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How to Choose the Right Resume Style

Updated on November 17, 2009

You may assume that the way you write a resume is fairly standard, well, that is not the case. There are in fact three well-defined styles from which you can choose. This is not to make life – and resume writing – difficult but, in fact, to help your success rate when applying for a job. How can this be? Well, the different styles lend themselves to different types of candidates. Choose the right style and you are one step closer to an interview.

These are your choices when it comes to resume style:

  • Chronological resume
  • Functional resume
  • Combination resume

The resume style that you use will be determined by your position and experience as well the type of job for which you are applying. Let’s look at what each resume style is about and when you would choose it.

What's the right resume style for you? Chronological, functional or combination.
What's the right resume style for you? Chronological, functional or combination.

The Chronological Resume Style

This is the traditional and most well-known resume style. The main feature is that it displays your career progression in reverse chronological format, in other words, from your most recent job backwards.

The emphasis in the chronological resume style is on your employment history. It will clearly show a continuity in career progression and, equally so, it will highlight instances where there are gaps in your work history. This type of resume style is not recommended for those with little employment history or frequent job changes.

Use a chorological resume style when you have several years of experience and are applying for a job which is in line with your work history. So, if you are looking to change careers, this resume style is not for you.

Here are a couple of examples of cases where a chronological resume style is appropriate:

An engineer changing companies would benefit from using a chronological resume as it would emphasize their expertise. A librarian wanting to move into a position of a researcher would use this type of resume in order to show experience that can justify a progression in career.

A chronological resume will typically take the following format:

  • Name and contact details
  • Objective statement (this tells the reader your goals with respect to your career and this job)
  • Career and skills summary
  • Employment history in reverse chronological order
  • Education and training in reverse chronological order
  • Any other relevant information, for example, awards or volunteer work

Remember, the emphasis is on employment history and you want this in order to show that you can seamlessly transition into the new roll. Make the most of what you say about your previous jobs. Show that the work you have done will make you a valuable asset for your potential new employer. For example, don’t simply say you increased sales. Say that you increased sales by 30% by changing the commission structure of the company’s salespeople.

Example of employment history in a chronological resume:

Stone’s Bakery Supplies, New York

2001 - 2007

Sales Manager

Led team of 20 salespeople to generate $10 million in annual revenue through the sale of bakery equipment.

Key Achievements

  • Transformed an under-producing sales team by resolving problems and instituting sales incentives. Increased sales by 50% in under a year.
  • Identified and closed largest customer deal in the history of the company.
  • Exceeded personal sales quota by 60% each year

The Resume Workbook

  • 12-step process to writing your top-notch resume
  • Write punchy statements
  • Find the right keywords
  • Worksheets & examples throughout
  • Resume tips
  • Resume formatting
  • Professional resume examples & templates
  • Mega-list of over 600 action verbs
  • And more...

The Functional Resume Style

With this resume style you group your experience by functional areas and not by work positions. Functional areas could be, for example: cost-cutting, sales, leadership, organizational abilities etc.

This is the style to use if you want to change careers. It enables you to highlight the skills that you have that will be an advantage in the new career and downplay the positions that you have held that are not relevant.

Other instances where the functional resume is the one to use is where you are a recent graduate and don’t have much (or any) work experience; or you don’t have much experience in the position for which you are applying; or you are re-entering the workplace. A chronological resume will emphasize your lack of experience whilst a functional resume will highlight factors that indicate you can do the job.

Functional resumes are also good to use when you have had many jobs in a short timeframe and don’t want to appear as a job-hopper, or when there are gaps in your employment history.

Examples where a functional resume style is a must: an engineer wanting to become a financial analyst; an office assistant wanting to join the IT helpdesk; a woman returning to work after some years raising the children.

A functional resume will typically take the following format:

  • Name and contact details
  • Objective statement (use this to tie your resume together)
  • Career summary (useful to explain a career change or return to the workforce)
  • List of functional areas and corresponding experience
  • Any other relevant information such as education, list of employment, awards etc.

Here you are linking the value of your skills and not your employment history to the job. It is very important to be clear on your job objective as you use it to determine the skills you want to highlight in your resume. Identify five to ten functional areas that you want to discuss. Start with the most important skills for this job. Show how you have succeeded in these areas previously.

Example extract from a functional resume for a graduate applying for an entry-level sales position:


  • Grossed $8,000 in two months with vacation carwash business
  • Raised $500 for children’s home
  • Created informational brochure for massage therapist


  • Created multimedia presentation for mineworkers’ safety procedures
  • Designed and distributed flyers for carwash business
  • Secretary of campus public-speaking group

You may also come across what is called a “skills resume style”. With this style individual skills are listed as opposed to a grouping of skills under functional areas. This, to all intents and purposes, is comparable to the functional resume style.

The Combination Resume Style

This is a combination of the chronological and functional resume styles. The structure is chronological, but under each employment position entry, the information is presented in a functional style. This highlights expertise, best qualities and adaptability.

Combination resumes can be used for new graduates with only part-time, vacation or very little experience.  Because of its focus on adaptability, this resume style is good for career-changers who have a solid employment history, as well as candidates who are making moves within their chosen career.

A combination resume will typically take the following format:

  • Name and contact details
  • Objective statement
  • Career and skills summary
  • Reverse chronological employment listing. With each position take a few competency areas and discuss these in the context of the particular job.
  • Any other relevant information such as education, awards, volunteer work etc.

Example of employment history in a combination resume:

Foresight Research Agency, Montreal

1999 - 2002

Information Specialist

Research & Analysis

  • Researched the mining industry and developed a statistical model for determining the value of a mine
  • Gathered information on large pharmaceutical companies in the United States and created an Access database


  • Developed manual on research procedures within the organization
  • Contributed articles to monthly company newsletter

The combination resume style is also sometimes called a “hybrid” resume style.

Choose the Right Resume Style

It may not seem like a major point, but choosing the right resume style is crucial in presenting yourself to a potential employer. The correct style is what will enable you to highlight your good points and play down the less desirable ones. The right resume style will start you out with a secure footing as a job seeker.

Using the right resume style can get you a job interview
Using the right resume style can get you a job interview

Image credits: slushpup; SOCIALisBETTER


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    • JulietduPreez profile image

      JulietduPreez 8 years ago

      Thanks ;)