The Complete Resume Format Guide For 2019

By Mike Simpson

By now, as a seasoned job hunter and student of the Interview Guys, you should know there are a few essentials you should have in your arsenal: business cards, a solid cover letter, your elevator pitch, and your well-formatted resume.

Hang on, haven’t we already gone over all this in that other article, How to Make a Resume 101?

Yes…and no.

In that article we did go over how to write a resume, but in this article, we’re going to take you to the next step and focus specifically on one seemingly small but massively huge part of resume building: resume format and how to select which one is right for you.

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Why Is Resume Format So Important?

As any good “Interview Guys student” will tell you, a resume is a document used by job seekers (you) to quickly and easily let a hiring manager know what skills they have, what their work history is, and any accomplishments they might have.

Seems simple, right?

Well, it is, but only if you know what you’re doing. The tricky part of writing your own resume is it’s a deceptive document.

No, not deceptive as in you use it to lie to an employer about what you can do (don’t EVER do that!), but deceptive in that it seems like it should be really easy to write.

Trust me, it’s much easier to write a bad resume than a good one…and there are a LOT of bad ones out there, which, believe it or not, is a good thing.

Wait. It’s good that there are bad resumes out there? That doesn’t make any sense!

Yes, and the reason is, when a recruiter or hiring manager has to slog through a mountain of bad resumes, seeing a good resume is like a breath of fresh air. It stands out!

And if you follow our guide, that breath of fresh air resume is going to be yours!

But first, we need to figure out what type of resume format you need.

Types of Resume Formats

Once upon a time, many moons ago, there was just one way to write a resume, reverse-chronologically.

Chronological Resume Formatalarm-161067_640

The reverse-chronological resume (simply called the “chronological”) was just that, a chronological listing of everything you’d done up to that point, starting with your most recent and working backwards.

During the heyday of the chronological resume, everyone used it. It wasn’t just industry standard, it was global standard.

Brain surgeons and tax accountants used the same chronological format as plumbers and babysitters – and for the time, it was fine.

Then someone said, “Hmm. These jobs aren’t all exactly the same..so why are the resumes being used exactly the same? Shouldn’t they be specific to the job you’re seeking? Shouldn’t it be more…functional?”

And in that moment, the functional resume was born.

Functional Resume Format

Rather than just simply listing what you’ve done (chronological), a functional resume specifically targets the job you’re going after and makes sure that it highlight the skills and abilities you have that relate to that position.cogwheel-145804_640

Rather than listing a ton of stuff that might not relate to what you’ve done, it highlights what is most relevant for the position you’re going after.

Whereas a chronological resume can seem cold and impersonal, almost a ‘shopping list’ of skills, promotions and upward mobility, a functional resume allows you to interject a little of “who” you are into the conversation, not just “what you do.”

And then someone said “I can’t decide…what works better for me? Chronological or functional? Ugh, why do I have to decide? Why can’t I use both?!”

And thus the combination resume was born.

Combination Resume Format

The combination resume takes all the best parts of a functional resume (relevant skills, qualifications and specifically targeted information) and combines it with the chronological resume (everything you’ve done in the past that’s gotten you to where you are right now.)

But which of the three resume formats is right for me?

How To Choose the Best Format

The first thing you have to do when settling on what type of resume you plan to write (chronological, functional or combination), is figure out which resume format or resume layout matches your needs and who you are.

CHRONOLOGICAL RESUMES are great for people who have had a steady career path in the same field for a long period of time or are applying for jobs in similar fields and has few, if any, gaps in their employment history.

Employers like chronological resumes because it’s easy to see, at a glance, what an employee has done in the past. For people who have stayed within the same industry their whole career and haven’t moved around much, it’s a great option as it shows a potential employer quickly and easily your progression.

For example, executives who have had a steady progression to the top would benefit from a chronological resume.

Chronological resumes are also great for people who are just starting out or find themselves in the mid-level of their careers.

When organizing your chronological resume, you want to make sure you keep the following categories in this order (see, I told you we’d come back to categories in resume formats!)

    • Objective Statement or Summary Statement
    • Experience/Qualifications
  • Education

FUNCTIONAL RESUMES are great for people who have started and stopped their careers and are facing gaps in their work history or are making a significant career change. Functional resumes are also great for people who are targeting a particular position and need a resume that highlight specific skills and abilities that directly relate.

People just entering the job market can also benefit from a functional resume as it focuses more on skills than past work history.

When organizing your functional resume, you want to make sure you keep the following categories in this order:

    • Objective Statement or Summary Statement
    • Achievements/Accomplishments
    • Experience/Qualifications
  • Education

COMBINATION RESUMES are great for people who are looking to make a career change and move from one industry to another. It’s also a great format for highlighting well-developed skills and talents that are relevant to a specific position. This is the best resume format for someone considered a master within their field.

When organizing your combination resume, you want to make sure you keep the following categories in this order:

    • Objective Statement or Summary Statement
    • Achievements/Accomplishments
    • Experience/Qualifications
  • Education

Best Practices For Formatting Your Resume

Now that we’ve gone over different resume formats, it’s time to go over formatting the resume format (?) you have selected. Tongue twisters and confusing sentences aside, let’s start with the basics!

long-resumeHow Long Should A Resume Be?

No matter which of the three formats you decide to go with, it should fit neatly onto one single sided page without crowding.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, and in some (rare) cases (career changes, highly advanced technical fields, or individuals at the senior/executive level), a slightly longer resume is acceptable.

Anything longer than that and you’ve moved out of the world of resumes and into the world of CV’s (hey, we have an article for those! Check out our CV article here!) which are acceptable, but ONLY in VERY SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCES. (If you’ve been asked for your resume, make sure that’s what you give them or you run the risk of it being tossed.)

Keep in mind this isn’t your autobiography! 

This is meant to give a hiring manager just enough information about you that they feel compelled to call you in and meet you face to face!

To put it bluntly, the average hiring manager spends initially between 10-20 seconds on each resume which means you have 10-20 seconds to catch their eye. T