There are three basic resume types: chronological, functional, and a combination or hybrid. Whether you’re writing your first resume or updating your resume for the hundredth time, it’s important to consider which format will work the best for you.
When most people think of resumes, they think of the chronological resume. The chronological format should probably be called “reverse chronological format”, as it lists each job starting with the most recent and moving backwards.
The chronological format is designed to highlight the progression and growth of a professional life. This format is the most traditional. For the job hunter, this format is the easiest to write. For the employer, this format is the easiest to follow and read. Some employers will have only ever seen this type of resume, and may be a little thrown off by a different format.
However, the chronological format can deemphasize skills and personal strengths. Because it is focused on past jobs, it can make changing careers or employment tracks more difficult. The chronological format emphasizes time and dates, which can be a big disadvantage for anyone with short-term employment or employment gaps. This can be a particular drawback for anyone who has had to take time away from working due to illness or disability.
The functional resume focuses on skills and accomplishments, and deemphasizes dates and times. This format can be useful for people with short-term employment or employment gaps, as it emphasizes what you can do, not when you did it. The functional format also deemphasizes the type of work, which can be useful for people who want to list unpaid work experience, such as internships, job shadowing, or volunteering. Also, this resume is considered the most useful for people who are changing or starting careers.
The functional format is useful for emphasizing transferable skills. Imagine that David Copperfield decided to quit performing and become a human resources (HR) manager. Most employers wouldn’t think that being a magician can prepare you to work in HR, but if he chose the functional resume format, he could highlight transferable skills like public speaking (addressing an audience), managing employees (stagehands, assistants), and computer skills (using Excel to track ticket sales).
However, the functional format deemphasizes the specifics of where the work experience was gained. If you are applying for a job and have experience with an employer in the same field, or have had the same job title as the new position, the functional format will make that less obvious.
This format is more difficult to write than the chronological, as it takes much more thought about how to best discuss your career and accomplishments. Also, some employers are not used to the functional format, and may find it more difficult to follow or read. Some employers may assume a functional resume is an attempt to hide something, and reject it outright.
The combination resume uses elements from both the chronological format and the functional format. It lists skills and achievements first, in a section often called “Profile” or “Summary”, followed by employment history. This type of resume highlights what you can do, while still providing the chronological work history most employers are used to seeing.
This format is the most difficult to write, and requires careful formatting and a great deal of editing. If you are combining information from a chronological resume and a functional resume, you can easily end up with too much information, and have to spend time considering what to leave out. But for those who put in the effort, the payoff can be well worth it.
- Sample chronological resume (PDF)
- Sample chronological resume (DOC)
- Sample functional resume (PDF)
- Sample functional resume (DOC)
- Sample combination resume (PDF)
- Sample combination resume (DOC)