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by Rob Porter | March 17, 2022


If you’re a student or a recent graduate, you’re more than likely preparing to enter the workforce sometime in the near future. Along with your education and experience, your resume is one of the key components to scoring a great job. There are many aspects to creating an effective resume, and one such aspect is choosing the format that is right for you. Today we’re going to talk about some of the most popular resume formats and how to apply them to your job search.

Reverse-Chronological Resume

Not just a fancy name, the reverse-chronological resume is just that; it lists your work experience in reverse-chronological order. This is the most commonly used resume format, and will suffice for nearly any job application. In this configuration, you’d list your most recent work experience, accolades, and skills in descending order. Traditionally, your education would feature after your work experience, and before optional sections such as scholarships, clubs, or hobbies and interests.

The reverse-chronological resume is generally the preferred format with recruiting managers and Human Resource types because it is the easiest to read and digest; however, if you have limited work experience or have never held a job before, it may not be the best format to showcase your sweet set of skills. Additionally, reverse-chronological resumes make gaps in your work experience very obvious, which can sometimes shed a negative light on an applicant.

Functional Resume

The functional resume format is skill-based, in comparison to the reverse-chronological resume which focuses on your work experience history. With the functional resume, your overall professional title is featured before a summary of your skills. This can work in your favor as regardless of whether your title has varied, you can narrow it down to be suitable for the job you are applying for. Just remember, your skills should match your professional title – so, for example, refrain from saying you’re an astronaut if your skillset is more in line with project management.

With this format the advantage is that the recruiting manager will see all your skills first as they’re skimming through your resume, which will soften the blow if you have limited work experience.

Hybrid Resume

And now for the sci-fi resume—I mean, hybrid format resume. You may have already guessed that the hybrid format is simply a combination of the reverse-chronological and functional formats, and if you did, you are correct. This format works best if you have “too much” work experience. In other words, you want to keep your resume short and sweet, while also including all the critical information for the job you are applying for. Here, the focus is on your work experience while also including a section that showcases your skillset.

If you’ve worked all throughout college or you’re a seasoned professional, this resume format might work best for you as it allows you to go into greater detail while also saving space.

Which Resume Format Should I Choose?

In most cases, the reverse-chronological resume is the best choice. It is the format that is most widely used, therefore it is the most familiar to recruiters and Human Resources representatives, and it fares well with those pesky applicant tracking systems. More plainly, all the hard work you did in putting your resume together might have been for naught if an applicant tracking system cannot read your resume, or if an employer catches on that you’re trying to covertly get around your lack of experience.

The functional format could come in handy if you’re a recent graduate with no work experience whatsoever, and you’re in contact with an actual human being at the organization you are applying to. Remember, once you’ve got a contact person it becomes much easier because you can talk and explain in real time, and you’re no longer just a name on a sheet of paper or a screen.

Lastly, the hybrid format can be tricky. This is best suited for professionals with a long history, many contacts and references, and at least some sort of reputation in the field. You could go with a hybrid if you have a ton of relevant experience and don’t want a five-page resume, but it would not be advisable to list all your retail experience if you’re applying for a position as an administrative assistant.

When in doubt, go with the reverse-chronological format. It doesn’t hurt to experiment with different resume formats if your life situation allows it, but if you found a job you really like it isn’t worth it to take a chance. Think of the reverse-chronological resume as a sort of “catch all,” while the functional and hybrid formats are specialized for very specific situations.