Why is the resume format so important?
Pollard had put it in the exact words when he implied that although information is important, it is useless unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making.
In fact, unprocessed data is a burden.
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Maybe your resignation was not along the lines of how you had imagined it for months. Maybe you didn't get a chance to hop on your manager's table and do the unspeakable, unhygienic things you had wanted.
But the bottom-line is, you did manage to conclude months of anxiety and self-doubt before finally submitting that paper.
If you believe enough is enough, you definitely deserve a job you love. And well, now's the time to make it happen!
You open your laptop and start writing your resume.
If you're like most people, you have no clue about the resume structure or where and how to begin.
What are the resume types you can use? Which resume style will look better for your profile? Should you use a simple resume format or the latest & the best resume format?
Well, you don't need to worry anymore. This comprehensive guide on different Resume Formats will answer all your questions on what format for resume you should choose.
Choosing the best resume format before you begin will ensure that you follow resume writing conventions that are well accepted by all recruiters and companies.
In case you have additional queries on resume formatting, feel free to ask us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our experts will be more than happy to help you.
If you're somebody who likes to delve directly into the action, you can directly choose the best resume format templates on our online resume builder. We have ensured that all standard norms are fulfilled in our resume templates. Just start filling in your details to create a brand new resume in no time!
This resume format 2021 guide will cover the following topics in detail, in order to help you select the best resume format:
- How to choose the best resume format?
- What are the various types of resume formats?
- What is the difference between chronological, functional, and combination resume formats?
- How to format a resume?
Why do you need a resume format & how can you choose the best resume format for your resume?
Using the best resume format for a resume serves as a blueprint for creating a highly targeted resume based on the kind and the years of work experience that you have (of course you'll need a job description).
Moreover, over the years the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and simpler resume parsers used by recruiters and companies have evolved to recognize and read resumes only if they follow certain guidelines.
You have a stellar career profile and you write your resume in a format that is not suitable for your profile. Trust us on this that in spite of putting in the hard work, you might not get shortlisted by the ATS being used by the recruiter. You need to have the resume format to pass the ATS test!
Even if you're sending your resume through a human recruiter, you should choose an effective resume format which is well known in the industry. Recruiters look at resumes for a mere 6 seconds and you do not want to end up in the reject pile simply because you did not use the best resume format available.
Having said that, you should also take into account the latest resume format 2021 trends and choose the best resume format (popular with both ATS and recruiters) so that your resume does not seem outdated.
Thus, using a combination of established resume standards along with the latest trends (by choosing a recognized resume format), you greatly increase your chances of getting shortlisted by companies.
What are the various types of resume formats?
Broadly speaking, there are 3 different types of resumes that are well accepted in the industry. The resume categories are:
1. Reverse Chronological Resume Format 2021 (Standard resume format 2021)
Imagine a time-line starting from now and dating back to the beginning of your education with all your major achievements and information listed along with important dates. Essentially, that is what a reverse chronological resume format is.
To make it more clear, let's look at a sample reverse chronological resume format from Hiration's Resume Builder:
Sections in a Reverse Chronological Resume:
- Contact Details
- Professional Summary
- Key Skills
- Professional Experience
- Additional Sections
As you can see in the resume image, all the sections with dates have been arranged in a reverse chronological order, which means the most recent information in terms of dates is written first and the oldest in terms of dates is written last.
The Reverse Chronological resume format is the industry standard when it comes to resumes and is extremely ATS friendly. This means that by using this format you're kind of guaranteeing that all the information on your resume will be correctly parsed by almost any Applicant Tracking System.
Being the most widely used resume format in the industry, it is regarded to be the best resume format. You can be sure that every recruiter will recognize the reverse chronological resume format.
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 time-line of major 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 experience before it, and so on. This gives you an opportunity 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.
Doesn't Cover Gaps in Career
If you have large gaps in your professional career, the reverse chronological format will expose them to the recruiter. Because of the emphasis laid 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 a lot of jobs in a relatively short period of time, a lot of companies will be listed on your reverse chronological resume. This signals to the employers that you might not stick with their company as well.
2. Combination Resume Format 2021 (also called Hybrid Resume Format 2021)
As the name suggests, the Combination or Hybrid resume format is a combination of the reverse chronological resume format and the functional resume format.
The combination resume format allows a candidate to present their skills with actual evidence from their professional experience and achievements. So essentially, points on the resume are grouped based on the skills that they highlight.
This adds a lot of value to the resume since now the recruiter not only has a snapshot of the skills the person possesses, but they can actually see how the person employed those skills to create value for the organization.
- Hiration Pro-Tip: While grouping or bucketing points under headers/skills, remember to quantify your achievements as much as possible. This will help the recruiter differentiate you from a candidate who has not represented how much value they added to the overall business.
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Here at Hiration, we employ 2 types of combination formats for our clients based on the number of years of experience that they possess and their industry.
Combination Resume Format-1 (Grouping inside Professional Experience)
This format is exactly similar to the reverse chronological resume format, apart from the fact that in the Professional Experience section, the points are grouped by the sills that they represent.
Here is an example of this type of combination resume format:
You can clearly see in the image how resume points have been grouped in the professional experience section under relevant skills. This allows the recruiter to quickly find relevant skills (required for the job) and scan the relevant points only.
If you are smart enough to tailor your resume to the job description, you can easily direct the attention of the recruiter to where you want. This is the biggest advantage of using this resume format, making it the best resume format available today.
Combination Resume Format-2 (Grouping in Summary of Skills section)
This format extracts all your achievements and high points in your career to create an entirely separate section called "Summary of Skills" or "Skills Summary". These points are then grouped or bucketed under key skills that they exhibit.
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:
ATS & Recruiter Friendly
Both the combination resume formats have all the advantages there are to the reverse chronological format since they employ the same methodology for dates. So basically, they are ATS friendly, recruiter friendly and are well recognized by recruiters and organizations.
Hides Gaps in Employment
Additionally, the combination format can be wisely used to draw the recruiters 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 if you are a frequent job switcher, you can aggregate resume points across jobs and group them under skills to exhibit your expertise in combination format-2.
More Time Consuming
Well, since the pay off is high, the time taken to develop a combination resume increases since you have to do the additional work of grouping points under common skills.
Hiration Pro-Tip: Reduce your effort and use pre-filled templates available on our resume builder to create your resume in combination resume format.
- Not Suitable for Early Stage Professionals
In case of early stage professionals, they might not have enough points to group under relevant skills. In such as case, the grouping does not make sense and it is better to go with the reverse chronological resume format.
3. Functional Resume Format (Skill Based Resume)
The functional resume format is on the other extreme of the reverse chronological format. Only the professional experience headers are listed in this resume format without any details of the actual work done.
Instead, a separate section is created in which points are grouped under relevant skills. While this is recommended by some resume experts for people who have gaps in their employment history or for people who have changed their jobs a lot, we at Hiration do not recommend using this format.
Recruiters find the most value if they can see your career progress and how you have evolved as a professional. The functional resume format does not display your skills and points under the relevant work experience and hence, is not usually accepted by both the ATS as well as the recruiters. You can read more about it in the Pros and Cons section.
Meanwhile here is an example of the functional resume format:
Hides Employment Gaps
The functional resume is a skill based resume format can be used by candidates to focus on skills and totally avoid the work history.
Tackles the Problem of Frequent Job Switches
Since the complete focus is on points grouped by skills, it helps to mask the job hopping trait of the candidate.
Not Parsed by Applicant Tracking Systems
The functional resume format is not parsed by most ATSes. Since an ATS looks for points under the relevant work experience, it is unable to correctly read the points in this format.
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 these were the 3 different types of resumes. Which one are you going to use?
Read on to discover your ideal choice as the best resume format.
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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?
View our Resume Templates Catalog to look at all our resume templates.
Well, luckily, there's a pretty straight forward way to determine which resume format would serve as the best resume format for you. Just look at the section below to see under which category you fall and choose the best resume format for your resume accordingly:
Students Resume Format
Well if you're a student, you don't have a lot of professional experience. You're probably thinking what can you write on your resume? Which format should you choose?
The best resume format for you is the reverse chronological resume format. You'd always have your extra-curricular 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. Focus on the skills the recruiter is looking for.
Experienced Resume Format 2021
Entry Level Professionals
If you're making an entry level resume, again, the reverse chronological resume format should be your choice. Since you would not have a lot of professional experience, it would be difficult to group your resume points into skills.
So, creating a combination resume would be difficult for you.
Mid Level Professionals
Choosing a resume for a mid level professional is tricky. It really depends on the work you have done and the kind of skills you have accumulated over your career.
Lets say 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.
In case you've specialized and focused on a specific area, you should go for the reverse chronological resume. That way, you can really show potential employers how you've progressed over the years.
At Hiration, we almost always suggest our senior clients to go with the combination resume format.
You need to showcase your skills and validate with them the work that you have done. You need to modify each resume that you send out based on the job description. To do so, highlight the skills that are most relevant to the job that you're applying to.
A Note on Functional Resume Format
While some people suggest that functional resume format is good for certain professionals, we strongly recommend that you do not use it. A functional resume format does more harm than good for your job application.
Chronological vs Functional vs Combination Resume
Work Experience & Skills
Only Skills [Not good]
Professional & Well Accepted
Highly Effective & Targeted
Clumsy & Not Effective
ATS Readable & Clean Format
ATS Readable & Highly Effective
Hides Gaps in Employment
Skills are not Validated
Only for People with Experience
No Emphasis on Work-ex
Resume Formatting: How to format a resume?
The key to formatting a resume lies in gaining an understanding of the different sections that go in a resume.
Irrespective of the format that you decide to go for, your resume will invariably contain the following in the below given order:
- Your personal details (Name, Contact Information, etc.)
- An Objective/Summary statement
- A Skills section (You might as well not make a resume than make one without a Skills section)
- Professional Experience (excluding entry-level candidates)
- Internships (if applicable)
- Additional Sections (Optional)
How you arrange these sections and how you go about placing them in your resume is what resume formatting is all about.
- In case you are an entry-level professional, you can go for an Objective statement instead of a Professional Summary section.
- For all other sections, you can go for a crisp Professional Summary section detailing the skills that you possess and how you plan to use that for resolving organizational issues and achieve company goals.
- Make sure that the summary is crisp and does not exceed 3-4 lines.
- Try to derive a cause-effect relationship in each point in the summary. Don't just mention your achievements from your previous profiles - rephrase them to convince the recruiter how the skills that went into those achievements are transferable and can be used for the benefit of the organization.
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 out 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 the skills which the recruiter is looking for.
- As much as it pains us to say this, don't write 'CV' or 'Resume' on the top. Just...no.
- Start off with your name in a text size between 14 - 16 point size so that your most distinguishing feature on that piece of paper is your name.
- Mention your contact details, email ID & location.
- Go for a professional email ID and not something like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mention your current location. If you are willing to relocate, you can mention the same in your cover letter.
- 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 off 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 off 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 for all the work profiles
- 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 3 or above
- If it's been more than 3 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
- Additional sections can include Training, Certifications, Publications, Extracurricular Achievements, Hobbies/Interests, etc.
- You can include information pertaining to 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 'travelling' or 'music' as a hobby adds no value to your resume whatsoever
Fonts, Margins & Spacing
- Go for sans-serif fonts (Arial, Verdana, Trebuchet MS, Century Gothic, Calibri, Lucida Sans, Tahoma, etc.) over serif fonts
- Most ATSes 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 not larger than 12 points for the section points
- Formatting & legibility of the text can't be compromised in the quest to reduce a resume to 1 page
- Make sure that you leave a minimum of 1 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
Frequently Asked Questions
How important is the format of a resume?
The format of a resume is as important as its content. An organized and neat looking resume is appealing to the eyes of the recruiters hence more chances of getting an interview call.
How to choose a resume format?
The resume format is highly customizable. One must choose a resume format based on the job profile and experience.
- There can't be an universal resume format ideal for everyone. Resume formats depends on 2 key factors - your career trajectory and the job role you are targeting.
- If you have career gaps, then use the ideal resume format that does not highlight your career gap in the resume and then make sure you explain your career gap in a cover letter.
- Quantify all your achievements and make sure that they are clearly visible across all your profiles.
- Pay special attention to font, font size, margin and spacing. There's no use slogging over a resume for days only to have it rejected because the spacing rendered it illegible.
- Use standard sections highlighted above because ATSes are programmed to scan them. Trying to be quirky by replacing the Professional Experience section with something like 'Career Graph' or 'Work Story' will only jeopardise your chances.
Still have more doubts around the ideal Format for your Resume? Ask them away at email@example.com and our resume experts will get back to you in 24 hours!