How to Choose a Resume Format that Best Supports Your Career Goals

Resume formats and resume resources: They can seem as numerous and confusing as keeping up with fashion styles! Just as people dress themselves in outfits as unique as their personality (and no two ensembles are exactly alike) there are infinite ways to organize the information in your resume whether you’re putting together an entry-level resume, or one communicating much higher-level professional experience.

The following resume format quiz can be one of the most valuable resume resources available to you. As you read through the different approaches listed below, your aim should be to choose an approach that supports your career goals and reflects your distinctive style. The following process will help you decide which organizational approach will help you achieve both of these objectives.

Learn a Little about Different Resume Formats

In the world of resumes, most documents fall into one of these 3 organizational formats:

Chronological: As the name implies, this resume format presents information based on a chronology—or timeline—of events. Job searchers who choose a chronological format typically describe their latest position at the top of the list, and then work backward in time to explain earlier positions.

Functional or Skill Based: These terms are used interchangeably in the resume world. Instead of organizing information chronologically, this style puts the emphasis on functional expertise, typically related to the key skill areas required for the position.

Curriculum Vita (CV): A CV is a presentation of professional data most often used by teachers, academicians, and other scholarly types. An example of a CV is shown on page N. Situations where you need to organize your information in a CV format are pretty clear cut; the employer (typically a college, university, or school system) will specifically request it.

Take a Quick Resume Quiz to See Which Format Will Work Best for You

To help you decide which resume format will work best for your unique career situation, answer “Yes” or “No” to the following questions:

1. I am planning to stay in the same line of work—either targeting the same kind of position I held most recently, or moving up to the next step within my chosen career.

2. I have stayed in or progressed within my same career path, taking on increasing levels of responsibility from position to position.

3. I am entering a brand new career field, either as a career changer or a recent graduate just beginning in my profession.

4. I haven’t been in the workforce in the last number of years—either because I was a student, or because I took off time from work to raise children, because of illness, to care for a family member, or for some other reason.

5. I am aiming for a position as a teacher, professor, or administrator in academia.

Interpret Your Results and Make Your Decision Regarding Your Resume Format

If you answered Yes to questions one or two, then organizing your resume chronologically is probably the best choice for you.

If you answered Yes to questions three or four, then a functional / skill based resume is most likely the way to go for you.

If your answer to five was Yes, then opt for a CV format.

Excerpted and adapted from “Career Coward’s Guide to Resumes” by Katy Piotrowski, M.Ed.