Which Type of Resume is Right for You?

The pros and cons of three of the most popular resume formats.

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The resume: one of the most essential, albeit intimidating, parts of any job search. This key job-hunting tool should show your education, prior experience, accomplishments, and skills, which is a lot to include in one page. Your resume will most likely be in one of three formats: traditional, functional, or some combination of the two. Read on for a walk-through of the pros and cons of each.

[See our list of the 50 Best Careers.]

Traditional Resumes

Traditional, or chronological, resumes are probably the most common; they list your work experience in reverse chronological order—that is, they begin with your most recent experience at the top of the page, and end with your earliest relevant experience. 

  • Pro: This format is a tried-and-true classic; if most of your experience is relevant to the position for which you're applying, keep it in this format.
  • Con: If your most recent experience is irrelevant, you may lose your reader before they reach the bottom of the page.
  • Functional Resumes

    Functional resumes are organized by skills or functions—this means that the names of companies for which you've worked and positions that you've held previously are left out. Achievements and experiences are grouped according to the skills they represent; for example, "management skills" or "communications skills" could be functions in which you have experience. Under these functional headlines, you would list what relevant experience or accomplishments you have. 

    • Pro: If your chronological experience is all over the place or irrelevant to your desired field, then this resume format better displays what skills you offer an employee. This resume also highlights how some skills are applicable to many industries.
    • Con: This resume format is certainly not the norm, and could possibly distance a traditional hiring manager or applicant tracking system. Some employers may not even accept this format.
    • [In Pictures: 10 Surefire Ways to Annoy a Hiring Manager.]

      Combination Resumes

      A combination resume is just what it sounds like—a blend of the traditional and functional formats. A resume in this format would include a reverse chronological list of companies where you've worked, positions you've held, and dates that you were employed. And below that would be a functional list of accomplishments and skills, grouped by their corresponding function. 

      • Pro: This blend takes the benefits of a functional resume while still appeasing advocates of the traditional format.
      • Con: Again, some hiring managers may want to see or only accept traditional resumes.
      • Essential Parts of Any Resume 

        No matter what format you use—traditional, functional, a Microsoft Word document, or a PDF file—there are certain things that must be in your resume. Make sure to include: 

        • Contact information: Be sure to list your email, phone number, address, work-appropriate social media profiles, and your online portfolio and/or website.
        • Education: Include schools that you've attended, degree(s) earned, and your graduation year, if you graduated less than five years ago.
        • Prior experience: You must mention where you've worked, what position you held, and the time period you worked.
        • Accomplishments: Focus on what you've achieved or accomplished at any position, instead of listing day-to-day tasks or assignments.
        • Relevance: Make sure all information and work experience listed is relevant to your field and the position for which you're applying. 
        • [See The Ins and Outs of Providing References.]

          Also, make sure any resume you create is aesthetically appealing, free of typos and grammatical errors, and is targeted to the position for which you're applying. After all, any resume format still needs to accomplish the same goal—to inform.

          What type of resume do you prefer? Share with us below.

          Twitter: @heatherhuhman

          Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle.

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