How to Determine the Best Resume Format to Use

Choosing the best professional resume format to communicate and present your unique mix of skills, qualifications, experience, training, and talent should be carefully factored into your resume writing strategy.

While there are an abundance of resume formats, the three most effective and current professional resume formats are: Chronological, Functional, and Hybrid /Combination.

Chronological resumes list your professional experience in chronological order, starting with the most recent job first. This format is typically used if you have consistent employment with no significant gaps between jobs. It is also good for demonstrating career growth, providing you have made steady advancement throughout your employment.

Selecting the right keywords, phrases, relevant experiences and accomplishments to get noticed will help strengthen the alignment of your skills with the position requirements—and increase the engagement factor during the initial 10-second screening process. This the most preferred format by applicant tracking systems, recruiters, and prospective employers because it is easy to review and follow a candidate’s career progression. This will also help you to avoid the resume black hole.

Functional resumes focus more on your skills and not necessarily on the time frame or the job in which you acquired those skills. This professional resume format is typically used for those who are seeking to change careers or have gaps or inconsistencies in their work history. We generally recommend this format for use in the most unique situations.

The functional format provides the flexibility for you to create your resume using select categories that reflect your transferable skills as they relate to the position. The work history is typically summarized at the end of the resume. This layout is least compatible with applicant tracking systems and online job boards. However, if you are tapping into the hidden job market to connect directly with the hiring manager, the functional resume may be an option.

Combination, Chrono-functional, or Hybrid resumes combine chronological and functional formats: This is the most commonly used of all the professionally written resume formats. It is an effective resume format that works well as an alternative for the functional resume by allowing a compelling headline and display of abilities, experience, talent, and relevant transferable skills, while also capturing work history, dates, achievements, and contributions in a format that is compatible with resume-parsing systems and the 10-second human scan.

Technological Formats

OK … you have written your professional resume; the final step is to determine whether you will need multiple versions of the document based on each employer’s database requirements and how you will distribute it to your target audience. Many companies are using a keyword search engine, which helps to streamline their recruiting process.

Review the employer’s instructions detailing which formats are acceptable. With the advancement of technology, it is a good practice for you to have a format that can be uploaded as a Text file, Microsoft Word document, and/or PDF.

Though the text-based or e-resume layout removes most formatting, it is easily uploaded or pasted into employer resume databases, and maintains the same format in all email systems.

PDF versions are highly compatible with most platforms. Carefully review the employer’s instructions to determine if PDF is an acceptable format for uploading.

Lastly, fine-tuning your resume according to the type of employment you are seeking will play a key role in the success of your job search. Try keeping a “Brag Book” to track quantifiable accomplishments/achievements throughout the progression of your career.

Furthermore, the format should be chosen wisely as it plays a major role in your writing strategy. If you are going to compete in this ever-evolving marketplace, the content and layout of your resume must be relevant to your target audience. Visit our samples page to review some current resume formats of visually engaging executive resume examples and professional resume samples.

Visit our blog for help with professional resume preparation for Entry Level Resumes, Supply Chain Management Resumes, Professional to Mid/Career Level, Finance and Accounting Resumes, and Military Resume Writing advice. For questions, contact us at or 1-888-607-7793.