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Let me break some disturbing news to you—
Recruiters don’t read resumes.
They merely skim them for most relevant information. Only the very best resumes will get more attention.
Which ones exactly?
Those that use an elegant, professional resume layout and proper resume formatting.
Let me show you an easy way to make a resume like that in no time.
In this guide you’ll learn:
- How to format a resume so that it lands you the interview.
- Easy-to-use tips and tricks for a professional resume layout.
- Which of the three resume formats to choose: reverse-chronological, functional, or combination (hybrid).
- Resume format templates and samples (MS Word included) better than 9 out of 10 others.
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To begin with, here’s a sample resume format in Word. Read on for a breakdown of what makes it so great!
1. How to Format a Resume for Greatest Impact
Good resume layout serves two purposes: it quickly leads recruiters’ eyes to where you want them to and it highlights your top strengths and achievements.
Here’s how to format a resume step by step:
1. Set one-inch margins on all sides.
2. Divide your resume into sections.
3. Choose a clear, legible, and elegant resume font.
Stick to it throughout your resume. Go for 11 or 12 pt. Use 14 to 16 pt for your name at the top and bold for section headings.
4. Put a single blank line before and after your section headings.
5. In the experience and education sections, use reverse-chronological order.
Start with your most recent job or school, follow it with the one before it, and so on.
6. Make strategic use of bullet points.
They save space and help you get your message across concisely.
It’s better to have a two-pager than to omit important information. It’s even worse if you jam-pack the contents of your resume using tiny fonts and too little white space.
8. Save your resume in the PDF format.
Unless the job ad states otherwise, submit your resume in PDF. Word files can go south in transit.
These are the basics. But there’s more to resume formatting.
In the next section, you will see how to choose the best resume format for your job application.
Expert Hint: When should you use a resume, and when is it better to use a curriculum vitae? It depends. CV and resume actually have a different meaning across languages. Read about the difference between a resume and a CV here.
2. The Three Standard Resume Formats: Examples
To make a professional resume that appeals to recruiters, you need to follow professional resume format rules.
First off, here are the three most common resume formats that recruiters expect to see.:
Choosing the proper resume style is all about dividing your resume into specific sections and putting them in the correct order.
Below, we break down how each one of these resume formats works and give our recommendations on who should pick which.
Reverse-Chronological Resume Layout
The reverse-chronological resume layout consists of:
1. Personal Information
2. Resume Summary or Resume Objective
3. Work Experience
6. Additional sections (Courses, Conferences, Publications, Awards, or Hobbies and Interests)
Let’s check how the rev-chron resume format works in practise:
Sample Reverse-Chronological Resume Format
PMP, IT Specialist
Strong IT Project Management Professional with 6+ years' experience, looking to improve quality, cost, & time for Dennison-Height Global. At Accurit, cut costs 28% in 5 months and received the Shingo Silver Medallion. At RBM, cut waste 20% and trained 78 employees in Lean Principles. PMP-Certified.
IT Project Manager
Accurit International, Inc.
- Oversaw all major IT projects for 4+ years, with focus on cost reduction.
- Implemented Six Sigma and Lean Training for all 78 employees. Slashed costs 28% in 5 months through employee idea collection and implementation.
- Through implementing standardized work and clear visual systems, increased efficiency 18% and received the Shingo Silver Medallion in 2017.
IT Project Manager
- Team leader for 12 IT specialists in high-volume manufacturing business.
- Switched all 235 employees to new scheduling system for improved cost management.
- Realized payroll cost savings of 15%.
- Implemented new cost-tracking project to cut inventory waste 20%.
- Managed project to train all IT staff in Lean principles.
- Ran project to install hour-by-hour WIP monitors in all cells, boosting hourly efficiency by 20% and saving $340,000 per year.
- Managed project to replace 100+ aging workstations. Worked with supplier to save 25% on costs. Saved estimated 150 man-hours a year in computer time.
- Initiated project for improved security, cutting risk scores 25%.
B.S. in Computer Science, UMass Boston
Agile, Scrum, Business Process Improvement, Vendor Management
Leadership, Collaboration, Communication
2018 Northeast Shingo Lean Conference, Spoke on panel about vendor management.
2016 Change Management Conference, Led session on Agile w/99% audience score.
What is the main focus of the reverse-chronological resume layout?
And that’s exactly why it’s so popular amongst job seekers and valued by recruiters.
It can be explained by science.
A fascinating eye-tracking study by The Ladders found that recruiters spend up to 80% of their resume review time on the following parts:
- Name and job title
- Current position, company, start and end dates
- Previous position, company, start and end dates
The reverse-chronological resume format makes all that information easily available.
And it gives you an additional edge: it’s sure to pass an Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) scan.
Just like recruiters, the ATS bots are familiar with this resume format so they’ll extract your data without any glitches.
Expert Hint: No wonder the good ‘ol rev-chron resume is the most popular US resume format. It’s elegant, clear, and useful to everyone. This format will be your safest bet!
Now, on to the most controversial of the three resume layouts.
The invention of the nineties:
Functional Resume Layout
The key ingredients of the functional resume layout are:
1. Contact Information
2. Resume Objective
3. Skills Summary
4. Additional Skills
5. Work Experience
See the example to get the idea:
Sample Functional Resume Format
Public Relations Specialist
Results-driven Penn graduate in Journalism and Social Communications seeking to leverage two years of internship and freelancing PR experience with Newton Software Communications Team. Experienced in producing engaging online content (see my portfolio here) and press releases for tech start-ups and local IT companies. Non-profit blogger at www.pr-matters.wordpress.com. Interested in modern digital PR solutions
Able to work with many kinds of clients in a wide variety of fields. Excellent at researching clients' brands, industries, and markets very quickly and efficiently.
Skilled at writing all types of Public Relations texts: press releases, blog posts, bulletins, campaigns (outreach emails, sales emails, engagement emails). Able to produce up to 3,500 words of great, unique content on a daily basis.
Able to come up with innovative solutions to all types of problems and crises. Excellent in designing and implementing both ATL and BTL Public Relations and Marketing campaigns in collaboration with graphic designers and art directors.
- SOCIAL MEDIA RELATIONS
Proficient at managing social media relations across all major social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+.
- TIME MANAGEMENT
Able to juggle multiple clients and projects. Have mastered prioritizing deadlines and
tasks. Great at physical office administration and organizing paperwork.
Public Relations Intern
Adidas Originals, Philadelphia, PA
Ogilvy and Mather, Philadelphia, PA
University of Pennsylvania, MA in Journalism and Social Communications
Looks fine at first glance. But let’s take a closer look—
Something seems wrong, doesn’t it?
Glassdoor survey amongst top talent acquisition pros revealed what recruiters really want to see on a well-formatted resume.
The key thing?
“Resume is easy to follow—we don’t have a lot of time to decipher qualifications. The easier a resume is to read and follow, the better,” says Karen Whyte, Senior Recruiter at Big Fish Games.
Functional resume format forces recruiters to do just that—decipher qualifications and read between the lines.
Sure, skills and qualifications are important.
You can’t just randomly put them at the top of the resume in whatever order you see fit while not giving any tangible proof.
The ResumeLab builder is more than looks. Get specific content to boost your chances of getting the job. Add job descriptions, bullet points, and skills. Easy. Improve your resume in our resume builder now.
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Expert Hint: Unless you’re in a creative field (where a portfolio matters more than your resume) or you’re a military transitioner (whose detailed military job descriptions would be too hard to follow), drop the idea of a functional resume format. It’s just confusing. Plus, it might make recruiters feel like you’re trying to hide something.
So you’re bound to stick to the standard reverse-chronological resume layout, right?
There is an alternative:
Combination (Hybrid) Resume Layout
The combination resume layout is made up of:
1. Personal Information
3. Additional Skills
Bringing theory to practice:
Sample Combination (Hybrid) Resume Format
Phone: 505 555 0177
Summary of Qualifications
Programming and App Development
- Developed and built 20+ mobile apps and 30+ websites providing exceptional user experience.
- Named BCD M&E’s “Top Programmer of The Year” for three consecutive years 2009-2011.
- 15+ years experience in C, C++, Cocoa, and Objective-C.
- C Certified Professional Programmer (2006), C++ Certified Professional Programmer (2009).
- 8+ years of experience in team management (teams of 10-50 colleagues) and project coordination.
- Designed and implemented a new IT management model with Apple’s New York Branch,
increasing the quarterly productivity by 33%.
- Trained and mentored 50+ junior developers for certification exams (88% success rate).
- Coordinated 20+ projects with a budget over $200,000.
- Optimized procurement processes to reduce BCD M&E’s annual costs by 27%.
- Successfully cooperated with sales and marketing teams on new business strategies which helped increase Apple New York’s sales volume by 23% in 8 months.
Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, CRM platforms, Google Analytics, Google AdWords
Apple, New York City, NY
- Supervised the IT team in creating mobile apps providing the best user experience for Apple's customers all over the world.
- Developed, reviewed, and tested innovative applications created with cutting edge technologies.
Senior IT Specialist
BCD M&E, Newark, NJ
- Developed, reviewed, and tested websites for internal and extenral stakeholders, led innovation in mobile applications.
- Cooperated with procurement teams in optimizing procurement processes.
Oracle, Redwood City, CA
MS in Computer Science, Distinction
The City College of New York, New York City, NY
BS in Computer Science
University of California, Berkeley, CA
I know what you’re thinking:
Well, this resume layout is almost identical to the functional format!
And you’re perfectly right. But there is a clear difference. I’m sure you can spot it.
The top part of the resume, your most valuable real estate, is also focused on skills. But—
Every single skill listed is backed up with verifiable, quantified proof.
Plus, have a look at the experience section:
It’s not as elaborate as in the reverse-chronological resume format, but still detailed enough to give a clear view of your career progression.
Already in love with the hybrid resume format?
Hold up a sec—
Expert Hint: The combination resume layout can only be used by very experienced job seekers. Usually, either people targeting higher-management positions or career changers with extensive work history. If you’re not that experienced yet, stick to the tried-and-tested reverse-chronological resume layout.
Time for a quick recap then:
3. How to Choose the Best Resume Format
Here’s a handy table comparing the three standard resume formats and layouts.
|Chronological vs Functional vs Combination Resume Format|
|Resume layout||Reverse- chronological resume format||Functional resume format||Combination resume format|
|The most important section||Work Experience||Skills Summary||Summary of Qualifications|
|Good for||Almost all candidates||Creative jobs, military transitioners||Experienced professionals, career changers|
|Bad for||Experienced professionals looking for a career change||Most candidates||Entry-level candidates, fresh graduates|
|Biggest advantage||Easy to skim, recruiters are familiar with it||Might help hide flaws in employment history||Showcases and validates skills|
|Greatest weakness||Very common||Difficult to read, recruiters are not keen on it||Suitable for few candidates|
So, as you can see the best resume format is the one that works for you.
More times that will mean the classic, respected reverse-chronological resume layout.
Expert Hint: Not all Free Resume Builders are ATS friendly. To make sure your creative resume reaches a human reader, send it directly to the recruiter's inbox.
Double your impact with a matching resume and cover letter combo. Use our cover letter builder and make your application documents pop out.
Want to try a different look? There’s 18 more. A single click will give your document a total makeover. Pick a cover letter template here.
Here are the key ingredients of the best resume format:
- Divide your resume into easily distinguishable sections.
- Make your resume formatting consistent: use one font, stick to a single date format.
- Make strategic use of white space and bullet points.
- Use one of the standard resume formats: reverse-chronological works for virtually all candidates, functional is good only for creative roles, combination suits very experienced job seekers.
- Reading from outside the US? Check out how to format an American resume.
Got more questions? Need further help writing a resume? I’m here to listen and assist. Drop me a line in the comments. Let’s chat!