What Layout of Resume Should I Use?


There are three basic layouts of resumes: chronological, functional, and combined. This section describes each layout and their advantages and disadvantages.

1. Chronological Layout
Chronological is preferred by most employers because it clearly demonstrates your work history and professional growth. The chronological format focuses on the chronology of your work history by highlighting dates of employment, places of employment, and job titles. This format directly ties responsibilities and accomplishments to companies and time frames. This is usually the preferred format if you are applying for a similar or more advanced position in the same field.

Use this layout if:

  • You want to highlight stability, consistency, growth, and development in your career.
  • Your most recent position is the one most likely to impress prospective employers.
  • You are looking for a similar or more senior position within the same industry.

Advantages:

  • Enables an employer to determine, at a glance, where and when you’ve worked and what you accomplished at each job.
  • Is the most common and widely accepted format. Provides the employer with a clear sense of your career progress.

Disadvantages:

  • Limited work experience and employment gaps are obvious.
  • Could reveal a history of changing jobs frequently. Could reveal if you were in the same job too long or have held the same type of job too long.
  • Does not highlight skills and accomplishments as much as it highlights work history.

2. Functional Layout
If you are changing careers, or have gaps or other inconsistencies in your work history, a functional resume is recommended. The functional format emphasizes your skills, capabilities, and accomplishments, and de-emphasizes your job titles, employers, and dates of employment. The functional format allows you to prioritize your experience and accomplishments according to their impact and significance, rather than chronology.

Use this layout if you:

  • Have changed jobs frequently in the past few years.
  • Have gaps in your employment history. Have limited work experience in your job target.
  • Are changing careers.
  • Gained significant experience outside your career path.

Advantages:

  • Highlights accomplishments, skills, and experience most relevant to your career objective.
  • Takes focus off gaps or inconsistencies in your work history.
  • Draws from a range of paid and non-paid experiences.

Disadvantages:

  • Experience is not directly tied to specific job titles and dates of employment which can lead employers to suspect you’re trying to hide something.
  • Does not emphasize promotions and career growth.
  • Makes it difficult for hiring managers to tell exactly what the candidate did in each job.

3. Combined Layout
To highlight specific skills, abilities, or accomplishments, you could choose a combined format, which adds sections for the areas you would like to emphasize at the top of your resume. The combined format includes the traditional Experience section of a chronological resume as well as the skills and accomplishments sections of a functional resume. This format is the most flexible, allowing you to highlight those sections of your resume that are most relevant to your career objective. This is an increasingly popular format for resumes.

Use this layout if you:

  • Are a senior-level professional or executive and have significant accomplishments.
  • Want to highlight your relevant abilities during a career transition.
  • Are targeting your resume to fit specific job requirements while displaying the continuity of your career history.
  • Want to emphasize skills and abilities you have not used in recent jobs. Have been free-lancing, consulting, or performing temporary work.

Advantages:

  • Highlights your primary skills and accomplishments at the top of your resume.
  • Format can be arranged to emphasize either skills and abilities or work history, whichever is most appropriate for your career objective.
  • Groups qualifications into categories that relate directly to your career objective.

Disadvantages:

  • Resume could become longer than necessary and may lose the employer’s interest.
  • Resume may contain redundant information or lack focus.
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