formatting a resume

Formatting a resume correctly is an important aspect in your job search. That’s because the first thing recruiters see when they pull out your resume is how it looks. Because employers review so many resumes, the first impression your resume makes is important. This could mean the difference between getting to the next step in the job search process or not. If your resume gets set aside, your search has come to an end with that potential employer. To keep yourself in the running for the job as long as possible, you must focus on proper resume formatting.

Here are three things you need to know about formatting your resume:

1. Choosing the Right Type of Resume
2. Formatting a resume
3. Length of a resume

choosing a resume

Choosing the Right Type of Resume

If you have looked at many resumes, you may have seen some differences in the way they are organized. This is because there are several different resume formats. The three most common ways in which to organize a resume are chronological, functional and a combination. Let’s look closer at each of these types of resumes:

  • Chronological: Chronological means arranged in order of the time when things occur. In a chronological resume you list your jobs in reverse chronological order. Your most recent job is listed first, and then the job before that and the job before that, and so on. This resume format is the most common. Many employers prefer this type of resume.
  • Functional: In a functional resume you group your skills by category, not by job. For example you would list the functions you performed under categories like “sales” or “service”. For each category, you explain what you did. It doesn’t matter which job you did it at, or when you did it.
  • Combination: With the combination resume, you get the benefits of both the functional and the chronological. A combination resume has a summary of skills and experience. You then list your work experience in reverse chronological order with key accomplishments.

Each of these resume types has its own benefits and reasons for using it. When writing your resume, it is important to pick the resume type that best fits your situation:

Chronological Resume

With the chronological resume you list the jobs you have held in reverse chronological order, with your most recent job listed first. This type of resume presents your background clearly, in a way that lets the reader quickly see your experience. It calls the reader’s attention to your most recent experience, since that is listed first.

This is a good resume format to use if you have steady work experience in one industry or field, especially if you want to continue working in that same type of job or industry.

The chronological resume may not be a good format to use if your previous job titles are really different from the position for which you are applying. This format can also highlight periods of unemployment, or that you held a number of different jobs in a short period of time.

Functional Resume

Remember, in a functional resume you group your skills and experience by category, not by job. For each category, you explain what you did. It does not matter in which job you did it or when you did it. So you might have a category called “sales” and list ALL of your sales experience, no matter where or in what job you gained the experience. You might list things you did from several different jobs, or even related skills you performed while volunteering, all under one category.

The functional resume is a skills-based resume that focuses on your accomplishments in each skill area or category. It does not focus on your job history. Instead, you list your employers briefly at the end. The functional resume helps the reader visualize what you can do instead of when and where you learned to do it. It directs the reader’s attention to your skills, strengths and abilities. However, it does not show a clear career path to the reader.

The nice thing about the functional resume is that it allows you to share the experience you have at places other than a job. It is very easy to include responsibilities and work experience from school, community activities, or other non-paying work experience on a functional resume.

The functional resume is a good resume to use if you have great skills but not a lot of work experience in the area in which you want a job. Sometimes this is because you are just starting in your career or because you are changing careers. This is also a good type of resume if you want to focus attention away from work areas you don’t want to highlight, or if you don’t want to show the time periods in which you worked at different jobs, or the order of your work experiences.


With a combination resume, you get the benefits of both the functional and the chronological resume. A combination resume has a summary of your skills and experience. This resume also includes a list of your work experience in reverse chronological order, most recent job first, with key accomplishments. This type of resume will clearly show your work history and timelines. But it also still highlights your skills and accomplishments.

Use the combination resume if you have a very long work history. This way you can highlight experience that is a close match for the position, and at the same time you can show a clear summary of your career history. The issue with this type of resume is that it can sometimes get too long.


Formatting a Resume

Recruiters may have to sort through as many as 300 resumes per week. That doesn’t give them much time to spend on each resume. The more reasons you give a reader to set aside your resume before reading it, the sooner you will be taken out of the running for the job. When you format your resume, make sure that it is:

· Organized
· Easy to read and understand
· Balanced on the page
· Grammatically correct
· Short and to the point

The font size or size of the letters on your resume should be comfortable to the eye and not too small. The font size should be no smaller than a 10 point font. Be careful when you use bold or underlined words. Using bold and underlined words can draw attention to key things you want the reader to notice, however, if you use bold or underlined words too much, it will be distracting instead of helpful.

If you are printing your resume, the type of paper you use is also important. The best type of paper to use is high quality, 20-25 lb. paper, in a neutral color. Try to also use a laser printer or other high quality printer for a clear, sharp image.

Many resumes are submitted electronically. Sometimes you send a resume electronically by email. It’s a good idea to try emailing a copy of your resume to yourself or to a friend to make sure your resume looks okay when sent electronically. Sometimes resumes are entered online as part of the application process. Some of these processes also let you upload a copy of your resume, so you still want to take the time to format the resume appropriately.

Other times, employers scan resumes into a computer database and search for candidates based on keywords. If you are sure the resume will be scanned, any of the formats can be used. However you should delete all italics and bold words or lines. You can use any character that shows up on your keyboard in this kind of resume. This includes things like dashes, asterisks, plus signs, and capital letters. What you can’t use is formatting like bullet points, bold fonts, and underlining.

Length of a Resume

As you learned, resume reviewers usually have many resumes to review. Because of this, you do not want to send a resume that is too long. It is usually easier for you to create a really long resume because you don’t have to work as hard to put your experiences into a shortened format. However, a resume that is too long can cause the reviewers to not even review your resume.

The best length for a resume is one page. If you have a lot of skills and experience, a two page resume may be needed, but do not make your resume longer than two pages. This includes resumes with text formatted in a font size that is no smaller than 10 point font.

We hope you enjoyed our tips on resume formatting. To learn more about teaching workplace readiness, click the free trial link below.