Although most people turn to the chronological presentation of a resume, choosing the most effective resume format to best represent your personal set of skills, accomplishments, and experience needs consideration, particularly in certain situations such as extended lay-offs, gaps in employment, numerous job changes, career shifts, and re-entering the workforce.

The purpose of a resume is to effectively summarize your employment history, career achievements, education, and experience to gain consideration for a specific job to which you are applying.  It is a key component of the job application process and an integral part of securing an interview with the hiring company. In what amounts to a split-second glance, your resume must persuade recruiters or human resources representatives that you stand ahead of the competition and are worth their precious time at an interview.

The Competitive Arena of Job Applications

According to Dr. John Sullivan’s May 20th, 2013 article “Why You Can’t Get a Job… Recruiting Explained by the Numbers,” an average of 250 resumes are received for each corporate job opening, 427,000 resumes are posted on Monster weekly, and the average recruiter spends under 10 seconds reading a resume ( These numbers underline the competitiveness of the job application arena and the need for a resume that effectively showcases your strengths and abilities in a straightforward, concise format.

Chronological vs. Functional vs. Combined Resume Formats: Which Is Best?

What is the difference between the three main types of resume formats (chronological, functional, and combined), and which format is most advantageous for you? Below, please find information about when to use each type of resume and what each resume includes.


  • Great for someone with a solid work history and upward mobility and without gaps in employment or career shifts
  • Summary and objective at the top
  • Past ten years of career history, with details about accomplishments, achievements, growth, promotions, and positive company impact listed under job titles
  • Reverse chronological order presentation of jobs
  • Education and possibly other sections at the bottom


  • Ideal for gaps in work history, career changes, or highlighting skills and accomplishments; also works for someone entering the workforce or returning after a long gap in employment
  • Easily transfers skills from one industry or career to another and tailors the applicant’s successes and accomplishments to the job at hand
  • Can be a red flag, as some applicants use it to hide a choppy work history or constant career changes
  • Summary and objective at the top
  • Focus at the top is on achievements and skills rather than employment history and job titles, which are categorized by skills (details are how these skills were specifically executed and mastered by the applicant)
  • Work history (position, company, dates of employment)
  • Education at the bottom


  • Combines chronological and functional format advantages
  • Highlights skills and accomplishments and also specifics work history with detail
  • Must not be repetitive across sections and has to be carefully edited to keep it precise and succinct
  • Summary and objective at the top
  • Focus at the top is on achievements and skills, like the functional resume format
  • Employment history with highlights of important details follow in the next section, like the chronological resume format
  • Education at the bottom

No matter which format you choose, be sure to be consistent with your layout and organization, use a scannable format with key words included, and proofread your final draft several times for proper punctuation, spelling, active verbs, and grammar.

Remember, All About Writing is here to help with the resume writing process, start to finish. We provide a resume questionnaire to lead clients through the often difficult process of gathering and weeding through appropriate information to include on their resumes. As always, we extend a free, half-hour, in-person consultation to address any questions or concerns.

Once all information is gathered, All About Writing creates an initial rough draft, giving clients the opportunity to add or change information included on the resume. We then furnish the final resume in PDF and Word formats, along with a resume tips sheet to help clients put their best foot forward when distributing their resumes.

Learn more about All About Writing and owner Christa Riddle at Remember, with All About Writing, writing help is just a call or click away! Call us today to schedule your free consultation and get your project underway. We are here to assist with any phase of the project.

-by Christa Riddle

 Read Part 2: “Effective College Application Essay Writing Tips”



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