can help fill up some space on your resume.
As we already mentioned, this resume format primarily focuses on the one part that’s relevant to most hiring managers - your work history.
As such, the key to making the most out of this resume format is nailing the work experience section. To do that, here’s how you should structure it:
- Start with your most recent job and go backward from there.
- Tailor the section to the job description. This means that you shouldn’t list every job you ever worked - only the ones that are relevant for this one.
- For each job that you list, include your job title, the name of the company, the location, and the time period you worked there.
- Below, add four to five bullet points for recent jobs and two to three bullet points for earlier jobs.
- Focus on your achievements instead of your responsibilities. Hiring managers already know the basic responsibilities of the jobs they’re hiring for. So, rather than your responsibilities, they want to learn about your achievements.
- Whenever possible, quantify your achievements. Facts and numbers are more convincing than words.
- Use action verbs and power words. (E.g. “created” instead of “was responsible for creating”).
Reverse-Chronological Format Example
As we already mentioned, the best thing about the reverse-chronological format is that it’s a great choice whether you’re an entry-level worker or a seasoned professional.
Any relevant experience you’ve got, the chronological experience will highlight effectively.
For example, here’s a digital marketer’s resume work experience section created using the reverse-chronological format:
Digital Marketing Manager
Wonderfull Agency Inc.
06/2017 - Present
- Created a new format for reporting and presenting the sales, customer engagement and Google Ads reports that decreased the number of meetings by 24% in the last three quarters.
- Updated and monitored the Bid Strategy in Google Ads and Bing Ads which resulted in a CTR increase of 3.2% in the first month.
- Redesigned the webpage UX, decreasing customer turnover by 25% within a period of two months.
- Conducted keyword research for updating the product pages on the online shop, increasing the organic keywords in the Top 100 by 5.600 and in the Top 10 by 315 for high-volume searches.
Digital Marketing Specialist
02/2015 - 05/2017
- Collaborated with a copywriter and designer to update landing pages based on search intent, increasing conversion rates by 20% on average for select clients.
- Worked directly with company clients, handling their Google Ads accounts.
- Managed a total of $40,000 in ad spend per month.
- Achieved an average of 200% ROAS overall ad accounts.
Reverse Chronological Resume Format Pros & Cons
Still not sure if the reverse-chronological resume format is the right choice for you? See our pros and cons below!
- Recruiters and HR managers prefer this format.
- It will definitely “beat” Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software.
- Provides a reader-friendly chronological history of your work experience.
- The most popular resume format in 2023.
- You need to make your work achievements stand out to catch the recruiter’s attention.
- Hard to fill in for a recent graduate with no work experience.
- Makes career gaps very obvious. If you’re a career changer, you need to explain those employment gaps on your resume.
#2. Functional Resume Format
As we already mentioned, the functional resume format is also known as the skills-based resume format. Here’s an example of what it looks like:
As the name suggests, the functional resume format focuses on your skills and your key strengths.
In a nutshell, this resume format takes the spotlight away from your work experience by highlighting what you’re good at instead.
As such, this resume format is perfect for recent graduates or career changers who have little-to-no experience in a particular field.
Here’s what to include in a functional resume:
- Contact Information
- Resume Summary or Objective
- Professional Title
- Skills Summary
- Additional Skills
- Work Experience
As you can see, the main difference from the reverse-chronological format is that the focus of the functional resume is the skills summary and the resume objective that’s placed right at the top of the resume.
Here is exactly how you should write them to impress the hiring manager:
- Use your resume objective to state your career intent and explain what makes you the ideal candidate for the job.
- Start off your resume objective by mentioning a skill, education, or certification relevant to the job, mention the responsibilities you could handle, and include your motivation for working that particular job.
- In the skills summary, include four or five skills that are most relevant to the position.
- Instead of just listing your skills, be descriptive. In bullet points or in plain paragraphs, give examples of how you applied these skills in practice and try to make them as quantifiable as possible.
Functional Format Example
Let’s assume that you’re an entry-level journalist.
Since you graduated, you’ve worked as a part-time intern at a magazine and published a dozen articles online and in print. You also run a blog that has a modest but loyal readership.
Now, you want to apply for an actual journalism position at a recently founded newspaper. So, you’re using the functional resume format.
Here’s why it’s the right choice:
- It highlights your skills. In this case, you don’t have the experience to apply for the job, but you may have all the right skills.
- It allows you to prove your skills. There’s ample space to show exactly how you can put your skills to use for the upcoming job.
Now let’s see what your resume objective and skills summary (or areas of strength) would look like in this case:
Driven and hardworking journalism graduate looking to get hired as a reporter in The Daily Prophet. I interned at Who Magazine for six months, where I gained hands-on experience in research, fact-checking, and interviewing. Passionate blogger at Fake Blog Website, which is currently followed by over two thousand readers.
Research & Fact checking
- Able to systematically look for information, resources, data, etc. through a variety of sources, such as books, online directories, or social media.
- Careful to always ensure that every claim and data that gets published is accurate and legitimate.
- Full knowledge of journalism ethics and standards that are required to conduct successful and dignified interviews.
- Skilled at connecting with interviewees on a deeper level to ensure comprehensive and detailed interviews.
- Excel at several types of journalistic writing, including news, feature writing, columns, and reviews.
- Have published over 15 articles in different newspapers and magazines since graduating.
Considering that the functional resume focuses solely on a candidate’s skills, the only groups of candidates who should consider using it are:
- Freelancers with impressive portfolios
- Professionals in creative industries
- Career changers
- Recent graduates, and entry-level professionals
- Military veterans passing into civilian roles
So, to sum it all up:
Functional Resume Format Pros & Cons
- Good for highlighting specific skills.
- Useful if you’re switching careers since you can explain how your skills transfer to the new job.
- Useful if you’re a recent graduate with practical skills but not much work experience.
- The functional resume format is not very popular in 2023, and most recruiters and hiring managers aren’t familiar with it, so using this format carries a bit of a risk.
- Since the functional resume has less focus on work experience, recruiters might think you’re trying to hide something.
- Applicant tracking systems (ATS) have difficulties reading functional resumes.
#3. Combination Resume Format
The combination resume format, also known as the “hybrid,” is a mixture of the functional and the reverse-chronological format.
This resume format gives equal attention to an applicant’s skills section and work experience. As such, you end up including both the Skill Summary and the Work Experience sections:
- Contact Information
- Skill Summary
- Additional Skills
- Work Experience
The focal point here is the skills summary. Placed right after the contact information section, this is where you list the skills that are required for the job and then prove that you have them through your professional experience and achievements.
Here is exactly how you should write it:
- List the skills that are required for the position you’re applying for and that you actually possess.
- Add up to 4 professional achievements underneath each skill to prove that you possess it.
- Make your achievements as descriptive and quantifiable as possible.
Combination Format Example
Say you’re a senior program manager with over a decade of experience in your field.
You can plan, execute, evaluate programs and projects across diverse industries, and inspire your team to do great work.
Recently, someone told you about an opening for a program director in an international company. To apply, you’re putting together a hybrid resume format.
Here’s what makes it the best choice:
- Saves space. For highly competitive positions, you want your resume to be able to cut through the noise. The hybrid format allows you to do that by bringing into focus your most relevant achievements right from the start.
- Combines the best parts of the other two resume formats, which is perfect for senior professionals or executives that have plenty to show for both experience and skills.
For example, some of the skills required for the program director gig mentioned above may include interpersonal skills, budget management, and project management.
Here’s what the skills summary in your hybrid resume would look like in practice:
- Initiated formal and informal coaching and mentorship to 50+ team members regarding project charter development, resource planning, best practices of project management, and appropriate delivery of project outcomes.
- Coordinated all project inputs with several functional/technical directors, managers, and project core teams, to formulate appropriate project tools and methodologies.
- Oversaw the implementation of the enterprise’s multi-year, multi-million dollar research system software that benefited employees company-wide.
- Analysis of financial and statistical data reduced operational costs by 12%.
- Strategically supervised the project execution teams to ensure the timely and cost-effective completion of projects, saving the company $250K in project costs.
- Provided strategic direction, leadership, and project governance for a multimillion-dollar application project portfolio, which successfully supported a population of 60K+ end-users across the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
- Streamlined project management methodologies and communication in the IT division, which increased efficiency by 90%.
- Accurately report on project status throughout its life cycle to 20+ project teams, stakeholders, and sponsors, encompassing budget estimation, scheduling, and resource planning.
Combination Resume Format Pros and Cons
- Allows you to show off more of your experience and skills using less space.
- Useful for very senior professionals or executives who need to highlight more than just their work experience.
- Good for applicants who may have a noticeable employment gap but plenty of work experience nonetheless.
- As with the functional resume format, applicant tracking systems have difficulties reading combination resumes.
- If you’re a recent graduate or don’t have much work experience, this resume format is not very useful.
- As is the case with the functional resume, most hiring managers aren’t very familiar with this format, which might cause some confusion in the process.
The Verdict: What Is the Best Resume Format?
Now that we’ve covered all 3 of the common resume formats, you’re probably wondering which one's best resume format out there.
Here’s our verdict:
In 90%+ of the cases, we’d recommend going with a reverse-chronological resume format.
In 2023, it’s the most common and useful format:
- Applicant tracking systems can read it without any problems.
- All recruiters and hiring managers are familiar with this format.
- Whether you’re a recent graduate or a senior professional, it’s the easiest format to work with.
So, even if you’re a career changer, a highly-qualified professional, or a college student, it’s risky to choose one of the other two formats over the reverse-chronological one.
There’s a good chance that the applicant tracking system won’t be able to read your resume and automatically discard it - after all the time you put into creating the resume!
At the same time, recruiters might just not be familiar with these resume formats, or think that you’re just trying to hide the fact that you’re not experienced, and disqualify you based on that.
So, the rule of thumb - when in doubt, go for the reverse-chronological resume.
Looking for CV writing tips instead? Here's our full guide on how to write a CV!
How to Beat the ATS Software
Did you know that 75% of resumes don’t even make it to the hiring manager?
Instead, they get scanned by ATS software, which evaluates your resume and decides whether it’s relevant enough for the hiring manager to give it a look.
At first, ATS software was used by larger companies that receive thousands of applications daily as a way to filter out irrelevant applicants. Today, though, studies show that most companies use ATS to evaluate applicants.
As worrying as this thought may be, you’ll be glad to know there is a way to beat ATS and get your resume on top of the hiring manager’s desk:
Creating an ATS-friendly resume!
Here is a handy list of our top tips for making a resume that beats applicant tracking systems:
- Place your contact information at the top of your resume.
- Sprinkle specific keywords from the job description throughout your resume.
- Avoid using graphics or charts as part of your resume.
- Save your resume in PDF format.
7 Other Resume Resources
Picking the right resume format is just the first step in creating a convincing resume.
Want to learn how to make a resume that lands you the job?
Check out some of our best career resources!
- Job Search Masterclass - This one’s our flagship e-book. It covers literally everything you need to know about job-search: how to make a resume, how to write a cover letter, how to apply for jobs effectively, what are the most common job interview questions, and a LOT more. The book is jam-packed with value, and illustrated, making it an extremely easy read.
- How to Make a Resume - Our comprehensive guide on how to make a resume from A to Z.
- Interview Questions And Answers - Have a hard time with job interviews? This guide features ALL the most common job interview questions that you might encounter.
- How to Write a Cover Letter - Our ultimate guide on writing a cover letter (free templates included!)
- 50+ Resume Examples - Need some inspiration with your resume? Check out our resume examples for 50+ different positions and fields.
- 43+ Resume Tips - A complete list of all our resume tips, ordered by importance.
- 26+ Interview Mistakes - Whatever you do, avoid making these common interview mistakes.
And of course, for more industry-leading job-search advice, make sure to follow our career blog!
FAQ on Resume Formats
Do you still have some questions about resume formatting? We’ll get them answered here!
1. What’s the best resume format in 2023?
For the majority of job-seekers, the best resume format in 2023 is the reverse-chronological resume format. This resume format involves listing your resume information (e.g. your work experience and your education) starting with the most recent one and going backward through relevant jobs, degrees, or qualifications.
Here’s why the reverse chronological resume format is the best choice:
- It’s easy to read and skim through
- Hiring managers are familiar with it because it’s the most commonly used one
- It’s ATS-friendly, which means Applicant Tracking Systems can scan it with ease
- It brings your career progression and professional achievements into the spotlight
2. What is the correct format for a college student resume?
The best resume format for a college student resume is the reverse-chronological format.
While it is true that a functional resume can help you emphasize your skills more than work experience, it comes with two serious problems:
- Recruiters aren’t familiar with it, and they might think you’re trying to hide the fact that you don’t have work experience.
- Applicant tracking systems have trouble reading this resume format.
So, unless you have absolutely no experience to show for it (meaning, not even unpaid internships, or even college projects with relevant responsibilities for the job you’re applying for), then you should still choose the reverse-chronological resume format over the skills-based one.
If you’re worried about your lack of work experience, don’t. For most entry-level positions and internships, you’re not required to have work experience.
3. What is the best resume format for a job seeker with experience?
The best resume format for a job-seeker with plenty of experience in the industry they’re applying for is the reverse-chronological format.
Here’s what makes the reverse-chronological format the best choice:
- It puts emphasis on your strengths as an applicant, namely your professional experience.
- It shows recruiters exactly what they’re looking for (your achievements and qualifications) from the get-go.
4. Is resume format important?
Yes, the resume format you choose is important. Basically, the resume format involves the type of information listed on the resume and the way this information is organized and presented.
When they’re evaluating your resume, hiring managers expect to see information that will help them assess whether you’re the right person for the job (i.e. your experience, skills, and qualifications, among others). If, for example, you have five years of work experience but your resume format focuses on your education, the hiring manager may have trouble realizing that you’re the right person for the job.
At the same time, hiring managers want to spend as little time as possible reading your resume. This means that a disorganized, chaotic resume may get them to throw your resume in the “rejected” pile without giving it a second thought.
That’s why it’s super important to choose the right resume format that highlights your strengths and that recruiters know and like.
5. What is an ATS-friendly resume format?
Applicant Tracking System software is software that companies use to sort through the countless applications they receive daily.
What ATS does is scan resumes for specific keywords mentioned in the job description (e.g. necessary skills for the job), and filter out those applications it deems irrelevant.
As such, an ATS-friendly resume format is the kind of format that lists information in plain text and organizes it in clear sections, making it easier to be read by applicant tracking systems.
This is important because ATS software is typically unable to read text within images or scan infographics.
6. What resume format is most ATS-friendly?
The most ATS-friendly resume format is the reverse-chronological format.
That’s because it allows you to use ATS-specific keywords in your skills section and doesn’t use too many visuals such as graphs, infographics, etc.
7. Are hand-written resumes still used?
No, hand-written resumes are barely used in 2023. As such, you should not submit a handwritten resume when you’re applying for jobs.
Here are some of the most important reasons why:
- ATS software is unable to scan hand-written resumes. This means that if the company to which you’re applying uses an ATS, your resume will get disqualified.
- Your handwriting might be difficult to understand. Not just that, but you’ll have trouble differentiating one section from the other and keeping everything uniform, which means your resume will be the opposite of reader-friendly.
- We’re technically living online now. Gone are the days when you’d look up job openings in a newspaper or apply by mail. Everything has moved online, so it only makes sense for your resume to do the same.
8. Is the resume format the same as the resume template?
No, a resume format is not the same thing as a resume template.
Resume format refers to the layout of the resume, namely, the kind of information, its order, and the way it's organized on the resume. Basic document settings, such as line spacing, fonts, and margins, are also part of resume formatting.
A resume template, on the other hand, is a pre-designed, blank document that you can fill in as you go. Using a resume template to create your resume is a much easier and less time-consuming process than formatting your resume from scratch.
9. What is the easiest way to build my resume?
The easiest, most efficient way to create a resume is through a resume builder.
If you use a text editor, you could spend hours trying to format your resume, but the moment you make a tiny design change, the whole resume layout gets completely messed up!
Using a resume builder, on the other hand, comes with a ton of benefits:
- Recruiter-friendly layout. All of our resume templates are created with recruiters in mind - they’re extremely easy to read and skim.
- Easy to build. Our resume builder is extremely easy to use. All YOU have to do is fill in the content - we take care of all the resume formatting.
- ATS-friendly. Applicant tracking systems can read our resumes perfectly fine, ensuring that you don’t get automatically disqualified when applying for positions.
- Free (with premium features). Our base builder is completely free without any hidden paywalls! If you’re looking to upgrade the resume design, though, or get access to several awesome features, you can always upgrade to Premium.
10. What are the 7 resume types?
The 7 types of resume formats include the reverse-chronological resume, the combination resume, the resume with profile, the non-traditional resume, the infographic resume, the functional resume, and the targeted resume.
And that’s a wrap on resume formats!
By now, you should know everything there is to know about the most popular resume formats and regarding what the best resume format is for YOU.
Before you go, let’s do a recap of the most important points covered in this article:
- There are 3 common resume formats - reverse-chronological, functional, and combination (also known as the hybrid).
- The reverse-chronological format is the most popular one in 2023, and we always recommend you go with that one.
- A functional resume focuses more on skills rather than work experience and is usually used by career changers or students.
- A combination resume is a mix of functional and reverse-chronological formats and puts equal emphasis on work experience and skill set.
- Both functional and combination resumes are not too popular, and applicant tracking systems have trouble reading them.