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Which Resume Format or Outline Should You Choose? 

Caroline BantonUpdated Oct 19, 20215 min

Which Resume Format or Outline Should You Choose? 

Updated Oct 19, 20215 min
Which Resume Format or Outline Should You Choose? 

Which Resume Format or Outline Should You Choose? 

Caroline BantonUpdated Oct 19, 20215 min

Which Resume Format or Outline Should You Choose? 

Updated Oct 19, 20215 min
Which Resume Format or Outline Should You Choose? 

It takes seconds for a recruiter to scan your resume and decide your fate. Whether you live to fight another day depends on whether the recruiter sees that you possess the specific criteria or skills. Whatever the job requirements are, it is essential that your resume be formatted to make the relevant criteria stand out...immediately. 

This article explains the various professional resume templates and shows which one is the best to use for your job search. We include skills-based (functional), chronological, and hybrid resume outline examples that job seekers can follow to create a winning resume.

The Different Resume Formats and When to Use Them

There are two main ways to format your resume. One format highlights your skills rather than the extent of your professional experience and is called a skills-based (functional) resume.  The other type highlights your work experience and presents that experience chronologically. 

Why the difference? Let’s look at the two formats, and the reason why you should choose one over the other should become clear.

Skills-based (Functional) Resume vs. Chronological Resume

Let’s say you're an expert coder. What would a hiring manager, who needs a coder of your caliber, most need to see on your resume? While a recruiter is certainly interested in who you have been working for recently, it's crucial is that you have the coding skills they’re looking for. If they need a Python coder, a C++ expert won't do.

Because a recruiter typically scans a resume in a few seconds, if Python, or C++, or whatever skills they are looking for don’t jump out from the page, they could discard your resume.

Contrast that type of job with that of a project manager. While a project manager also requires skills, the recruiter will be more interested in looking at their job history. How long have they been managing people and projects? Do they show progression as a manager and a leader? A management position requires a chronological resume so that the recruiter can follow the candidate’s career progression.

Another scenario where a skills-based resume might work better than a chronological resume is if you have gaps in your work history or cannot show career progression. For example, a recent graduate will have a limited work history as will someone who is switching careers and entering a new industry. 

Here is an example of a chronological resume.

Data Science

The skills are listed off to the left separately because IT skills are critical to a data scientist position. The candidate's soft skills are also listed here. However, the main section of the resume lists the candidate’s latest employers in chronological order and explains the key functions of each position.

For more details on writing a chronological resume, read “When to Use a Chronological Resume and How to Write One.”

Here is an example of a skills-based or functional resume.

skill resume

You will see that the skills-based resume describes the candidate’s accomplishments in the main section of the resume and gives examples of achievements under the different skills.

The main section of the resume lays out the candidate’s skills first. The hard skills are listed in a separate column on the left under core competencies. This resume is skills-based, but it is also a hybrid professional resume because it highlights the skills and the work experience.

This format works because the resume objective is to emphasize competencies so the recruiter will be impressed by the candidate’s expertise. The recruiter, in this case, needs to see the candidate's core competencies before they see who the candidate worked for and for how long.

For more details on writing a functional resume, read, "What Is a Skills-based Resume and How Do You Write One?"

How to Use a Resume Outline for a Chronological or Skills-based (Functional) Resume

Let’s look at the outline of each type of resume and then discuss each section.

The Outline of a Chronological Resume Format

The basic components of a chronological resume are the following:

  • Contact information

  • Summary statement/objective statement

  • Work history

  • Skills and competencies (can be listed in a separate column)

  • Education

  • Awards or Certifications

The Outline of a Skills-based (Functional) Resume

The basic components of a skills-based (functional) resume are similar to those of a chronological resume. However, the components are presented differently.

  • Contact information

  • Summary statement/objective statement

  • Competencies

  • Skills

  • Work History (optional, can be integrated with the skills and competencies section; dates can be excluded)

  • Education

  • Awards or Certifications

Here's how each component should be laid out in each resume.

Contact Information

This section is the same for both a skills-based (functional) and a chronological resume. Contact information should include your name followed by any credentials that you may have; for example, CPA or MBA. It should also show your email, phone number, your LinkedIn profile, Twitter handle, and website address for your online portfolio.

A LinkedIn URL is highly recommended. Most professionals have one, and employers will visit your profile. Make sure that the information on your LinkedIn page matches the information on your resume.

Expert Hint: Don’t include graphics or images on your resume. They are distracting and take up valuable space. Save your creative skills for your portfolio, and guide the recruiter to your portfolio in your cover letter.

Summary Statement/Objective Statement

The resume summary statement appears at the top of your resume and acts like a headliner—it should be short yet include key pieces of information.

On a skills-based resume, include the top skills here that the employer is looking for. Check the job description for terminology because the words need to be recognized by the applicant tracking system that screens your resume.

Here’s an example:

Seasoned solutions developer with high-level expertise in languages Python and C++. Having taken three products to market, I am seeking an opportunity to lead a dynamic and forward-looking development portfolio for an established tech group. 

This objective statement contains the keyword skills that appear on the job description (Python, C++) and also showcases the candidate’s achievements (three products to market).

For a chronological resume, on the other hand, highlighting progression and leadership might be more fitting for the job.

Here’s an example

Highly adept project manager with 5+ years of experience in leading tech firms. Looking to use proven product development, placement, and marketing skills to boost product-to-market times. Achieved 100% of product-to-market targets and $1.6 million in total cost savings.

Expert Tip: Note that both formats use some type of metric to showcase the candidate’s achievements. Doing so adds credibility to the candidate’s claims.

If you are writing a chronological resume, the work history comes next and forms the main body of the resume. For a skills-based (functional) resume, the main section will describe skills or competencies.

The Work History Section (Chronological Format)

Under the work history or work experience header, start with your most recent employer and work backward in reverse chronological order. Include the past two or three positions that you have held. Include the dates, the company name, and your job title. 

Don’t go back more than ten years. For one thing, the employer might be wary of your age. For another, most work environments and industries have changed drastically over the last decade, so only include the most relevant information on your resume.

Use bullet points to show your accomplishments in two or five short, clear sentences. Address the skills that the job description calls for, and don’t add anything irrelevant.

Remember to use metrics and action verbs to showcase your achievements with each employer. Use three to five bullet points for each position that you held.

For each employer, give the company's name, your position, the dates, and then explain your accomplishments. The resume examples show how to format this section.

Here are some examples of bullet points under the heading "Work Experience."

  • Redesigned legacy spreadsheets resulting in 30% fewer inaccuracies and faster turnaround times.

  • Managed customer accounts totaling $170,000 with 100% customer satisfaction.

  • Led a team of five students to win third prize in Google Innovation Competition.

  • Redesigned company website and improved lead generation by 25%.

You can include the skills section on a chronological resume in a separate section. A separate column on one side of the resume can make better use of the space and make the skills easier for the reader to see.

Skills Section (Functional Format)

On a skills-based (functional) resume, you can incorporate your job history into the skills section. For example, you could use the heading “Product Management” and state the company where you were involved in that task.

Here’s an example:

Competencies

Product Development

  • Managed an agile team of development engineers for Addecco Solutions and brought five products successfully to market.

  • Led a team of engineers on beta testing for six newly launched games for GameCity. User adoption increased by 70% for three of the games and 80% for the remainder.

Engineering

  • Selected as lead engineer for a project that ultimately became the top income-producing product for Addecco Solutions with record-breaking sales.

  • Transformed three legacy products to cutting-edge concepts for pipeline development for GameCity.

Note that there are no dates on this section on the skills-based (functional) resume.

A separate experience section could be added to the resume to provide additional employer information. This is what is called a hybrid resume. Here’s how the experience section would look on a hybrid or skills-based (functional) resume. For example;

 Experience

July 2020 to Current

Lead Engineer – Addecco Solutions

  • Led team projects and acted as product manager for ten portfolio products.

September 2018 to June 2020

Engineer – GameCity

  • Spearheaded new concept development to maintain product portfolio.

What If You Have Gaps in Your Work History?

If you have taken breaks between employers, it might be better to exclude dates of employment. However, this might be a red flag to the employer. If you do have gaps and you decide to include dates, use the cover letter as an opportunity to explain the gaps. For example, perhaps you had to take some time out to care for a family member or you took some time to travel.

Most recruiters understand that people have breaks in their employment, particularly considering the COVID-19 epidemic. Try to show the employer that you used the time constructively. Did you take any online courses while you were between employers? Did you freelance for a while and gain experience that way? Did you take on volunteer work to gain volunteer experience in a new industry?

Education Section

The education section of the resume will be much the same for both a skills-based (functional) resume and a chronological resume. Include any industry-specific certifications here, or include them in a separate section under “Achievements” so that they don’t go unnoticed.

Only include your GPA if you are a recent high school graduate, and don't include your high school information. 

Some resumes place education in a separate column along with skills and awards. This can make a resume easier to read and more appealing.

Awards/Certifications

The last section is optional and can be added to either resume format. You can use it to show off your unique achievements. It might include languages, awards, presentations, publications, or volunteer work if relevant. Depending on what you are including here, you can use a different title such as “Achievements,” “Presentations,” or “Publications.”

The best resumes are always tailored to the job application. If you tailor your resume to include the right skills, it will not be discarded by applicant tracking systems, and you will stand out as the best candidate. For details on how to tailor your resume, read the article “Creating Resumes Tailored to Specific Jobs.”

Use the resume samples in this article to choose the right format for your resume: skill-based (functional), chronological, or hybrid. The outlines provided show you what resume sections to include for each format, but for even more help writing a creative resume for your dream job, read the article, “The Ultimate Guide to Writing the Perfect Resume.”

Caroline Banton
Expert on career acceleration and business topics with vast experience writing for globally-recognized publications
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