What’s The Best Resume Format?
‘Best’ is a subjective term. As it relates to resume formats, ‘best’ will be whichever format is the most effective in addressing the quirks of your own career history and of course in communicating your unique value proposition, skill set, and work experience.
The 4 main resume formats being used today can be classified as Reverse Chronological, Chronological Functional, Hybrid, and Functional.
The Reverse Chronological (Traditional) Resume Format
The Reverse Chronological, also known as the ‘Traditional’ format, lists employment starting with the most recent and works backwards.
This format is ideal for accentuating a track record of upward mobility, from which you can build in themes linking each of the roles to bring the reader to the present day and perfectly position you for the next move forward.
What’s Hot and What’s Not So Hot About this Format?
One of the central benefits of this type of resume format is that it gives the reader (hiring managers and recruiters) instant access to your current/most recent role and allows them to quickly understand and appreciate your progression.
This format positions you perfectly for the next step up in your career and generally presents well across all industries where they value a track record of solid career progression.
If you have a solid work history upward mobility, or lateral movement where it can be readily explained, and your current employer is a respected industry name, this resume format could be an option for you.
What’s Not So Hot?
There could be situations where this type of format is not as desirable. What if the job title you’re targeting is quite different from those listed in your career progression? Using a format that accentuates this type of progression could be a mistake.
Secondly, this type of format can bring unwelcome attention to gaps in employment history, periods of unemployment, or allow the reader to very quickly assess your ‘stickability’ in a role based on the volume of jobs you’ve held.
If you’re not smart about it, this type of format could also allow someone to figure out your age.
Who Could Use It?
People with a perfect career progression targeting a role that would represent the next logical step forward kin that progression.
Who Shouldn’t Use This Format?
This format is probably not going to be the best option for a new graduate with minimal experience in the target profession; and people with job gaps, redundancies, demotions, too many jobs in a short period of time, and people re-entering the workforce. It’s also probably not the best option or people who are looking to make a transition into a new field or seeking to re-target a profession you worked at in the distant past.
The Chrono-Functional Resume (Hybrid) Format
This format focuses on skills and accomplishments first, then moves into the chronology second.
The ‘Hybrid’, lets you tailor and customize the way in which you emphasize the chronology and functional skills in line with your particular circumstances. The hybrid resume format combines the very best elements of the reverse chronological resume, while utilizing the creative flexibility afforded by some of the functional style formats.
This resume format is designed in such way that it emphasizes ability focused topics, transferable skills, and functional areas that position you best for the target role.
This format pays no attention to a strict chronological timeline. The entire goal is to cherry-pick the parts of your background that best meet the needs of your target role.
Having said that, the chrono-functional resume format justifies the inclusion of all listed skills by listing a chronology where those skills came from – this could include a combination of work experience, education, internships, or even volunteer experience if it’s relevant to the role.
What’s Hot About This Format?
This format brings a laser sharp focus to the areas of your background and unique qualities that make you an ideal fit for their role.
The hybrid format can highlight earlier experience that is needed to impress an employer. It allows you to promote the parts of your background that best match the needs of that target role regardless of the timeline in which you did it.
So, you’re not making a hiring manager read every single bullet point on a resume before they find something that interests them, which could be at the bottom of page two with an attached timeline that dates the skills and ensures the employer doesn’t take them seriously.
With the build out of the first half page of page 1 highlighting key skills, accomplishments, and experience, this format gives you the generic platform needed to mirror the key requirements of the target role.
It gives you the platform needed to cherry-pick the skill sets and accomplishments you want to highlight, that help demonstrate your suitability for the target role.
This format also gives you the opportunity to leverage internship, volunteer, or unpaid community work in a way that could help sell you directly into a role by showcasing these items in the first half page of page 1 if needed.
Furthermore, this format gives you the opportunity to minimize or omit employment experience that does not directly support your objective.
This type of format is very powerful, and when crafted correctly and in the right circumstances, is hard to beat.
Having said that, although this format is great for people with a weaker recent role, people with gaps, career changers, and for those lacking experience in their target industry, people with a solid track record of progression and overall career excellence do not need to use this type of format.
Personally, I love using hybrid documents.
What’s Not Hot About This Format?
Most people are accustomed to the reverse chronological format, so at first glance, this type of format will look and feel unfamiliar to most hiring managers and recruiters.
Employing a functional-type document runs the risk of a hiring manager failing to understand where and when you actually acquired a specific skill.
And lastly, it’s obvious that this format isn’t designed to illuminate the reader as to your career progression as the sole focus of your pitch.
Who Could Use It?
Anyone ready to showcase their ‘selected highlights’ early in the document or people desiring to sell-in specific skill sets required by the target role.
New graduates, returners to the workforce/people with gaps in employment history, those transitioning from the military civilian life.
The Functional Resume
The Functional format which, if you can imagine, contains a list of skills and experience grouped into catch-all headers “Customer Service Skills”, “Leadership Skills”, Finance Skills” etc.
However, in this day and age, this format is an instant red flag and should be avoided for that reason alone. When I encountered this style of resume when I was recruiting, the first thing I did was to skip to page two to work out what the job applicant was trying to hide.
This format is generally used by people with a non-traditional career history. This type of resume format has traditionally been favored by the ‘job hopper’ – someone who has had many jobs in a short period of time, or someone with other issues they are trying to hide.
Sometimes people attempting a career transition use this style of document when in fact, depending on their circumstances and personal situation, they may have been better served using a Hybrid style due to the stigma associated with the use of this resume format in certain circles.