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Choosing the Perfect Resume Format for You

By Steve Smith

The information presented here is true and accurate as of the date of publication. DeVry’s programmatic offerings and their accreditations are subject to change. Please refer to the current academic catalog for details.
August 8, 2023

7 min read

Utilizing the best resume format for you is just one component of a well-rounded career development strategy. In today’s competitive job market, new career seekers and seasoned professionals alike may be curious about how to make their resumes stand out among other job applicants. It might be helpful to start by evaluating your resume format, and how you can leverage it to best showcase your skills and qualifications to help you capture the attention of recruiters and hiring managers.

In this article, we will discuss some common resume types, which resume formats may work best for different types of job seekers and offer a few useful tips for resume formatting.

3 Common Resume Types

The resume format that’s best for you will depend on your career development goals and other factors, such as whether you are seeking an entry-level position, moving up in your current industry or changing careers. While there are many other kinds of resume structures that serve different purposes, there are three well-established resume formats that can assist with how your organize the information on your resume:


The chronological resume format puts your professional experience front and center by listing the positions you’ve held in reverse chronological order, beginning with your current or most recent job and ending with your first. The other sections of the resume are typically smaller and positioned lower on the page. This is one of the most frequently used resume format, and the one to use if you want to highlight your professional accomplishments while also demonstrating career progression.

Even if you don’t have years of professional experience under your belt, you may be able to use the chronological format. You may, for example, be a new graduate with transferrable skills, internship experience or extensive volunteer experience that you want to emphasize.


Instead of focusing on the chronology of your professional experience, the functional resume format emphasizes your relevant job skills. A large skills section takes the top position, with each skill acting as a sub-heading and allowing space for examples of how you’ve successfully used that skill in a professional setting to follow as bullet points. If you have gaps in your professional experience or are transitioning to a new career or industry, this resume format might be a good option because the emphasis is squarely on your skills rather than your employment history and doesn’t require a timeframe.


The combination resume format is a hybrid that combines the features of the chronological and functional resumes. It starts off with a large skills section like the functional resume, but then also includes a detailed work experience section. Yes, that’s a lot of information, but for applicants that have both a large toolbox of skills and an impressive professional history that shows steady career progression, this may be one of the best resume formats to use.

When to Use a Specific Resume Format

When it comes to building your resume, how do you decide which structure to use and when? Consider where you happen to be on your career path. Are you just starting out? Do you have years of experience and are looking to move up in your industry? Are you trying to make a career change and looking to highlight transferrable skills? These are the questions to ask yourself when determining how to format a resume.

For professionals who can show work history that demonstrates steady career progression, the tried-and-true chronological resume format may be the most effective option.

With its emphasis on skills and how they’ve been applied in a professional setting, the functional format may be the best option for someone who is making a career change or has gaps in their work history.

For highly experienced professionals who are able to show both a lengthy work history and strong, relevant skills, the combination resume format may work best. 

Why Standard Resume Formats Work Best

You may be thinking, if the idea is to stand out among other job candidates, why use one of the conventional resume formats? Here are a couple of very good reasons:

Applicant Tracking Systems

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are used by many employers, and 99% of Fortune 500 companies.  An ATS is an all-in-one software package that streamlines the hiring process for HR departments by helping them manage each part of recruitment, from the initial job posting, all the way through to onboarding. The ATS scans your application and resume and compares it to the job description before sending it through to the hiring manager. This enables recruiters to focus on candidates that the ATS considers to be the best equipped for the job. 

But even if your skills match the job description and what’s in your resume is good, there are still things that can trip up an ATS.   If your resume was created in an unusual format, uses a font the ATS software isn’t able to read, or is in a file format the ATS can’t read this could result in your resume being rejected by the software. This can also happen if your resume lacks some of the keywords the ATS may be scanning for. 

Using ATS, HR professionals search resumes by using keywords – the terms and phrases found in the job posting – to find the candidates with skills and experience that match up best with the job description. In the same way a website needs to be optimized to rank well in search results, your resume needs to be ATS-friendly.

Ease of Use for Recruiters

When you consider that recruiters spend their days reviewing and evaluating a large number of resumes and applications, often for multiple positions, then you can understand how the use of a conventional and familiar resume format can help them evaluate your resume faster. By formatting your resume according to established norms, you’ll be helping to make the recruiter’s job that much easier.

Tips for How to Format a Resume

Consistent and tidy formatting will help you create a neat document that is easy to read and holds up well under the scrutiny of recruiters and ATS’s alike. Here are some tips for formatting your resume:

  • Use proper margins: Set one-inch margins for optimal readability, or .75 if you have a lot to include. Anything outside of a .5-inch margin may be lost when converting your document into a PDF or may be missed by an ATS.

    • Font and font size: Pick a professional, readable font like Calibri, Garamond, Georgia or similar in 10 to 12-point size and use that size throughout the document.

    • Sections and headers: Your resume should be divided into easily distinguishable sections, such as Summary, Work Experience, Skills, etc.

    • Use bullet points: Bullet points are a good way to fit more information into limited space, and to make detailed information more reader friendly. 

Using a Resume Writer or Reviewer

Should you hire a professional resume writer? Professional resume writers may be worth it to help convince recruiters and hiring managers that you’re the right candidate for the job.

A good resume writer will be sure to use a resume format that it is clean, professional looking and ATS-friendly. They can also allow you to customize your resume to showcase your most relevant skills and include important keywords that match up with job descriptions. 

Your resume is a marketing tool to help sell a product, and that product is you. If you’re working with a professional resume writer, it’s critical to let them know the types of jobs you plan to apply for. 

Resume reviewing, which is different to resume writing, can also be a beneficial thing to consider. Career coaches can review the resume you’ve worked up, give you advice on how to improve it and then give you feedback on the updates and revisions you’ve made. 

At DeVry, our career services team offers resume writing and career coaching as one of our many career-building resources that includes:

    • Interview coaching 

    • Personal branding

    • Job search strategies

    • Networking tips and opportunities

DeVry’s Career Resources Team Can Help in Your Job Search

With a robust collection of career resources to help our DeVry students and graduates identify and work toward their career goals, our team will work with you to help you understand how to effectively job search, build your personal brand and link you to an alumni network to help you stay connected as you move through your career.

We’re dedicated to helping you get ready to prepare to pursue your personal and professional goals, as well as career opportunities in business, healthcare, technology, cyber security and more. At DeVry, six 8-week sessions per year and 100% online degree programs give you the flexibility to learn when and where you need to. Ready to find out how?

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