Resume Writing: The Pros and Cons to the Different Formats

National Experts in Resume Writing & Career Coaching

Resume Writing: The Pros and Cons to the Different Formats

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One size does not necessarily fit all, especially when it comes to the resume. Not only do job seekers need to customize content to each employer, but they also need to consider which resume format best suits the task at hand. Not every job seeker fits into a perfect mold for the traditional chronological resume format where those with a streamline work history can benefit.

If you’re changing careers, you may opt for the combined/hybrid format. If you’re someone with gaps in your employment history, there are other resume formats that may help put you in a better light in front of prospective employers.

Here, we help break down the pros and cons to the different resume formats so that you know what may work best for your situation.

The chronological resume puts focus on what you’ve been doing up to the current point in time, beginning with your current/last employer and working backwards from there.

Good for:
Those who’ve stayed and plan to stay in the same field, with steady employment over time. Also works well for professionals in the early stages of their career, mid-level, or higher.

The Pros: Most employers show preference to resumes written in the chronological format because it’s easier for them to determine in a quick scan what you’ve done in your career history and what progress you’ve made. The general categories and order to the chronological resume include a Summary paragraph, Qualifications, Experience (reverse chronological order), and Education.

The Cons: If you have gaps to your employment history or limited professional experience, this format will make those gaps and lack of work history even more apparent. If you’re changing careers, this format does not help to highlight your relevant skills. Instead, it puts the focus on things that are irrelevant to the employer.

The functional resume is the least common of all resume formats to use. It focuses primarily on your skills and professional abilities, regardless of the order of your work history. Your skills and professional abilities take the lead in how information is present and prioritized on the resume.

Good for: Job seekers who are looking to put the focus on skills and who have a limited work history or who have switched jobs frequently. For many, you’ll still be in better position to do it with the Hybrid/Combination Resume (read on below).

The Pros: Before the Hybrid/Combination resume format came along, many job seekers used the Functional resume format to help put the focus on skills and abilities relevant for the job. Today the Hybrid/Combination resume can do that and more to simulate the Chronological resume format that most employers prefer.

The Cons: For many employers today, when they see a functional resume it raises more red flags than anything else. Employers receive a bad vibe whenever they see a resume in this format because it has a habit of indicating that the candidate is trying to hide something. This resume format can work to hide a candidate’s gaps in employment and the way information is presented, but it lacks the ability to showcase a job candidate’s career growth. Read more about it from “Resume Writing: When to Use a Functional Resume” and “How to Give the Resume a Boost for a Career Change”.

The hybrid/combination resume marries the style of the chronological resume format with the functional resume format. It puts the candidate’s work experience and skills in context to the job being applied for. It showcases the candidate’s skills and abilities in a manner that would work on the job even if they came from a different career path.

Good for: Most job seekers, but particularly beneficial to those changing careers or who have mastered very fine skills/abilities for their field of work.

The Pros: This type of format speaks well to most employers as it directly informs employers of your skills and abilities for the job while following a format of highlighting your most recent work experience to past. Even with work experience that may not be directly relevant, it puts the experience in context to show how it’s applicable.

The Cons: Like the chronological resume format it fails to hide your work history as it relates to employment gaps, job hopping, or lack of work history. This is also a more modern approach to resume writing, which may not be as familiar to some employers who are used to seeing the chronological resume format. This resume format also takes up more time and effort because content is specifically customized to the employer’s needs, but it’s worth it for better results.

Each job seeker has a different story to tell and different experiences. Finding the right formula to resume writing means knowing what the employer is looking for, knowing what you have to offer to meet the needs of the employer, and knowing what resume format to use that can best present your information.