Writing a resume is hard enough without having to worry about formatting. So let us help. We’ll show you how to choose the best resume format for you — the format that best highlights your skills and experience and downplays any weaknesses.
The 3 best resume formats
These are the three most commonly used resume formats in 2021:
1. Chronological (for showcasing work experience)
The chronological resume is the gold standard resume format, so we created an easy copy-paste outline for you to use.
Most job seekers use the chronological resume format without realizing it.
Chronological resumes highlight your work experience, with your most recent position at the top. Hiring managers want to know where you’re at in your career, so featuring your experience near the top of your resume helps them quickly evaluate your application.
If you’ve been gradually moving up in your industry, use a chronological resume to highlight that progression. Think this resume format suits you and your background well? Download any of our free resume templates to get started.
Just remember that there are instances where using a skills-based resume or a combination resume might better showcase your talents as a professional, so it’s a good idea to first learn the pros and cons of each format before making your resume.
2. Functional (for highlighting skills)
The functional resume format focuses on your relevant job skills. So you might see it referred to as a “skills-based” resume on some websites.
Instead of focusing on your work history like the standard chronological resume format, the functional format lists your strongest job skills at the top of your resume in a large skills section.
Because functional resumes focus on your professional skill-set, this is the ideal format if you have many job-related hard and soft skills.
3. Combination (for equally emphasizing skills and experience)
A combination resume is a blend of the chronological and functional resume formats.
- Lead with a big skills section (like a functional resume)
- End with a detailed work experience section (like a chronological resume)
If this seems like a lot of information to include, that’s the point. Combination resumes, or “hybrid” resumes, are best if you’ve developed many skills over the course of your career, and have plenty of experience using those skills.
What’s the best resume format for you?
Just because the chronological resume format is used by most job seekers doesn’t mean it’s the best option for everyone. Each format serves a specific purpose, so only one will work best for your skillset and professional background.
How to choose the right resume format
Use the following infographic to quickly determine which resume format you should pick when writing your own resume:
Resume formatting tips
Although it’s your resume’s content that will get you interviews, you should still ensure your resume layout is neat and easy to read.
Here are five quick tips to correctly format your professional resume.
1. Left align the content
In general, you should left-align your resume. Unless your resume template was specifically designed with a different alignment, left is the standard, because it’s how people in the US are trained to read.
2. Keep your resume on one page
99% of the time, it’s best to only send out one-page resumes. That’s because one page is the standard resume length for most industries, and it allows hiring managers to quickly view your relevant qualifications.
However, there are some reasons to break this rule. For instance, you might need a two-page resume if:
- you have 10+ years of experience relevant to the job you want
- you’re writing a management level or executive resume
- you’re an academic writing a professional CV
- you’re applying for work in Europe and using a CV template
If you’re still unsure how long your resume should be, make it one page to be safe.
3. Use .63″ by 1″ margins
The correct margins for a resume are .63″ left/right and 1″ top/bottom. This combination strikes the perfect balance between making your resume easy to read, while including as much information as possible on a single page.
If you’re worried you have too much (or too little) information on your resume, you can tweak the margins as necessary. Just don’t get carried away, or you risk making your resume look unprofessional.
4. Use an HR-approved resume font
The font style and size you choose for your resume won’t improve your chances of getting the job, but they can definitely hurt your chances. If you choose a professional font at a readable font size, you’ll be okay.
- Book Antiqua
- Trebuchet MS
- Arial Narrow
Recommended font size:
While the best font for a resume is debatable, experts agree that font size shouldn’t fall below 10.5 or exceed 12.
However, some fonts look better smaller, and some fonts look better at larger sizes. Experiment until your resume looks professional and readable.
5. Save your resume as a PDF
PDF is the best file format to save your resume in. Saving your resume as a PDF ensures its formatting remains exactly how you want it, and that it’s easy for employers to open.
Additionally, the red spell-check underlines used by Microsoft Word don’t show up on your resume if it’s saved as a PDF, making it more visually appealing.
However, you should always check the job listing first for any instructions about how to send your resume.
For example, many bigger companies that use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to scan through resumes will tell applicants to send their resumes as a .docx file. That’s because ATS software has an easier time scanning Word Docs.
Resume format FAQs
Still unclear on certain resume format faux pas? Here are some commonly asked questions about resume formatting: