Which Resume Format Is Best for You?

By Robert Half on July 7, 2021 at 1:00pm

Which resume format is the best option for you? It depends on a number of factors. Whether you’re a recent graduate or have a significant amount of work experience, writing a resume can be a daunting task. Human resources managers may receive hundreds of applicants for a position, making it vital that your resume stands apart from the rest.

The first step is picking a resume format: chronological, functional or hybrid. Each one has its strengths, but one will be more effective than the others depending on your experience and the type of position you’re applying for. Having your resume online can also be key to allowing hiring managers to find you, regardless of the specific format.

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Online resumes

The most obvious place where just about every job seeker should have their resume online is LinkedIn. Many hiring managers will look you up there, sometimes even without looking at the resume you submitted. Some companies even prefer you to submit just your linkedIn profile in lieu of traditional application materials.

The Work Experience portion of your profile follows a chronological resume format (see below). However, there are additional areas, such as About and Featured, where you can — and should — highlight experience and accomplishments that appear higher up on your profile page, similar to a functional format.

When to use it: Always. Even if a potential employer doesn’t ask for your LinkedIn profile, include it somewhere in your resume or cover letter. At the very least, this shows you understand current best practices. Many hiring managers may consider your application incomplete without it.

Potential issues: None, as long as you keep your profile up to date.

And don’t forget about talent solutions firms like Robert Half that allow you to keep a copy of your profile on their site — regardless of format — so potential employers can find you when searching for candidates. They also allow you to quickly apply for jobs that interest you with a click or tap. This is also true of other job search sites, such as Indeed and Glassdoor.

Upload your resume to Robert Half for help finding your next great job.

Chronological resume

This is the most common type of resume format and is generally preferred by most hiring managers. A chronological resume leads with your work history, which should list your current and previous positions in reverse chronological order. A short list of responsibilities and achievements follows each role, and you may choose to highlight any accolades or special recognitions. The education and skills sections follow work history.

When to use it: Employers in traditional industries, such as finance and accounting, are accustomed to seeing chronological resumes. This resume type is particularly effective if you have a solid work history in your field.

Potential issues: The chronological resume highlights employment gaps, which can be a red flag to employers. One solution may be to offer an explanation in your cover letter, or to describe the volunteer work or continuing education courses you engaged in during those gaps.

Functional resume

A functional resume format leads with a list of skills and specific experience, followed by education and work history sections. This format can be useful in drawing attention away from employment gaps or a general lack of work experience. It’s also effective in drawing attention away from excessive job hopping.

When to use it: This format is best suited for workers with extensive freelance or contract experience rather than full-time positions. It also works well for those who are changing career paths, and it allows you to highlight transferable skills rather than your lack of industry-specific experience.

Potential issues: Hiring managers are often wary of functional resume formats, particularly if your only reason for using it is to hide an employment gap. In this case, you may be better off using a hybrid resume format.

Hybrid resume

This resume format is a combination of chronological and functional. The first section highlights skills and qualifications you possess that are most relevant to the position you’re seeking. A work history section in reverse chronological order follows, giving hiring managers an overview of your experience and demonstrating transparency regarding length of tenure and employment gaps.

When to use it: Recent graduates and those seeking entry-level jobs may find a hybrid resume format to be most effective. However, workers with a lengthy, solid work history may benefit from this format as well, as it allows them to highlight their most impressive credentials up front, rather than burying them beneath an extensive work history section.

Potential issues: Write tight. Keep your skills section succinct, focusing on your most impressive achievements and leaving plenty of room for your chronological work history on the first page so managers can see your previous jobs at a glance.

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