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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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

Writing an Effective Resume

The first step in writing an effective resume requires that you define the position or type of position you are looking for. If you are applying for several types of jobs, consider writing a different resume for each. Your resume will be most effective when you target a specific type of job, and then describe how your skills, abilities, and experience qualify you for that position.

Research the job responsibilities and requirements for each position. You can find this information by browsing through the job advertisements for your occupation. Determine what your responsibilities will be, what skills, abilities, and knowledge you’ll need, and what personal and professional characteristics are required for success. Once you have determined the requirements of the position, analyze your past experience, accomplishments, education, skills and personal characteristics, and begin building your resume in a way that demonstrates your ability to succeed.

The best resumes describe your accomplishments and experience in terms of an Action- Benefit statement, which is a precise description of an action you took that produced a tangible and measurable result that benefited your company.

Writing Powerful Action-Benefit Statements
Action-Benefit statements use your accomplishments and experience to demonstrate the positive impact you can have on a company’s bottom line. An Action-Benefit statement consists of:

Action: A job responsibility or specific action that you took when faced with a situation, problem, or opportunity that enabled you to achieve a positive result.

The positive result or benefit to the organization, such as an increase in revenue, a reduction in costs, streamlined processes or systems, or improved morale.

An Action-Benefit statement might read “Analyzed declining sales and developed campaign that increased orders by 30% in less than one month.” This statement describes the situation or challenge you faced (declining sales), the Action you took (developed a campaign), and the Benefit of your actions (a 30% increase in orders). Always quantify or qualify the accomplishments and achievements described in your Action-Benefit statement. When you are quantifying results, consider the impact of your work in measurable terms and include the numbers, percents, dollars, and other values that represent your experience in the best possible light.

Before: Supervised a large staff of retail employees covering multiple territories. Effectively managed business unit P&L and consistently grew profits.

After: Ten years experience managing 15 employees across multiple territories. Effectively managed P&L of $10 million business unit. Consistently generated 30-35% gross profit.

Alternatively, when you are qualifying accomplishments, consider describing the process, depicting the environment, and including the personal characteristics that a future employer would consider valuable.

Before: Increased sales through cold-calling, follow-up, and account management.

After: Consistently grew revenue and profits in a rapidly changing environment through aggressive cold-calling, persistent followup, and relationship-focused account management

When writing an Action-Benefit statement, it is unnecessary to provide details on how you solved the problem. You can provide this information at the interview. Focus on the results as opposed to the process. If your Action-Benefit statements are powerful enough, employers will invite you in for an interview just to see how you achieved the results.

What is a Resume?

A resume has traditionally meant a brief account of your professional work experience and qualifications. However, in today’s job market, your resume must be much more. In order to stand out, your resume needs to be a demonstration of your ability to fulfill a certain role and achieve results that will make a positive impact on the bottom line of a company. Before writing your resume it is essential that you know the career field you are seeking and understand the skills, abilities, and experience required. You must analyze your professional experience and determine which elements best demonstrate your qualifications for the position. Your resume must communicate your accomplishments, achievements, skills, abilities, and talents in a way that sets you apart from other candidates in your field.

A resume is often the first formal communication with prospective employers. Its purpose is to demonstrate the value you can add to the company, and convince them to invite you for an interview. A resume is also a demonstration of the quality of your work. Be sure your writing is clear and succinct and that your resume has a professional presentation.

A resume will do two things for you during your job search. First, it will be a sales brochure, advertising the best reasons to consider you for a position. Remember that, on average, a hiring professional will spend about 30 seconds reviewing your resume; so you have a very limited amount of time to convince a prospective employer that it’s worth his or her time to add you to the interview list.

Second, your resume will provide a guide for the interview. Employers often base their interview questions on the skills and experience listed in your resume. Use your resume to lead interviewers to ask questions about your most impressive and relevant qualifications or achievements. Prioritize the most relevant information at the top of your resume.