Descriptions of the three most common resume formats
The chronological resume
The chronological resume is an easily recognizable format and widely accepted by hiring managers and recruiters. This format presents an individual’s work experience and education in separate sections, each arranged in reverse chronological order. Specific skills, qualifications, and accomplishments related to a particular job or other chronological entry are often written in the form of bullet points under the entry.
This format is favored by hiring professionals because it allows them to quickly see the highest level of education achieved by the job seeker as well as the last job held. Because the format is widely used, it is familiar to screeners.
Many applicant tracking systems (ATSs) are designed with the capability to best parse information presented in a chronological resume format.
The chronological resume may not be the best choice for a job seeker who has limited or no recent work experience or education. In such cases, the use of dated entries may emphasize the job seeker’s lack of current accomplishments. A chronological resume also makes it easy for prospective employers to identify gaps in an individual’s work history.
The functional resume
A functional resume follows a format which focuses the reader’s attention on a job seeker’s cumulative qualifications rather than the recency of those qualifications. Instead of associating a skill or qualification with a particular job or interval, the functional resume presents them in groupings. For example, all of the individual’s management experience would be described under the management experience heading, without regard to when or where the experience was obtained. Dates are de-emphasized or altogether excluded from a functional resume.
While recognized as an accepted format, the use of a functional resume is risky.
Prospective employers may still expect to see a timeline of career progression or suspect that the functional resume is being used to conceal unfavorable information. However, for some job seekers, presenting their qualifications in this format is worth the risk.
The functional resume may serve an individual with a broad range of experiences and strongly developed skills well because the document’s design focuses attention on those skills. Space within the document and the reader’s time are both limited resources; in certain circumstances, a functional resume may make the best use of both.
The hybrid or combination resume
As its name implies, a hybrid or combination resume takes content and formatting cues from both the chronological and the functional resume. A combination resume usually leads with a functional section. This section of the document will, like a functional resume, list skills and experiences in groups to highlight the job seeker’s qualifications. However, following this functional section, the combination resume will also list the individual’s past work experience in chronological order.
This presentation format allows prospective employers to review the applicant’s past work history if desired but places the most relevant experiences at the top of the document. This format serves its persuasive purpose by placing the most compelling information at the top of the document where a prospective employer’s eye will first land, while still fulfilling its informational role.
A hybrid resume is useful in circumstances similar to those in which a functional resume may work best. It permits the job seeker to show what they know without regard to when they first learned it. However, the addition of a brief chronology at the end of the document makes for a longer resume. Also, a prospective employer not familiar with the format may be confused by the lack of detail presented in the chronological section and the repetition of some information between the chronological and functional sections.