Resume Format and Layout

Learn how to format your resume and catch the employer's attention

Resume Templates

Like many aspects of creating a resume, the formatting can be complicated but luckily there are resume templates for all kinds of profiles and in this guide you’ll find tips about how to present the layout of your resume if you choose to create one from scratch.

Formatting a resume is incredibly important but can sometimes be overlooked which can easily mark the difference between candidates. It can take time to learn how to write a resume but it is well worth investing your time in ensuring you have correctly and thoroughly formatted your resume.

Your resume is your personal representative; it will land in the hands of the hiring manager who will spend a very quick few seconds reviewing the titles, general content and checking for errors before deciding whether to investigate further or reject your application, which is why it is essential to have a well-formatted resume which stands out for its positive aspects and which highlights your strengths.

If your resume format is disorganized and unclear, a potential employer has possibly hundreds of resumes from other candidates to look through therefore he or she will not waste time trying to make sense of it and you will miss your chance for an interview.

Don’t let that be your case and read on for advice on how to format a resume to get the best representation possible. Good resume layouts as well as online resume builders will help you to avoid silly mistakes and ensure your progression to the next application stage.


How to Format a Resume

To get started with your resume format you should first decide on a general design that fits well with your field, experience and the sector you’re looking to work in.

You may ask yourself what formatting a resume includes: The simple answer would be the steps of making a resume readable and presentable.

Without a good format, a resume is simply a list of accomplishments, previous employment, diplomas and extra information without order or structure, making it impossible for recruiters to understand.

Although we’d like to think that hiring managers spend time reading through all our achievements, the reality is that the most effective resume layout, in itself as a profile of your professional life, needs to stand out visually to attract attention and the content needs to be the ultimate selling point.

The design refers to the general resume layout and colors which are important to consider as part of the resume format. You should not use loud or multiple colors on your resume.

If you do not have a design background, it may be easier to use an online resume maker to avoid the hassle of this step or find a sample with a typical resume layout to guide you.

However, the general resume format also includes alignment, spacing, margins, font size and type etc. Working from a resume template or using a resume builder makes this step much simpler as the content just needs to be edited as opposed to creating the resume structure from scratch.

Here are some basic tips on how to format a resume whether you’re just starting out on your student resume or you need to update your professional profile:

  • Use headers to make the essential information easy to find.
  • Never use an illegible font.
  • Instead use a common, formal font type and size, such as Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman, size 10 or 12 to maintain a professional aesthetic.
  • Use single line spacing and justify all texts with a left margin.
  • Use bullet points to describe responsibilities and accomplishments in your work experience etc.
  • Keep the same typeface and emphasizing feature throughout for each particular detail. E.g. If you put the company name in bold, italic or underlined for one employer, all employers’ names should maintain this style.

These tips will also help your resume stand out and make it easier for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to read and understand which are especially important for professional resumes.

It is also vital to remember to review the finished resume before applying to any vacancy to ensure there are no grammar or spelling errors, off-centered texts, changes in font size or type throughout nor any general mistakes and of course not until you have made sure it is fully optimized by using keywords and adapting the resume example to your personal needs.

Basic Resume Format

The basic resume format is vital to ensure that a potential employer takes notice of your resume as one of the best resumes in the running for the vacancy. Using one of the top resume layouts is crucial because it gives applicants the basic resume sections which are necessary for every job application.

The following are the most important aspects that should be included in your basic resume format:

Objective section on the resume


The first part of the basic resume structure includes the objective or summary statement, used to capture the attention of potential employers with a few sentences about your professional profile or career path, as well as some interests and skills or the candiadte may have.


Secondly, the most important section of nearly all resumes is the work experience part dedicated to indicating the details of the candidate’s job history and professional accomplishments.


The third of the standard sections is education where candidates list the academic titles, diplomas and courses they have undertaken.


Finally to make your resume unique, you need to add various other sections which are relevant to your professional profile and what you need to present to potential employers, including practical and technical skills, languages, internships or volunteer experience, publications, awards or other accomplishments that you consider suitable for your application.

Types of Resume Formats

Formatting a resume can be complex but luckily there is a lot of advice on which type of resume format to use to suit your personal needs.

There are three main types of universally-acknowledged resume formats which include different styles of presenting your resume-relevant information as outlined above. Bear in mind that these types of resume structures are the standard accepted resume layouts which can be found in nearly all samples.

There is not one standard resume format that is correct for every sector, position and applicant due to the many variables including the type of applicant, level of the position, the industry etc. However, the following is a simple beginner’s guide to the different typical resume layouts that are available and most widely accepted by HR professionals.

Chronological Resume

The most common of the three types which can be used by anyone is the Chronological Resume. It is organized by experience in chronological order, beginning with the most recent.

Functional or Skills-Based Resume

With a different approach, the Functional or Skills-Based Resume emphasizes skills and qualities that the candidate possesses which make him/her the ideal applicant for that vacancy. Organized by skills or experiences and not necessarily in chronological order.

Combination Resume

A blend of the two previous types, the Combination Resume, sometimes also known as the ‘hybrid resume’, uses both the chronological format for work experience and also highlights the skills and abilities of each applicant.

How to Choose the Best Resume Format

Resumes are not created equal for a reason and each style has different pros and cons that can work well for different profiles.

Although you may not think it, it is possible that your current resume is hindering your jobsearch more than helping. That is why there are various resume formats, so that different candidates can find the right one for their experience and to best showcase their skills and accomplishments.

To select your optimal resume format and learn how to make a resume for your ideal job, take a look at our advice for choosing the most fitting type for your professional and personal character.

  • Chronological Format: Ideal for candidates who have a career trajectory in the same field or sector and are looking to continue along the same path.
  • Functional Format: Suitable for students who have little to no work experience or applicants who may have gaps in their work history.
  • Combination Format: Perfect for a career change or for those who have worked in different industries but have the relevant professional skills.

The best way to make certain your resume format is up to standard and will stand out in the crowd is to use a resume template designed by experts which saves time, energy and leaves you free to think about the content and how to present your most suitable assets.

You can also take advantage of an online resume creator to bypass the need to learn how to format a resume and use an already established standard resume format.

Also, no matter what level you’re at in your career, it’s vital to learn how to create and remember to include a winning cover letter in your application along with your fully-optimized resume to give yourself the best chance of getting your foot in the door.

Good resume layouts can help applicants from all backgrounds structure their relevant information in such a way that appeals to the hiring manager and displays the pertinent details as necessary to get shortlisted for an interview!

Resume Format According to the Resume Type

Every candidate will need to not only choose the right resume format for them but also spend time and effort adapting it to suit their profile type.

The resume type refers to the professional profile of each applicant, for example student resumes or entry-level candidates generally suppose to have little work experience in the field they’re interested in but are perhaps able to draw on other experiences or skills. This means that candidates may find that the most effective resume layout for them is not the same as the one they currently use for applications.

The way to help you decide what resume format to use is by analyzing your individual needs and being aware of which resume layout is suitable to tailor to your profile or the vacancy in question.

You could also choose to employ an online resume builder to make life easier by simply answering the introductory questions and completing an online resume template which will guide you through the process and ensure an optimized resume for your profile.

Students looking to write a resume for their first job may be more inclined to make use of a typical resume template or create a traditional chronological resume using projects, internships and coursework as part of their experience and thanks to the ability to focus on education or a functional resume template due to their lack of professional work experience.

Entry-level applicants are likely to benefit from using similar resume formats to students but may want to steer clear of the combination resume format and are perhaps better off learning how to create an entry-level resume with the chronological or functional layout.

Professional jobseekers will be very accustomed to using the chronological resume format as it is the preferred style for many employers and it is ideal to highlight the steady career trajectory of jobseekers with a clear progression in one sector or field. The chronological resume is ideal for professional resume needs.

For those who have professional experience but are seeking a career change the typical chronological resume layout would not be the ideal format as it has a heavy focus on previous experience and how it makes the candidate suitable for the position. In this instance a good resume structure would be either the functional or perhaps the combination resume format to include both skills learnt from previous roles and more relevant work experience.

Remember, using one of the top resume layouts does not guarantee your success, you also need to invest time and effort in completing the resume with outstanding content including your achievements and career history, personalizing as you go!

ResumeCoach offers tips and advice in our online resume maker for all different categories of jobseeker searching for the best resume format for their style and profile. So for more resume help on how to write a resume to find the job of your dreams, try out the online resume creator.