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Why is the resume format so important?

Recruiters don't have more than 7.4 seconds to see your resume.

And if they have to spend their time finding all the information they need in the resume, rest assured, your resume will not get shortlisted.

That's why a professional resume format is a necessity. It helps you identify and organize your resume sections in a better way, which improves readability.

If you are looking to know what is the best resume format, then this resume format 2022 guide will cover all the basics:

What is a Resume Format and Why Do you Need It?

There is a lot of confusion with the word "Resume Format". Some use it to demonstrate the design elements, and some use it to identify the resume structure.

However, in a basic sense, a resume format is the type of structure your resume follows to present your skills and experience according to individual requirements.

A cluttered resume with no discernible hierarchy is difficult to understand by the writers. That's why it is crucial to have a clear structure in your resume to catch the recruiter's attention based on your work history.

For example, candidates with a career gap would want to focus more on transferable skills than work history. So, a resume structure will be different from a candidate's resume with a consistent career trajectory.

Worse, being unable to use resume formatting effectively also shows that you may lack the skills necessary for the job or are not enthusiastic about the job you're applying for.

What Are The 3 Types of Resume Formats?

There are 3 types of resume formats that work in the job industry:

  • Reverse Chronological Resume Format: This is the most commonly used resume format. That means you mention your most recent work experience on top of the professional experience section and mention the rest of your experiences in reverse chronological order.
  • Functional Resume Format: It focuses more on the candidate's skills than years of experience
  • Combination Resume format: This is a mix of both the above formats. This focuses on both experience and skills of the candidate

In this guide, you'll learn about all the resume formats and how to pick the right one for you.

Reverse Chronological Resume Format

A reverse chronological resume format is a great way to showcase your most recent work experience without losing sight of your earlier achievements.

This format begins with mentioning your most recent work experience followed by all your relevant experiences in reverse chronological order.

You don't need to include everything you've done, but pay attention to gaps in your resume as in a reverse-chronological resume there's no way to hide career gaps.

Not only the professional experience section but all sections of your resume should follow the reverse-chronological format. For example, if you have a master's degree, it will go above the bachelor's degree since it's the most recent degree you've got.

To make it clearer, let's look at a sample reverse chronological resume format:

reverse_chronological_resume_format-1

Sections you should include in a Reverse Chronological Resume:

  • Contact Information: It consists of name, phone number, email, residential location, LinkedIn profile link, GitHub profile link, or any other relevant links you have such as personal website, blog, Behance portfolio, etc.
  • Title: It holds the job title you're applying for or your current designation. And it will go right below your name in the resume header.
  • Professional Summary: A brief 2-3 lines summary of your work experience skills to demonstrate your suitability for the role
  • Key Skills: This section should include the skills relevant to the job you're applying for
  • Professional Experience: Your entire work experience, including internships and training in reverse-chronological order.
  • Education: You have to add education details in reverse-chronological order.
  • Additional Sections: Here, you can add additional sections, such as Volunteer experience, projects, leadership experiences, publications, etc.

Pros of Reverse Chronological Resume Format

Following are some advantages of a reverse chronological resume format:

ATS-Friendly

The reverse chronological resume format is the industry standard for resumes and is extremely ATS-friendly. This means that by using this format, you're guaranteed that all the information on your resume will be correctly parsed by almost any Applicant Tracking System.

Recruiter-Friendly

Being the most widely used resume format in the industry, it is regarded as the best resume format. You can be sure that every recruiter will recognize the reverse chronological resume format, thus allowing them to quickly scan your entire profile for relevant information.

Coherent and Easy to Create

When it comes to making your resume in this format, the process is pretty simple. You simply have to create a timeline of significant events in your career and expand upon them in your resume.

Additional Weight to your Most Recent Work Experience

The emphasis in a reverse chronological resume format is laid upon your most recent experience, followed by the ones before it, and so on. This allows you to highlight your achievements at the peak of your career, which is now!

This enables you to prove your current worth to your potential employer.

Cons of a Reverse Chronological Resume Format

Despite all the pros, the reverse chronological format is not for everyone. If you do not have a consistent professional history, you might want to look at these cons:

Doesn't Cover Gaps in Career

If you have significant gaps in your professional career, the reverse-chronological format will expose them to the recruiter. Because of the emphasis on dates, the ATS may also deem you unfit for the position, if you lack relevant work experience.

Looks Bad for Frequent Job Switchers

If you've switched jobs a lot in a relatively short period of time, many companies will be listed on your reverse chronological resume. This signals to the employers that you might not stick with their company either.

It Doesn't Take Relevancy Into Account

Even if one older work experience is more relevant to your target profile, it will still be placed lower in the "PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE" section.

However, this drawback is properly addressed in functional and combination, where you can group and place relevant skills and achievements on top regardless of where they fell in your trajectory.

Functional Resume Format

The functional resume format is diametrically opposite to the reverse-chronological format. It focuses more on the candidate's skills rather than work experience.

The skills section is divided into multiple categories of sub-skills in the functional resume, and bullet points are added under each skill to showcase proficiency and work experience.

Sections to Include in Functional Resume Format:

  • Resume Header
  • Contact Information
  • Resume Summary
  • Professional Titles
  • Summary of Skills Section
  • Additional Experience
  • Education

The Summary of Skills is the significant differentiator between a reverse-chronological resume and a functional resume.

This section creates sub-headings and adds experiences/points/instances to further substantiate those skills. The objective of the summary of Skills is to focus on your skills rather than your work experience.

Meanwhile here is an example of the functional resume format:

functional_resume_format

Pros of a Functional Resume Format

The functional format is more flexible when it comes to complimenting unconventional careers. Here are a few other advantages of this resume format:

Hides Employment Gaps

The functional resume is a skill-based resume format where candidates can focus on skills and avoid the work history. So, you would not have to follow the rigid structure of the reverse-chronological resume format.

Tackles the Problem of Frequent Job Switches

Since the complete focus is on skills, it helps to mask the job-hopping trait of the candidate. You can pull the focus of recruiters to your transferable skills, and try to maintain their interest with it.

Cons of a Functional Resume Format

Since it favors job switching and employment gaps, this resume format is bound to have a few disadvantages, here are a few of them:

Not Parsed by Applicant Tracking Systems

Most ATS do not parse the functional resume format. Since an ATS looks for points under the relevant work experience, it cannot correctly read them in this format.

Also, the confusion regarding dates, employment experience, and the focus on skills will throw off the ATS.

Seems Fishy to Recruiters and Employers

The functional format raises suspicions in the minds of the recruiters that the candidate is trying to hide something. It is not a well-accepted resume format, so it will take a second for recruiters to adjust.

However, try to research the work culture of the company. If they respect skills and talent, you would potentially be able to get away from just focusing on your skills. Make sure that you make it a convincing case.

Combination Resume Format

As the name suggests, the Combination or Hybrid resume format combines the reverse chronological resume format and the functional resume format.

It allows candidates to present their skills with actual evidence from their professional experience and achievements.

This adds a lot of value to the resume since now the recruiter has an insight into the skills the person possesses, but they can see how the person deployed those skills to create value for the organization.

Sections to Include in Combination Resume Format:

  • Resume Header
  • Contact Information
  • Key Skills Section
  • Work Experience Section
  • Education Section
  • Additional Section

Note: A functional resume completely neglects the work experiences and focuses solely on the skills and achievements. In comparison, a combination resume focuses on both aspects.

Example of Combination Resume:

A mix of both the formats would mean that you pay equal attention to both professional experience and skills. This format is favorable to those who want to reach a middle ground between the other two formats.

Here is an example of a combination resume format:

combination_resume_format_1-1-1

Another example of a combination resume:

This resume format replaces the traditionally used summary to create a more powerful snapshot of your career which is again highly targeted for the job you are applying to.

Here's an example:

combination_resume_format_2-1

Pros of a Combination Resume

As the mixture of the other two formats, it can be the best of both worlds for many. Here are a few advantages of choosing this format:

ATS & Recruiter Friendly

The combination resume formats have all the advantages of the reverse-chronological format since they employ the same methodology for dates. They are ATS friendly, recruiter friendly, and well-recognized by recruiters and organizations.

Hides Gaps in Employment

Additionally, the combination format can be wisely used to draw the recruiter's attention to skill-based achievements that you've gathered over the years to mellow down the effect of gaps in your employment history.

Tackles the Problem of Frequent Job Switches

Even as a frequent job switcher, you can aggregate resume points across jobs and group them under skills to exhibit your expertise by using the combination format.

Cons of Combination Resume

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here are a few cons you should keep in mind before choosing this format:

Time Consuming

Well, since the payoff is high, the time taken to develop a combination resume increases since you have to do the additional work of grouping points under ordinary skills.

It will also take time to do all the normal resume steps such as evaluating the job description and customizing the resume for each company.

Not Suitable for Early Stage Professionals

Early-stage professionals might not have enough points to group under relevant skills. In such cases, the grouping does not make sense, and it is better to go with the reverse chronological resume format.

Which is The Best Resume Format for You?

Finally, this is the part which you've been waiting for. So, which is the best resume format for you?

There's a straightforward way to determine which resume format you need to use for your resume.

Students Resume Format

Use the reverse chronological resume format for the student's resume.

If you're a student, you don't have much professional experience. But, you would have extracurricular and co-curricular achievements that you can showcase on your resume.

Moreover, if you've done any kind of voluntary work or internships, they can take the spot of your professional experience. Just ensure that you display your work experience by tailoring it to the job you're looking for, atleast to an extent.

Resume Format for Your First Job

Again, if you're making an entry-level resume, the reverse chronological resume format should be your choice. Since you would not have much professional experience, it would be difficult to group your resume points into skills.

So, creating a combination resume would be difficult for you.

Resume Format for Mid Level Professionals

Choosing a resume for a mid-level professional is tricky. It depends on the work you have done and the skills you have accumulated over your career.

You have learned a lot of skills, and you have the resume content to show for it. In this case, you should go ahead with a combination resume format.

If you've specialized and focused on a specific area, you should go for the reverse chronological resume. That way, you can show potential employers how you've progressed over the years.

Senior Professionals

At Hiration, we almost always suggest our senior clients go with the combination resume format.

You need to showcase your skills and validate your work with them. You need to modify each resume you send out based on the job description. To do so, highlight the most relevant skills to the job you're applying to.

However, if you're transitioning from a job, you can use a functional resume format to showcase your skills effectively.

A Note on Functional Resume Format

While some people suggest that a functional resume format is suitable for certain professionals, we strongly recommend not using it. A functional resume format does more harm than good for your job application, so use it with caution.

Difference Between Chronological, Functional, and Combination Resume Formats?

The table below compares the three resume formats with each other. Take a look to determine which one you should choose!

Comparison of Reverse Chronological, Combination and Functional Resume Formats

Chronological vs Functional vs Combination Resume

 

Reverse Chronological

Combination

Functional

ATS Compatibility

ATS Friendly

ATS Friendly

ATS Incompatible

Focuses On

Work Experience

Work Experience & Skills

Only Skills [Not good]

Resume Layout

Professional & Well Accepted

Highly Effective & Targeted

Clumsy & Not Effective

Major Pros

ATS Readable & Clean Format

ATS Readable & Highly Effective

Hides Gaps in Employment

Major Cons

Skills are not Validated

Only for People with Experience

No Emphasis on Work-ex

Ideal for

Everyone

Experienced Professionals

No One

50+ Essential Formating Tips

Here are some of the resume formatting tips for you:

  • Keep the resume between one page, especially if you have 0 to 8 years of experience. If you have 8+ years of experience, you can stretch it to 2-pages.
  • Use recognizable section headings. It helps recruiters recognize the sections efficiently. For instance, Write Professional Experience, not Practicum
  • Make sure that the summary is crisp and does not exceed 3-4 lines.
  • Use a professional and straightforward resume font, such as Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri, etc.
  • Make sure to structure the resume section in the following order: Resume Header - Summary Section - Key Skills - Work Experience - Education Section - Additional Experiences
  • Write the experiences in bullet format, and don't try to add more than 6-8 bullet points per position.
  • Save the resume in PDF format instead of Docx.

Key Skills: Resume Formatting Tips

Depending on your profile and industry, skills will broadly come under:

  • Managerial/Professional Skills: Hard skills relevant to your target job profile
  • Technical Skills: No sector is immune to technology. You can use this section to list your proficiency in online tools, software, methodologies, techniques, programming languages, etc.
  • Soft skills: Non-professional abstract skills like communication, problem-solving, etc.

Prioritize your professional skills over soft skills. The JD is your most accurate source to understand which skills recruiters are looking for.

Also read: To what extent should you include soft skills in your resume?

Personal Information: Resume Formatting Tips

  • As much as it pains us to say this, don't write CV or Resume on the top. Just...no.
  • Start with your name in a text size between 14 - 16 points size so that your most distinguishing feature on that piece of paper is your name.
  • Mention your contact details, email ID, and location.
  • Go for a professional email ID and not something like princess_jean@gmail.com or sam_samurai@gmail.com
  • Mention your current location. If you are willing to relocate, you can mention the same in your cover letter.

Also read: Should you include your entire address in your resume?

Professional Experience: Resume Formatting Tips

  • Align the company and profile to the left and date and location to the right. It's the industry norm for most single-column resumes, and recruiters usually look for them this way.
  • Start with your current/last-held profile (reverse-chronological resume)
  • Mention a one-line description containing figures for all the companies where you have worked
  • Use crisp bullet points starting with action verbs and bold important phrases and words throughout your professional experience section
  • Group similar points together and assign sub-headings to them for greater impact on all the work profiles

Also read: How to curate an impeccable professional experience resume section?

Education: Resume Formatting Tips

  • List your most recent qualification first and then mention the university or college name followed by major/minor and the time period
  • Mention your GPA only if it's three or above
  • If it's been more than three years since your graduation or if your GPA is less than 3.5, you can skip your GPA altogether
  • Provide details of academic projects that you completed only if you are an entry-level professional

Find out more: Should you include honors or scholarships in your education section?

Additional Sections: Resume Formatting Tips

  • Additional sections can include Training, Certifications, Publications, Extracurricular Achievements, Hobbies/Interests, etc.
  • You can include information about proficiency in languages in this section
  • While listing out your hobbies, try to align your interests along the lines of what might be relevant for the recruiter
  • Try to quantify your interests and achievements. Merely mentioning 'traveling' or 'music' as a hobby adds no value to your resume whatsoever

Also read: How can you customize resume sections based on your work history?

Fonts, Margins & Spacing: Resume Formatting Tips

  • Go for sans-serif fonts such as Arial, Verdana, Trebuchet MS, Century Gothic, Calibri, Lucida Sans, Tahoma, etc. over serif fonts
  • Most ATS are unable to process serif fonts, hence, sans serif fonts are your best bet
  • Make sure that the font size is not smaller than 10 points and no larger than 12 points for the section points
  • You cant compromise the formatting and legibility of the text in the quest to reduce a resume to 1 page
  • Make sure that you leave a minimum of 0.5-inch margin on all sides
  • Before you send across your resume, print it out to see how it would look on paper
  • Keep the spacing single-spaced for your resume, with a line break after each section

Also read: Should you use fancy fonts in your resume?

Frequently Asked Questions

Finding the perfect resume format can be tricky no matter which point of your career you're in. Here are a few FAQs to help you understand more

What is the best resume format?

The best resume format is the "reverse-chronological format."

It is because:

  • Reverse-chronological resume is easy to read
  • Recruiters are familiar with this resume format
  • It is the most popular resume format in the industry
  • ATS can quickly parse the reverse-chronological resume

Which resume format is the best for students?

For students, the best resume format is reverse chronological format. However, here, instead of keeping the work experience section at the top, you just need to add the education section.

Resume Sample for Reverse Chronological Format

9+ years experienced ML Engineer with proven success in building successful algorithms & predictive models for different industries. Highly adept at clustering & classification, web scraping, data analysis & visualization. Passionate engineer & thriving analyst with the ability to apply ML techniques & algorithm development to solve real world industry problems.
• Data Visualization • Predictive Analysis • Statistical Modeling • Training & Mentoring • Clustering & Classification
• Data Analytics • Data Mining • Quantitative Analysis • Web Scraping • ML Algorithms • Model Development
  • Tools: Python, PostgreSQL, AWS, Hive, MongoDB, MapReduce, Spark, Linux
  • Packages: Scikit-Learn, NumPy, SciPy, Pandas, NLTK, BeautifulSoup, Matplotlib, Statsmodels, Jupyter Notebook
  • Statistics/Machine Learning: Statistical Analysis, Linear/Logistic Regression, Clustering, Graph Theory, Regularisations
PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE
    Web Scraping, Data Visualization & Regression Modeling
    • Compiled pricing data for competitive analysis by performing web scraping in Python
    • Supervised model development, testing & validation of 100+ financial products and services
    • Created charts in Jupyter Notebook to perform preliminary analysis & visualize data using Matplotlib
    Predictive Modeling & Algorithm Development
    • Predicted stock price with 98% accuracy to enable the company to make informed investments
    • Determined optimal pricing strategies to facilitate the management of funds & achieve revenue goals
    • Made multiple touch sensitive ML systems in all the office floors to improve the company's safety networks
    • Devised high-performance ML systems to detect abnormality, intrusion, fraud, masquerading, malware, etc.
    • Developed an algorithm to understand customer behavior leading to 95% success in targeted marketing campaigns
    Clustering & Classification
    • Conceptualized & implemented a sentiment analysis tool to rate the financial competence of companies
    • Originated a recommendation engine to suggest an ideal cluster price for financial services offered by top companies
    Leadership, Mentoring & Program Innovation
    • Led a group of 10+ML Interns in producing a workable model to optimize the company's financial transactions
    • Recruited & trained 5+ ML interns and supervised the project that were assigned to them as part of the internship
    • Conducted 5+ ML workshop programs on the fundamentals of python & machine learning to up-skill current employees
      Algorithm Development & Dynamic Pricing
      • Engineered a food recommendation system to provide meaningful food recommendations to guests
      • Designed an in-house algorithm for attendance & time management to simplify the hotel's administration work
      • Applied various machine learning techniques using Python to build dynamic pricing models and maximize profits
      Predictive Modeling & Data Mining
      • Built a predictive model to analyze customer food preferences leading to 40% reduction in food wastage
      • Employed advanced text mining algorithms to facilitate the identification of search intent latent in individual keywords
      EDUCATION
        • Top 5 percentile of the class
        • Machine Learning Certification | Coursera | May '10 - Jul '10
        • Python Certification Training | Coursera | Jan '09 - Mar '09
        • Languages: English, Spanish

        Key Takeaways

        Now is the time for you to pick a winner out of the three resume formats. Before that, here is what you can take away from this guide:

        • There are 3 types of resume formats - reverse-chronological resume format, functional resume format, and combination resume format
        • Reverse chronological resume format is the most popular resume format in the world
        • A functional resume is good if you have a career gap or you want to switch careers
        • A combination resume uses both reverse chronology and functional resume concepts to portray your candidacy

        Go to Hiration career platform, which has 24/7 chat support, and get professional assistance with all your job & career-related queries. You can also write to us at support@hiration.com for any doubts.