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The Resume Format

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A resume is the very first impression on an employer - there are no do-overs. A confusing, poorly organized resume layout can mean the difference between rejection and landing an interview. A resume is the <strong>very first impression</strong> on an employer - there are no do-overs. A confusing, poorly organized resume layout can mean the difference between rejection and landing an interview.

Just knowing how to write a resume isn’t enough, though - the resume format chosen is also of crucial importance.

Because potential employers take an average of 6 to 8 seconds to scan a resume, selecting a resume layout that best complements an applicant’s background and overall experience is critical to improving the chances of a successful job hunt. Resume builders are also helpful, as they take care of the formatting along the way so a jobseeker can focus on content.

There are many factors that come into play when choosing a resume format, but the selection ultimately depends on every jobseeker’s background and experience.

How to Format a Resume

Formatting a resume isn’t only about the fonts, text size, and spacing chosen. Resume layouts also take into consideration the information listed or omitted, and in what order, as this determines the areas that will be emphasized.

No matter how impressive the content, a resume with poor structure can be disastrous to someone’s chances of landing a job. Writing a resume is crucial and hard enough already, but knowing how to organize a resume effectively is just as important.

Because hiring managers scan resumes so quickly and discard resumes in a matter of seconds, learning how to optimize a professional resume format is crucial to improving a jobseeker’s chances of securing an interview.

Basic Resume Format

Every professional resume has a common basic layout that includes 4 sections.

No matter the chosen resume format, there are some sections that should appear on every resume. Their content and organization can be changed around, but there are 4 sections that potential employers always look for when reviewing a resume.


An effective objective tells a potential employer about the job an applicant is looking for and the industry they are interested in. For example: “Certified Medical Assistant seeking full-time employment in the hospice industry.”

A summary statement, meanwhile, outlines the jobseeker’s career trajectory or work history until the present moment. For example: “Certified Medical Assistant with 11 years of experience in healthcare. Organized, empathetic caretaker with proven track record of assisting patients.”


This resume section details the education and/or training completed. These are the most important sections for a student resume. This doesn’t only mean college or university: vocational schools, as well as any certificates or diplomas earned there, can be listed here as well.

This section is vital, as employers are interested in immediately knowing whether a candidate has the necessary training and education to carry out his or her tasks.


Arguably the most important part of a resume, the work experience section details a candidate’s work history, including job duties, places, and dates of previous employment.

Jobseekers should ideally repeat the keywords used in the job description, as well as ensure that this section responds to what the potential employer is searching for.

This section is also critical, as the work experience section demonstrates to HR professionals whether a candidate has the necessary experience and qualifications for the job.


The “other” section might be used instead of the work experience section for a student resume or a first job. Among other uses, it can be used to list relevant volunteer experience.

This resume section can also list other skills, including foreign languages or special courses taken. What a candidate may lack in work experience can thus be made up with other areas of knowledge.

Successful jobseekers anticipate what may be missing in their resume and work to clarify any potential stumbling points, and sometimes deem that it would benefit from an additional resume section.

Types of Resume Formats

There are 3 main types of resume layouts.

Jobseekers should take into account their background and experience when choosing a professional resume format, as each one highlights different parts of a candidate’s overall profile. Resume structure templates can also be helpful here, as they can provide more inspiration.


The standard, most traditional resume format is the reverse chronological resume. It lists work experience starting with the most recent job first and working backwards.

While this classic approach may be the safest option for most jobseekers, it has its drawbacks too. Because it emphasizes forward progression in someone’s career, this might not be the best choice for someone who has significant gaps in their work history or if they have changed jobs a lot.


A more modern version of the professional layout is the functional resume, also known as the skill-based resume.

Rather than emphasize progression, this format highlights the relevant skills and abilities that a jobseeker possesses, which makes this a better choice for jobseekers with nontraditional career trajectories. That way, skills are what’s being emphasized, not overall progression.


One of the least commonly used resume formats is the combination resume. As its name implies, this format combines the best of both worlds. Like the chronological resume, it emphasizes progression, but also highlights skills, as in the functional resume.

This is ideal for jobseekers looking to change from one industry to another or for people considered experts in their field.

The combination resume runs the risk of being too long and of sounding repetitive, however, especially if the candidate in question has a long career.

How to Choose the Best Resume Format

Ultimately, the deciding factor when choosing a resume format is a jobseeker’s background and experience.The resume format a jobseeker ultimately selects goes far beyond simply making a resume look appealing.

Resume templates can also be helpful in letting jobseekers get a visual representation of the final draft of their resume before it’s sent out to employers. The right resume layout can give a resume the final, professional touch that can make it stand out from the other jobseekers.

Whatever the choice, it’s clear that the decisions about a resume format are not to be taken lightly. It can have a significant effect on a jobseeker’s chances and can make the difference between a job interview and going back to the drawing board.