Written by Sophia RaySophia Ray

Choosing the right resume format

Choosing the right resume format is a crucial step in your job search journey. With various formats like chronological, functional, and combination resumes available, it can be overwhelming to decide which one suits you best. The key to selecting the right resume format lies in understanding your career history and how you want to present your skills and accomplishments to potential employers.

A chronological resume is ideal if you have a solid work history with few gaps and wish to highlight your career progression. A functional resume, on the other hand, focuses on your skills and is perfect for those with gaps in their employment history or those changing careers. The combination resume merges elements of both, offering flexibility for a wide range of job seekers. Regardless of format, ensure your resume is ATS-friendly by using clear headings, bullet points, and relevant keywords.

An effective resume also requires attention to formatting details. Opt for a readable font, maintain consistent spacing, and avoid excessive use of graphics that can disrupt Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Clear organization not only makes your resume easy to read but also helps in emphasizing the most significant aspects of your professional journey.

Key Takeaways

  • Choosing the right resume format depends on your career history and goals.

  • Ensure your resume is well-organized, readable, and ATS-friendly.

  • Highlight your skills, work experience, and education effectively using clear headings and bullet points.

Understanding Resume Formats

Choosing the right resume format is crucial for presenting your qualifications effectively. The primary resume formats to consider are Functional, Chronological, and Combination. Each has distinct advantages based on your experience and career goals.

Functional Format

The functional resume format emphasizes your skills over your employment history. This format is ideal if you have gaps in your work history, are changing careers, or have a varied job background.

  • Skills: List your skills prominently at the start.

  • Experience: Mention job titles without detailed descriptions.

  • Advantages: Highlighting applicable skills makes it easier for recruiters to see your capabilities.

Use this format to make your competencies stand out, minimizing focus on job continuity.

Chronological Format

The chronological resume format is the most traditional and widely used. It lists your work experience in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent job.

  • Work History: Focus on job titles, companies, and dates of employment.

  • Achievements: Highlight significant accomplishments and responsibilities.

  • Advantages: Shows a clear career progression, which is beneficial for those with a consistent work history.

Employers typically find it straightforward to assess your career trajectory and growth.

Combination/Hybrid Format

The combination or hybrid resume format merges aspects of both the functional and chronological formats. It showcases your skills while still providing a timeline of your employment history.

  • Skills and Experience: Start with a skills section followed by a detailed work history.

  • Balance: Combines the strengths of both formats, offering a holistic view of your abilities and career path.

  • Advantages: Suitable for those with strong skill sets and a solid work history.

This format is versatile, catering to various professional backgrounds and job requirements.

Starting with Your Resume Summary

Your resume summary, also known as a professional summary, is one of the first things hiring managers will read. It's crucial to craft a powerful statement that captures who you are as a candidate.

Begin by clearly stating your professional title and your primary credential. This sets the stage for your qualifications.


As a seasoned marketing manager with over 10 years of experience, I have successfully led marketing campaigns that increased brand awareness by 50%.

Use bullet points for key achievements if space allows:

  • Increased sales by 30% within six months

  • Managed a team of 20+ marketing professionals

Avoid using long paragraphs. Instead, opt for clear, concise sentences.

Focus on:

  1. Relevant Experience: Highlight what makes you a strong candidate for the specific position.

  2. Key Achievements: Use quantifiable metrics, such as percentage increases or dollar amounts, to provide concrete examples.

  3. Skills: Include a brief list of your most relevant skills to the job.

A well-written resume summary quickly informs the employer why you are the ideal candidate. It sets the tone for the rest of your resume and begins the process of selling your qualifications effectively.

Highlighting Your Skills Section

When crafting your resume, it's crucial to showcase your skills prominently.

Start by tailoring your skills section based on the job description. Review the job ad to identify which skills are relevant to the position. List those skills first.

Types of Skills to Include:

  • Hard Skills: Technical abilities such as data analysis, budgeting, and digital project management.

  • Soft Skills: Interpersonal attributes like communication, team leadership, and problem-solving.

Highlight transferable skills that apply across various roles. These include critical thinking, time management, and adaptability.

Use bullet points to list your top skills concisely. For example:

  • Data Analysis

  • Project Management

  • Risk Assessment

  • Team Leadership

If you have unique skills or certifications, feature them to stand out. For instance, proficiency in specialized software or fluency in multiple languages.

Example of a Skills Section:



Data Analysis


Project Management


Risk Assessment


Team Leadership


To maximize impact, align your highlighted skills with the top requirements of the job ad. Consider bolding the most crucial skills to draw attention.

Your skills section should complement your professional experience and education, providing a well-rounded picture of your capabilities.

Detailing Your Work Experience

When detailing your work experience on a resume, it's crucial to keep it clear, concise, and relevant.

First, create a dedicated section titled "Work Experience" or "Professional Experience."

For each position, format your details as follows:

  • Job Title

  • Company Name

  • Location

  • Dates of Employment

Ensure this information is placed prominently for easy reading.

Include your employment history in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent job. This helps to highlight your career progression effectively.

Use bullet points to list your responsibilities and achievements. Aim for 3-5 bullet points per job.


Software Engineer
Tech Solutions Inc., San Francisco, CA
Jan 2020 – Present

  • Developed and maintained company’s main software products.

  • Led a team of five developers in an agile environment.

  • Improved application performance, reducing load times by 30%.

Highlight volunteer experience if it's relevant to the job you're applying for. This can fill any employment gaps and showcase valuable skills.

Marketing Volunteer
Nonprofit Org, New York, NY
June 2019 – Dec 2019

  • Created marketing materials for fundraising events.

  • Managed social media accounts, increasing follower engagement by 25%.

Tailor your descriptions to match the job requirements. Focus on achievements and responsibilities that best demonstrate your qualifications and skills.

When detailing professional experience, use action verbs and quantify your accomplishments where possible. This adds impact and clarity to your resume.

By following these guidelines, you can create a compelling and organized section that effectively communicates your job experience and work history to potential employers.

Educational Background

Your educational background lays the foundation for your resume and can significantly impact your job prospects. Highlighting academic achievements and relevant coursework can demonstrate your readiness for a job, especially if you are a recent graduate.

Academic Achievements and Awards

Listing academic achievements and awards can provide employers with a quick snapshot of your educational excellence. Mention honors, scholarships, dean's list recognitions, and any other accolades you have received.

For instance, if you have received a scholarship for outstanding performance, include the name of the scholarship, the awarding institution, and the date received.

  • Example: “XYZ Scholarship, Awarded by ABC University, 2022.”

Also, if you have received any academic awards such as "Best Student in Computer Sciences" or “Outstanding Researcher Award,” make sure to list those as well. This not only emphasizes your achievements but also demonstrates your commitment to your field of study.

Relevant Coursework and Projects

Showcasing relevant coursework and projects is particularly useful for internships and entry-level positions where work experience might be minimal. Reference specific courses that are directly related to the job you are applying for.

For example, if you’re applying for a software development role, highlight courses like “Advanced Programming,” “Data Structures,” and “Software Engineering.” Include any substantial projects you completed as part of these courses, mentioning what you did, the technologies used, and the outcome.

  • Example: “Developed a comprehensive e-commerce platform as part of ‘Project Management’ course, utilizing Python and Django, resulting in a fully functional online store with real-time inventory management.”

Detailing this information will provide a clearer picture of your capabilities and how your education has prepared you for the job in question.

Effective Resume Formatting

Resume formatting is crucial in creating a professional-looking and easy-to-read document. Start by ensuring your resume has 1-inch margins on all sides, which helps maintain a balanced and clean layout.

Use a standard font style such as Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri. Stick to a font size of 11 to 12 points for the main text to ensure readability. Headers can be slightly larger, around 14 to 16 points, to distinguish sections clearly.

White space is important. Adequate spacing between sections, lines, and text keeps the resume from looking cluttered and overwhelming. Maintain a line spacing of 1.0 to 1.15 for the body text.

Align all content to the left, which is the most readable format for reviewers. You can center-align your name and contact information at the top for a polished look.

Divide your information into clear sections with bold headers. Sections usually include Contact Information, Summary, Work Experience, Education, and Skills.

Use bullet points to list achievements and responsibilities under each job title. This layout is easier to scan than long paragraphs. Limit bullet points to five or six per job to keep the resume concise.

Here's a quick checklist for effective resume formatting:

  • 1-inch margins on all sides

  • Standard font style (e.g., Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri)

  • Font size of 11 to 12 points for main text, 14 to 16 points for headers

  • Adequate white space and line spacing of 1.0 to 1.15

  • Left-aligned text, with the option to center-align your name and contact info

  • Clear, bold headers to divide sections

  • Bullet points for job responsibilities and achievements

This approach ensures your resume is professional, well-organized, and easy to read.

Utilizing Bullet Points and Conciseness

Using bullet points effectively in your resume can make your accomplishments easy to find and understand. Bullet points help highlight key achievements, making them stand out to hiring managers who may only spend seconds on each resume.

Benefits of Using Bullet Points:

  • Conciseness: By using bullet points, you can break down complex information into simple, digestible parts.

  • Visual Appeal: Bullet points create white space, making the document less text-heavy and more reader-friendly.

  • Highlight Specifics: Bullet points allow you to spotlight job-specific accomplishments and key data.

Achieving Conciseness:

  • Use Active Language: Start each bullet point with an action verb to convey decisive actions.

  • Quantify Achievements: Include hard numbers where possible, such as "Increased sales by 20%."

  • Be Specific: Replace vague terms with specific details. For example, instead of saying “improved processes," say "implemented a new filing system reducing retrieval time by 30%."


Experience Marketing Coordinator, ABC Corp

  • Developed and executed email campaigns, increasing open rates by 25%.

  • Coordinated with the design team to create marketing materials for 10+ product launches.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Limit bullet points to 2-4 per job listed.

  • Use past tense for previous roles and present tense for current roles.

  • Make each point impactful; quality over quantity.

By focusing on clear, concise, and quantified bullet points, you can make your resume more effective and compelling.

Tailoring Your Resume to The Job Post

Customizing your resume for each job post is crucial in a competitive job market. Employers and hiring managers are looking for candidates whose resumes reflect the specific requirements of the role.

Identify Keywords in the Job Post: Carefully read the job post to identify keywords and phrases. These often include skills, qualifications, and responsibilities. Incorporate these keywords into your resume to ensure alignment with the potential employer's expectations.

Match Your Skills and Experience: Align your skills, experience, and education with the job requirements. Highlight relevant achievements and duties from previous roles that demonstrate your capability for the new position.


Job Post Requirement

Your Resume

Strong communication skills

"Led a team of 10, improving communication efficiency by 20%."

Proficiency in data analysis

"Conducted data analysis to identify growth opportunities, leading to a 15% increase in sales."

Use a Tailored Objective or Summary: Craft your objective or summary to reflect the specific role. Mention the job title and key competencies that match the job post.


Objective: Experienced Marketing Specialist with expertise in digital strategy, looking to bring innovative solutions to XYZ Company.

Format for Impact: Ensure that the most relevant information is prominent. Use bold or italics to highlight crucial points and make them stand out to the hiring manager.

Be Concise and Precise: Avoid unnecessary details. Focus on clear and concise statements that directly correlate with the job requirements. This approach helps in creating a direct visual link between your expertise and the role.

When applying for jobs, you need to ensure your resume is both easily readable by applicant tracking systems (ATS) and appealing to recruiters. Achieving this involves focusing on specific keywords and formatting choices.

Keywords and Phrasing

Keywords are crucial for passing through ATS filters. These systems search for terms that match the job description.

Firstly, study the job posting thoroughly and identify key skills, qualifications, and responsibilities. Use these exact phrases in your resume.

Avoid overloading your resume with keywords, as ATS algorithms are sophisticated enough to detect keyword stuffing. Instead, integrate these terms naturally throughout your resume.

For job titles and skills, use both long-form and acronym versions (e.g., Project Manager and PM). This increases the chances of your resume being identified as a match.

ATS-Friendly Formatting

To ensure your resume is ATS-friendly, simplicity is key. Use a clean, structured format with clear section headings like Experience and Education.

Avoid complex layouts, graphics, and tables, which can confuse ATS software. Stick to standard fonts like Arial or Times New Roman and use bullet points for listing achievements and responsibilities.

Save your resume in a .docx or .pdf format as some ATS software may not parse other file types correctly. Ensure that your contact information is placed in the main body of the document rather than in headers or footers.

This approach will help your resume be effectively processed by ATS and reach the recruiters efficiently.

Additional Sections to Boost Your Resume

Certifications: Document any certifications that are relevant to the job. These can demonstrate your expertise and commitment to professional growth. For example, stating:

  • Certified Project Manager (CPM)

  • Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) in Photoshop

Achievements: Highlighting achievements can display your capability to deliver results. Use specific metrics when possible.


  • Increased sales by 20% within six months

  • Successfully managed a team of 10 to complete a project ahead of schedule

Awards: Include any awards received to showcase recognition from your industry or community.


  • Employee of the Month: Recognized for exceptional performance and dedication

  • Top Innovator Award: Honored for introducing a cost-saving initiative

Volunteer Work: Volunteering demonstrates a well-rounded personality and dedication to societal contribution. Mention volunteer roles that developed relevant skills.


  • Volunteer Coordinator, Nonprofit XYZ: Organized community outreach programs

  • Mentorship Program Leader: Guided youth through academic challenges

Projects: Relevant projects can substantiate your technical skills and problem-solving aptitude. Detail your most impressive projects.


  • Developed and launched a mobile app with over 10,000 downloads

  • Led a team in a digital transformation project, resulting in a 30% operational efficiency increase

Incorporate these sections wisely to create a more compelling and comprehensive resume. Structure and format these elements clearly to ensure they stand out to potential employers.

Proofreading and Final Touches

Ensuring your resume is polished involves careful proofreading and applying final touches. It’s essential to eliminate any errors that could distract from your qualifications.

Start by carefully reading your resume to catch spelling and grammar mistakes. Reading aloud can help you spot errors you might otherwise miss. Consider also reading your resume backward to focus on individual words.

Varying sentence length maintains the reader's interest. Keep sentences under 25 words. If necessary, break up longer sentences into two. This keeps your document engaging and easy to read.

Tips for effective proofreading:

  • Print your resume in a different font: This can highlight errors that you might overlook on the screen.

  • Get a second pair of eyes: Ask a friend or colleague to review your resume. They can provide fresh insights and spot issues you might have missed.

Key elements to check:

  • Ensure consistency in formatting (fonts, bullet points, and spacing).

  • Verify that all your contact information is current.

  • Confirm that the dates and job titles listed in your experience section are accurate.

Your relevant skills should be clearly showcased and align well with the job description. Tailor your CV and cover letters specifically for each application to increase your chances of standing out.

A well-proofread resume can make a significant difference in how potential employers perceive you. Taking these steps ensures that your resume reflects your professionalism and attention to detail.