Types of Resumes: Choosing the Right Format For Your Needs

Written by Coursera Staff • 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 is handing another a paper resume.

Your resume is your opportunity to tell your career story. Regardless of your type of resume, you’ll share a narrative detailing your many professional accomplishments and skills and demonstrate 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 understand the story you’re trying to tell best.

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

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
ChronologicalEmphasises your career pathWhen you’re applying for jobs via an applicant tracking system (ATS) or showing career growthWork experience, education, certifications
FunctionalEmphasises 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

  • When to use it: When you’re applying for jobs via an applicant tracking system (ATS) or showing career growth

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

  • 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 called a reverse chronological resume), you’ll linearly present your career story by listing your work history, starting with your most recent role. With this format, you’ll show how your professional experiences built upon the last.

This format is generally the most common, making it easy for prospective employers to visualise 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.

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 with 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 colours and fonts.

4. Spell out acronyms.

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

  • Pros: Emphasises your transferable skills

  • Cons: De-emphasises your work experience

You’ll highlight your journey of acquiring specific skills with a functional resume. 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 consist of a few bullets underneath each skill that show how you acquired, strengthened, and used it throughout your career.

Although you can 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, changing your career—you may decide to have a functional resume on hand to send directly to recruiters and hiring managers.

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

Specialised 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 specialised resume. Here are some specialised 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, to a particular company.

  • Infographic resume: Infographic resumes are more visual than the common resume types, incorporating graphics and colours 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 bullet points, which you can give to prospective employers you may meet at job fairs, for example.

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

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