3 resume formats: chronological, functional, or screw both

Sitting in front of a computer struggling to format your resume isn’t much fun. Should you list your jobs in order? What if your employment history isn’t steady? What if you’re a career changer? How do you deal with work experience that is not job related? What if your skills are more impressive than your job title? Enter bone-chilling resume-writing scream here!

I feel your resume writing pain. Now let me give you give you a pain killer – aside from academic resumes, there are three common resume formats, they are: chronological, functional, and the combination resume. Figuring out which resume format works for your situation is easy – this post will end the terror and help you find your format fit. One of these three resume formats may just set your skills on fire and help you land that job interview. Now scream with excitement!
1. Chronological Resume Format

The most common type of resume format is the chronological resume. The chronological format lists your most recent employment history (or education) first, ordering your jobs by date in a time line. This is the traditional method of formatting a resume, and places more emphasis on your job titles and your employment history over your skills. Think of the chronological format as a history book – it outlines your career path for hiring managers to easily scan. Chronological resumes can work best for job seekers with a stable career progression in one or two fields. Here’s how to know if this format is for you:

Use the chronological resume format when:

You have a steady work history with few breaks in your employment time line.
You’re staying in the same field.
Your job titles show increased responsibility and higher position levels.
Your last or current employer are well known.
You’re applying to traditional organizations who reward steady progression.
Your past job titles match employer job requirements.


chronological format is the resume type most prospective employers expect to see. It’s quick to read, easy to follow, and provides a ready-made template for interview questions. For the job seeker, the chronological format also looks like the easiest to write – but it can be a pain in the arse if your career path isn’t perfectly linear. For example, if you started your career as a “ghost whisperer” and want to land a job as a lawyer, this probably isn’t the resume format for you. Here’s how to know when to skip the chronological resume format:

Skip the chronological resume format when:

You have a lot of transferable skills.
You’ve changed employers frequently.
You’re returning after an extended leave (for example: due to family, illness, travel).
You’re a career changer and have switched fields often.
You have jobs or experiences you’d prefer not to mention.
You have no work experience in the job you’re targeting.

For the majority of job seekers, though, the chronological resume format can be worked to suit your needs. Here’s how it basically looks written out:

Chronological Resume Format Example

JOB TITLE #1 2007-Present

Skills and experience details
more skills

JOB TITLE #2 2005-2007

Skills and experience details
more skills

JOB TITLE #3 2002-2005

Skills and experience details
more skills

If you’re feeling stuck about finding a job that fits with a chronological time line then there’s more resume writing options below.
2. Functional Resume Format

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3 resume formats: chronological, functional, or screw both