Resumes: Understanding the Different Types of Resume


The job market has never been so competitive. For any desirous job opening, recruiters and hiring managers are practically deluged with resumes and cover letters. It is not inconceivable to have hundreds of candidates all vying for the same desired position. This is why recruiters and hiring decision makers are always looking for ways to weed out candidates as quickly as possible.

What is a Resume?

A resume is a formal and concise summary of your accomplishments, work history and academic credentials that is used to apply for jobs. A professional resume is essential to getting your foot in the door. An effective resume is one that draws attention to your credentials and tailors your skills, background and experience to the specific job you are applying for.

Difference between Resumes and CVs

A CV (or Curriculum Vitae) is a static document that contains a high level detail about your background and qualifications. It is much more in-depth than a resume and can span several pages.

The CV is commonly used in Europe, Africa, Australia and New Zealand while a resume is the preferred format in the United States and Canada.

Resume Formats

There are three main resume formats. The right format to use will be the one that creates the best image possible of your abilities and work experiences, and emphasizes the most relevant aspects of your experience and education to the job you are currently applying for.

Chronological Resumes

The chronological resume emphasizes career progression, and is the most versatile resume format because it can be used for a wide variety of job applications. It typically begins with a professional summary statement and a chronological listing (from most recent to past) of all your employers along with related accomplishments.

Educational information is also included in reverse chronological order along with any certifications or awards. This, along with the combination resume, are the formats preferred by hiring managers, recruiters and HR personnel. If you have a lot of relevant experience, this would be the best format to use.

resume sample

The chronological resume will not be appropriate for you in the following circumstances:

  • You have very limited relevant experience.
  • You have changed jobs frequently
  • You are changing career
  • You are just entering the workforce.

The chronological resume works for applicants on a steady career track, because it emphasizes work experience.


  1. Contact Information.
  2. Professional Summary.
  3. Technical Skills.
  4. Employment
  5. Experience.
  6. Education.
  7. Additional Skills.
  8. Awards/Honors/Training/Certifications.

Functional Resumes

A functional resume allows you to emphasize your experience, key skills and competencies rather than your chronological work history. It allows you to arrange your resume according to which work experience you feel are most relevant to the job you’re applying for. This is the main difference with the chronological resume. Your work history is arranged in a way to highlight relevant experience and play down employment gaps or non-relevant experience.

Although you still need to include your professional work history, this is typically de-emphasized by being placed at the bottom of your resume. This not a very popular format with recruiters, hiring managers or HR personnel because it allows you to manipulate your employment history especially if you have large gaps in it or have changed jobs often within a short period of time.

When Might You Use a Functional Resume? Although this format is not generally recommended, you might want to use a functional resume if:

  • You have gaps in your work history.
  • You are transitioning into a new career.
  • You have frequently changed jobs.
  • You are looking to transition into a new career.
  • You have a lot of transferable skills.

If you are applying for a job that is not directly relevant to what you have done in the past, a functional resume allows you to highlight the most relevant experience. For example, if you have worked in IT as networking engineer and are looking to transition to software testing, chances are you have a good understanding of operating systems such as Windows and UNIX and networking tools such as proxies, firewalls, routers, etc., which are skills that are relevant to the job of a web tester.

A functional resume would be appropriate for you in this situation because of your transferable skills. If you were to submit this information in a chronological resume, there’s a good chance a recruiter or hiring manager looking for a web tester would overlook you because you did not hold the title of software tester, even if 50 percent of your day was spent performing the same functions and using exactly the same tools used by a web tester.

Functional resumes do not suit graduates, students or entry level workers because they place more emphasis on experience than education.


  • Contact Information
  • Professional Summary
  • Technical Skills
  • Work Experience
  • Education
  • Additional Skills
  • Awards/Honors/Training/Certifications

Combination Resumes

The combination resume gives you the best of both worlds by incorporating the best of the chronological and functional formats. Generally, it leads with specific skills and related qualifications, followed by a reverse-chronological professional work history. It allows you to emphasize your most relevant qualifications upfront, whilst also showing off your professional employment. Unless you have strong expertise in a specific field, this format will not be well-suited to you.

The combination format allows candidates to focus more on skills and qualifications rather than education or work experience. They are particularly suited to applicants with a well-developed skillset or particular qualifications within a specific industry that are looking to transition to a new career.

This format isn’t right for you if you’ve had many jobs, gaps in employment or unrelated experience.

Who Should Use a Combination Resume?

You may want to consider a combination resume if you fall into any of the following categories:

  • If you have a steady and consistent employment history, you can highlight your biggest accomplishments in your professional summary.
  • If you’re a recent graduate or entry-level job seeker with limited experience, this format allows you to emphasize your skills rather than your employment history.
  • If you’ve been off the job market, this format allows you to highlight your skills, de-emphasizing the fact that you’ve not worked recently.


Combination resumes have the same format as functional and chronological resumes. The difference is that they allow you to highlight your expertise in specific industries to conceal the fact that you’ve had long periods of unemployment.

  • Contact Information
  • Professional Summary
  • Technical Skills
  • Work Experience
  • Education
  • Additional Skills
  • Awards/Honors/Training/Certifications

Why Your Resume Needs to be Perfect

According to a survey by job search site, recruiters spend less than ten seconds looking at a candidate’s resume before deciding whether to discard it or save it for later for a more detailed review. Most job applicants don’t make it past this initial screening stage. In fact, research by Workopolis indicates that only 2% of job candidates that apply for a specific position actually get invited for interviews.

Here are questions that a recruiter or hiring manager will be considering when they receive your resume:

  • Who is this person?
  • What is their current work status and job title?
  • Who do they currently work for?
  • Does the candidate have the specific qualifications, skills or experience for the position I am recruiting for?
  • Is this candidate a strong match for similar roles that I have available?
  • Does this resume contain the most important keywords for the position I’m recruiting for?
  • What is their current position start date? Is there an end date?
  • Has their career progression been consistent?
  • How long is this resume? Are all of the most important information visible on the first page?
  • Are there gaps in the candidate’s employment history?
  • Is the resume logically presented and well-written?
  • Is the resume well formatted and informative?
  • What is their education?
  • Do the dates make sense? Are there gaps in the chronology?
  • Why are they leaving their current job? Have they explained why they are leaving in their cover letter?

To avoid the proverbial resume black hole, your resume needs to revolve around a specific job – the job you are applying for. Exclude irrelevant qualifications or experience to ensure that only the most marketable items pop out at the reviewer.

Every section of your resume including your professional summary, education, experience, skills, interests, etc. needs to be customized for your dream role. Note however, that if you hold a four-year degree, it is an asset, and must be on your resume whether it is relevant to the role or not.

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