Professional resume format - What Exactly Does it Mean?

A professional resume format is used to structure your resume and showcase your professional career, experience, and skills. The next question, and one that surprises many job-seekers, is: what format are you going to use?

Did you even know there were distinct types of resume formats?

Don’t panic. There are only three to four formats we need to focus on, and they’re all a variation on one basic theme. All you need to do is figure out which one best suits your needs. If you’ve got a few minutes, I can tell you everything you need to know about these resume formats right now.

The first professional resume format: the Reverse Chronological Resume Format

This is the most common professional resume format, and the one you’ve probably come across before. The name might be long, but the premise is simple: list all your jobs in chronological order from most recent to oldest. To really capitalise on this layout, begin with a strong professional summary or brand statement, followed by your work history in reverse chronological order.  Make sure you include these details for each job:

  1. Job Title
  2. Organisation Name
  3. Dates
  4. Location (if relevant)

This professional resume format is suitable for job-seekers at all levels, and anyone who can answer ‘yes!’ to these questions:

  1. Do you have a solid, consistent career history? 
  2. Have you made steady upward progress in your career? 
  3. Are you applying for a job that aligns with your past career experience? 
  4. Have you spent a long time at your previous jobs?

As popular as the reverse-chronological format is, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. You might want to give it a miss if:

  1. You have several gaps in your career history;
  2. You switch jobs often, or hold roles for brief periods of time before moving on;
  3. You are applying for a job in an industry that has no similarity to your current role.

Find out more about a Reverse- Chronological Resume format here.

Not for You? Let's Look at the Functional Resume Format

The functional resume format is not as common, but it’s ideal for career histories with long stretches of unemployment or frequent job-hopping. Simply put, this format accentuates specific, relevant capabilities and plays down your chronological work history. To get the most out of this format, put the focus on:

  1. A strong opening or branding statement that plays to your strengths
  2. Professional experience (highlighting skills, capabilities, and accomplishments)
  3. Qualifications summary

It’s a good idea to consider this format if:

  1. You have had lengthy periods of unemployment between jobs;
  2. You have changed jobs frequently and are in danger of being classified as ‘high-risk’ by recruiters;
  3. You are restarting your career after a long break;
  4. You are changing industry or shifting into a new career. 

So, this professional resume format is a better solution for job-seekers with an inconsistent work history or a tendency to jump from role to role—but that doesn’t make it perfect. Keep these things in mind:

  1. If you have a perfect history, use the reverse chronological format
  2. Most recruiters hate this format. It makes them suspicious and, more often than not, prompts them to look for what’s wrong about you rather than what’s right.
  3. This format may not clear the very first gate: the Application Tracking System.

Click here for a full explanation of a functional resume format.

Lucky Number 3: the (Hybrid) Combination Resume Format

The combination resume format is exactly what it sounds like: a hybrid, or combination, of your key skills, experience, capabilities and work/employment history. This format allows recruiters to see the full picture—that means your key skills, as well as where and when you gained them. A hybrid format resume uses the standard building blocks of resume writing but organises them in the most appealing way possible.

This is the format resume I recommend to clients:

  1. Extensive employment histories that showcase steady career growth;
  2. Lots of demonstrable skills and experiences;
  3. Stellar transferable skills and are looking to change careers or restart their career after a break.

There are only a handful of situations where I wouldn’t recommend using the hybrid resume format. I suggest you steer clear of this one if you are:

  1. A frequent job-hopper; or
  2. Applying for a job in a traditional profession like law or finance. In these professions, recruiters tend to prefer the reverse-chronological format resume.

Sounds interesting, right? Click here for more about the combination resume format.

And That's It!

The mantra stays the same no matter what format you use: you need to market yourself in a clear, creative, convincing way. If you have an extensive career history, or are highly experienced and possess very marketable skills, choose a resume format that flaunts these attributes and creatively pitches you to recruiters. But if you need something to give your resume a little more finesse, a functional or hybrid resume format might work better for you. 

Thanks for visiting my professional resume format page. You can click here for a professional resume sample.

Return to the homepage for more information or click the link to learn more about how to write a professional resume