Which Format Do Most Employers Prefer for Resumes

If you’ve been researching how to write a resume, you’ve likely encountered a plethora of advice. Among this resume-related flotsam, you’ve likely seen these words over and over: chronological resume format, functional resume format, and combination/hybrid resume format.

If you’ve been left scratching your head over which type of resume to use, don’t worry – we’ve got your back.

Which resume format do employers prefer? Which one will give you the best odds of landing the job you want? Keep reading to learn how to choose the best resume format for your situation. We’ll discuss what these three resume formats involve and why an applicant might choose to use each one.

Chronological Resume: The Best Resume Format

Woman viewing resume

The chronological or reverse-chronological resume format is hands down the gold standard for resumes. The structure is familiar, expected, professional, and easy to read. Employers can easily scan the heading to find out where you worked last or what you majored in at college. In most cases, employers prefer chronological resumes.

In its simplest form, the chronological resume is arranged in this way:

  • Contact information
  • Skills
  • Work experience
  • Education

Optional sections (for example, Certifications, Licenses, Awards and Honors, Languages, Volunteer Work, Publications, or Hobbies and Interests) may also be included as needed.

The chronological resume highlights your past work experience more than anything else. In many industries, that is what’s most important to the employer. They want to see that you have done something similar before since this means you can do it for them. It is also very good for you if you have a lot of experience in your field.

Sometimes, though, careers don’t make a smooth, linear path. Career gaps or mid-career changes in the field may leave your past experience mismatched with your current goals. Some applicants rely on the functional or practical resume discussed below to bridge the gaps.

Some Employers Hate Functional Resumes

In a quote that has been oft-repeated on numerous career-related websites, a “veteran recruiter within the healthcare trade” once said, “Recruiters hate the functional resume format… it’s a waste of time.”

Functional resumes are designed to highlight skills and abilities rather than experience. If you know how to do something but haven’t done it for secular work, you might opt for a functional resume. The expanded skills section allows you to explain how you acquired and have used each skill.

Functional resumes also give you some leeway as to how you list your work experience. In a chronological resume, you typically list no more than three previous employments and only those that occurred within the last ten years.

With a functional resume, however, you can dig deep into your past. You can put the most relevant, rather than the most recent, experience at the top.

As mentioned at the outset of this section, however, a lot of employers do not like to see functional resumes come across their desks. It can make them suspicious that the applicant is trying to hide something. They may feel that the skills and accomplishments listed at the top are taken out of context.

If your circumstances necessitate a divergence from the standard chronological resume, consider the format discussed in the next section.

The Hybrid Resume – A Compromise When Needed

Hybrid resume layout

Hybrid, combination, or chrono-functional resumes strive to give equal weight to skills and experiences. They list your experience in reverse-chronological order while still promoting an expanded skills section.

You might set your hybrid resume up in this way:

  • Contact information
  • Professional summary
  • Relevant skills and proficiencies
  • A dividing line
  • Work History section in reverse-chronological order
  • Education

Hybrid resumes like this one are considered a “safe bet” because they give employers exactly what they expect. The reverse-chronological listing of your last three jobs provides context. Yet, in your summary and skills sections, you can highlight what you can do and how you acquired those abilities – even if they took place in the distant past or outside the work environment.

The line dividing the upper and lower portions of the resume may give some readers additional pause to consider what is written above the line.

These sections are also a great place to include resume keywords, especially if your recent jobs lack transferable skills.

Key Takeaways

Overall, the chronological resume format is preferred by employers, and this will likely remain the case for years to come. Chronological resumes give employers the information they expect in a streamlined, linear overview of your career.

Functional resumes have gained popularity for those without related experience, making a career change, or with employment gaps. However, many employers may be wary of this format.

Instead of a functional resume, you can use a hybrid format that highlights useful skills while still providing the context of a reverse-chronological work experience list.