Resume Format Guide (with Examples)
12 September 2019
A great resume can capture the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager and help you stand out from other applicants. Formatting your resume is an important step in creating a professional, readable resume.
There are several different ways to format your resume. One of the first decisions you should make is the type of resume you will write: chronological, functional, or combination. Each of these resume types is beneficial for different people who have various backgrounds and objectives. When making specific formatting decisions like margin size or font style, your goal is to deliver a document that allows employers to quickly see why you’re a good fit for the job.
In this guide, we will discuss the best ways to format your resume for your career objectives. While you might be formatting your existing resume for new job applications, you can also make certain formatting decisions before writing. This allows you to construct a resume within the guidelines of proper formatting. For example, setting one-inch margins provides a structure, so you will know how long your resume is when formatting is applied. From there, you can adjust the font size and style as needed.
Let’s begin by looking at the three main types of resumes and which would work best for you.
Types of resume formats
There are three popular resume formats: chronological, functional, and combination.
A chronological resume lists your work experience in reverse-chronological order, starting with your most recent position at the top. This is the most traditional resume format, and for years has remained the most common.
A chronological resume format usually includes the following information in this order:
Objective or summary statement
Additional information (i.e., volunteer work and special interests—optional)
A chronological resume is a good choice for anyone whose employment history shows a consistent, advancing career path. For example, you might select a chronological resume format if you’ve spent several years in the same industry and each role you’ve held was more senior than the last. It’s also often used by people applying to a position in the same or similar field to most of their work experience.
However, if you have multiple gaps in your employment history, you’re looking to change careers, or your work experience is heavily varied, you may want to consider a functional or combination resume.
Functional resumes focus more on relevant skills than work history. While the chronological format highlights work experience with detailed summaries of the achievements within each position, the functional format focuses on the applicant’s skill set.
A functional resume format usually includes the following information in this order:
Objective or summary statement
Summary of relevant skills
Additional information (i.e., volunteer work and special interests)
A functional resume is best if you have multiple gaps in employment, are shifting careers with little to no experience in the industry in which you’re applying, or if you’re re-entering the workforce after a lengthy break.
In some cases, a functional resume might be too limiting. If you have some experience and few or no gaps in your employment history, a combination resume might be the right choice.
A combination resume is a blend of the chronological and functional resume types. This resume format allows you to emphasize both your work experience and relevant skills. Because your skills and employment history will consume most of your resume space, you may need to eliminate optional sections such as volunteer work or special interests.
A combination resume format usually includes the following information in this order:
Objective or summary statement
Summary of most relevant skills
The combination resume is a more flexible format, so you should list either your skills or your work experience first, depending on which you consider more important for the role.
For example, if you have many unique skills that are especially valuable to the industry you’re applying to work in, you might consider listing them above your work experience. It can also be helpful to look for clues in the job posting to understand what is most important for the employer in an ideal candidate.
How to format a resume
The goal of formatting your resume is to create a professional-looking, easy-to-read document. Employers have only a short time to look through your resume, so your formatting decisions should make information clear and easy to find. If you are formatting an existing resume, you might need to adjust certain words or phrases to ensure it is still easy to read after you’ve applied the formatting changes. If you are formatting a resume before you write it, pay attention to how the information looks on the page and adjust as needed.
Here are the key steps to formatting a resume:
Apply appropriate margins
Select a professional, readable font
Make your font size 10–12 points
Feature section headers
Use bullet points
Ask for feedback
Let’s look at each of these components in detail. Consider how you might apply each of these when drafting or updating your resume.
1. Apply appropriate margins
Setting proper margins for your document ensures the information fits within a highly readable space on the page. Standard margins for resumes and other professional documents like cover letters or resignation letters are one inch on all sides. If you have a fairly short resume with a lot of blank space, you can use wider margins to create a less distracting document that appears more full. If you decide to adjust your margins, you should keep them below 1.5 inches.
You should also make sure to left-align your resume, so it is easy to read. If appropriate and readable, you might decide to center-align certain section headers to stylize your resume.
2. Select a professional, readable font
When deciding what font to use for your resume, keep in mind that it should be clear and easy to read. Ensuring employers don’t have to work to understand words on your resume is the most important factor when choosing a font. It is also helpful if your resume is sent through an applicant tracking system (ATS). Many employers use an ATS, which doesn’t always read and interpret intricate fonts well. You should also avoid “light” or “thin” fonts, which can sometimes be difficult to read on a screen or paper.
There are two main categories of fonts—serif and sans serif. Serif fonts have tails, while sans serif fonts do not. Sans serif fonts (or fonts without tails) are generally good fonts for resumes because they have clean lines that are easy to read. However, there are fonts like Georgia that are still widely accepted among employers as simple and professional.
Here are several examples of the best resume fonts:
Times New Roman
3. Make your font size 10–12 points
Another factor in making your words highly readable is setting an appropriate font size. Generally, you should stay between 10 and 12 points. If you are trying to reduce white space, select a 12-point font. Anything more might appear unprofessional.
If you have a lot of information on your page, start with a 10 point font and increase it if you have space.
If your resume is still more than one page with a 10 point font, avoid reducing your font further and see if there is an opportunity to edit your ideas instead. You can do this by removing irrelevant or extraneous information, combining ideas, or making your ideas briefer with shorter sentences and fewer filler words.
For example, here’s a resume sentence that can be shortened:
“Performed inventory audits every month and discovered issues with over-ordering—executed an organization solution across all teams which resulted in a 10% increase in revenue over the next two quarters.”
Make your ideas concise and remove filler words to include only the core value of your statement:
“Performed regular inventory audits, identifying and solving the over-ordering problem to achieve 10% revenue increase.”
Here are a few other ways you can use to make a shorter resume:
Consider removing filler words such as “like,” “with,” “a,” “and” and “that.”
Instead of listing each function of every job you’ve held, pick 2-3 key impacts you made in those roles.
If you have two similar points, consider combining them into one brief statement.
4. Feature section headers
Bolding, underlining, or increasing the font size for section headers can help employers quickly find the information they are looking for. Be careful when formatting section headers—they should be differentiated from the section body in a clean, professional way. You can stylize your headers in a few different ways:
Use a “bold” font on your section headers.
Increase the size of your section header fonts to 12, 14, or 16 points
Underline your section headers
You can also apply these styles to your name and contact information at the top of your resume. This information should be the first thing employers see, and it should be easy to find and read.
5. Use bullet points where appropriate
Using bullet points in your experience, skills, and/or education sections allows employers to easily consume the most relevant pieces of information from your resume. Bullet points should be used to list your achievements. Avoid using one or two bullet points—if you have less than three pieces of information, list them without bullets in sentence form or use other punctuation to separate different ideas.
For example, under a position you’ve held in the experience section, you would use bullets to communicate how you were successful in that role:
Consistently operated overhead cranes, hoists, power tools, and other project equipment safely.
Anticipated needs of 11 on-site workers and delivered parts to 23 field technicians
Completed weekly service reports, time cards, and other related project equipment paperwork
In the education section, you might not have three or more ideas to share so that it might look something like this without bullet points:
The University of Queensland February 2010–December 2014 Bachelor of Arts, English
6. Ask for feedback
After you’ve finished writing and formatting your resume, ask trusted friends or colleagues to review it. It can be helpful to have a third-party perspective provide their view and feedback. While they should look for grammar and spelling mistakes you might have missed, they should also pay attention to your formatting. Ask them to look for readability, consistency, and a professional look and feel.
Resume format examples
When drafting or updating your resume, consider reviewing resume samples in your industry and job title. While they are not to be used as exact templates, they can give you ideas for best presenting your qualifications to employers.
Here are examples of what a resume might look like following each of the three formats:
Nathan Stevenson 1234 Brunswick Street Fitzroy, VIC 3065 email@example.com
Objective I am a passionate and dedicated communications professional seeking a position with a not-for-profit organisation where I can apply my public relations skills and my passion for philanthropy.
Experience Public Relations Manager The Volunteer Foundation, 2017–Present Plan and direct public relations programs to create a positive public image for The Volunteer Foundation. Manage PR staff and act as a mentor to junior public relations personnel.
Public Relations Specialist The Volunteer Foundation, 2015–2017 Worked alongside PR team to ensure all fundraising efforts, local events and other special projects met the organisation’s brand guidelines and upheld a favourable public image.
Communications Coordinator ABC Company 2013–2015 Help increase brand visibility through various marketing efforts, including social media campaigns and digital advertising efforts. Helped conceptualise and distribute printed marketing materials.
Public relations management
Education University of South Australia, 2008–2012 Bachelor of Arts in Journalism
Volunteer Work Australian Red Cross Disaster Volunteer, Public Affairs 2016–Present
Janice Johnson 1234 Rokeby Street Subiaco, WA 6008 firstname.lastname@example.org
Objective I am a hardworking and driven sales professional with more than ten years of experience seeking an account management position in the healthcare industry.
Areas of Expertise Medical Device, Supplies & Pharmaceutical Sales I have a wealth of experience in selling to healthcare organisations ranging from large hospitals to small private practices. In previous roles, I’ve managed prospecting efforts, relationship development, new client on-boarding and account management within both the medical device and pharmaceutical product verticals.
Relationship Management I am skilled in developing new relationships with prospects and nurturing relationships with existing clients. In previous roles, I used a combination of proficiency in conflict resolution and my ability to build rapport to increase client retention rates as high as 300% year over year.
Sales Team Leadership I have managed a sales team of more than ten sales associates, coached and mentored junior sales representatives and regularly lead teams to exceed monthly, quarterly and yearly quotas.
Work Experience Regional Sales Manager ABC Medical Supplies, Inc., 2012–2017 Managed a team of sales associates. Trained and mentored new sales representatives. Oversaw regional account list averaging more than 90 existing clients and 40 prospects.
Account Manager XYZ Pharma Co., 2008–2012 Managed a lengthy account list including private practices and mid-sized clinics. Worked to maximise account growth through regular on-site visits, monthly check-ins and quarterly updates.
Junior Sales Associate XYZ Pharma Co., 2006–2008 Increase awareness of XYZ Pharma Co. products to small private practices through on-site education. Share information about new medications to help establish relationships with new prospects.
Education University of Newcastle, 2002–2006 Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
Certifications Continuing Education Program (CEP)
Julie Pak 555 Elizabeth Street Sydney, NSW 2000 email@example.com
Professional Experience Creative Director ABC Company, 2015–Present Manage a team of twelve creatives, including designers and copywriters. Oversee all in-house creative projects and ensure all deliverables meet brand guidelines.
Senior Graphic Designer ABC Company, 2013–2015 Design creative for all digital properties. Spearheaded website redesign. Developed in-house brand style guide currently used by entire creative department.
Graphic Designer XYZ Creative Agency, 2010–2013 Develop visual concepts for web and print design, including websites, mobile sites, digital ads, business cards and trade show collateral.
Related Skills Team Management Coordinate team of creative resources, lead team meetings and offer mentoring as needed.
Project Management Manage all aspects of creative projects, including timeline, resource coordination, internal communication and sharing progress reports with outside stakeholders.
Branding Create logos, design brand marks, offer brand colour recommendations and created a style guide to ensure cohesiveness across all assets.
Additional Skills Illustration, Typography, Client Communication, Time Management, Mobile Design, Adobe Creative Suite
Education University of Sydney, 2005–2009 Bachelor of Art in Graphic Design