Types of Resumes: Choosing the Right Format For Your Needs

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn about the common types of resumes—such as chronological, functional, and combination—and decide which resume type is right for your job search.

[Featured Image] One person handing another a paper resume

Your resume is your opportunity to tell your career story. Regardless of the type of resume you choose, you’ll be sharing a narrative that details your many professional accomplishments and skills and demonstrates how you hope to continue growing.

Just as there are many ways to tell a story, there are many ways to format your resume. As you consider which type of resume is right for you, think about your audience and how they’ll be able to best understand the story you’re trying to tell.

In this article, we’ll go through the three most common types of resumes: chronological, functional, and combination. We’ll also detail some specialized resume types that you may prefer depending on your needs.

Common resume types

The three most common resume types are chronological, functional, and combination. Before we detail each format, here’s a quick introduction:

Resume typeDescriptionWhen to useKey sections
ChronologicalEmphasizes your career pathWhen you’re applying for jobs via an applicant tracking system (ATS) or showing career growthWork experience, education, certifications
FunctionalEmphasizes your skillsWhen you’re changing careers and applying directly through a recruiter or hiring managerSkills, brief work history, education, certifications
CombinationCombined emphasis on career path and skillsWhen it’s important to show skills as well as career progressionSkills, work experience, education, certifications

Certain jobs or graduate schools will request a curriculum vitae (CV) instead of a resume. Learn more about the differences between a CV and a resume.

Chronological resume

  • Pros: Easy to read and straightforward outline of your accomplishments

  • Cons: Doesn’t highlight skills as explicitly as other formats

With a chronological resume (sometimes also called a reverse chronological resume), you’ll list out your experience starting with your most recent role. With this format, you’ll show how each of your professional experiences built upon the last.

This format is generally the most common, as it makes it easy for prospective employers to visualize your career trajectory. It’s also the format that an ATS is best equipped to scan, so if you’re applying for jobs online, you’ll probably want to submit a chronological resume first.

Free resume templates

If you’re starting with a blank page, use these free customizable templates for chronologicalfunctional, or combination resumes to make your resume in a Google Doc. Simply log into your Google account and select the ‘Make a copy’ prompt.

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Functional resume

  • When to use it: When you’re changing careers and applying directly through a recruiter or hiring manager

  • What to include: Objective or summary, key skills, brief work history, education, certifications

  • Cons: De-emphasizes your work experience

With a functional resume, you’ll highlight your journey acquiring specific skills. You’ll still list your work history, but typically, this format doesn’t include dates of employment, accomplishments, or job tasks for each role. Instead, your functional resume names your dominant skills, and you’ll include a few bullets underneath each skill that show how you acquired, strengthened, and used it throughout your career.

Although you’ll be able to incorporate several resume keywords in your functional resume, this format isn’t super ATS-friendly, as the software is typically programmed to scan the chronological resume format. Still, if you are applying for a position where it makes more sense to highlight your skills than your previous roles—for example, if you are changing your career—you may decide to have a functional resume on hand to send directly to recruiters and hiring managers.

Learn more about how to feature and format key skills on your resume.

Combination resume

  • When to use it: When it’s important to show skill development for a role as well as career progression

  • What to include: Objective or summary, key skills, work experience, education, certifications

  • Pros: Benefits of both chronological and functional resumes, flexible formatting

  • Cons: Can be lengthy and repetitive

A combination resume is a more flexible option that incorporates aspects of both chronological and functional resumes—and you get to decide which sections to include and how to utilize them. You’ll include a section that explicitly outlines your work history (dates and description included) and a section that highlights your skills.

With this format, you can present your career path in a traditional way while still emphasizing your skills. It can be helpful if it’s important to demonstrate your skills development in order to qualify for a role, for example, if you are changing careers or trying to level up. However, this format can get quite lengthy, and you’ll want to be mindful not to repeat bullet points across various sections.

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Specialized resume types

If you don’t want to go the traditional route and aren’t submitting your resume through an online job board that uses an ATS to filter applicants, you may want to show off a different set of skills with a specialized resume. Here are some specialized resumes you may want to consider:

  • Targeted resume: With a targeted resume, you’ll create a highly tailored resume to demonstrate your fit for a specific role, and often, at a specific company.

  • Infographic resume: Infographic resumes are more visual than the common resume types, incorporating graphics and colors for a visually appealing presentation.

  • Video resume: A nontraditional resume format, video resumes are reels that demonstrate your accomplishments and goals in just a few minutes.

  • Mini resume: A mini resume is both a business card and a condensed version of your resume that notes your job title and a few accomplishment bullets, which you can give to prospective employers you may meet at job fairs, for example.

Navigating applicant tracking systems (ATS)

Most companies use ATS software to screen submitted resumes before a person reviews your qualifications. The ATS is programmed to filter resumes that have specific keywords deemed a match for open positions. Some ways to help your resume stand out in an ATS are:

1. Align your resume keywords with the job description.

2. Include the dates of your employment.

3. Avoid over-formatting and choose standard colors and fonts.

4. Spell out acronyms.

Learn more about how to navigate applicant tracking systems.

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Learn best practices as you write your resume with the project-centered How to Write a Resume course from SUNY Online, or explore your potential with the Career Discovery Specialization. Sign up today and begin a 7-day, full-access free trial to browse more personal development courses.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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