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Resume Science Part 3: Formatting

As professional recruiters, we see a lot of resumes – and are often asked for guidance or help in crafting one that will draw attention. This is our third installment of our resume series - giving you the tools to have a resume that gets noticed. If you are just joining the series – start with Part 1 and Part 2.

Today we are going to discuss the most common resume formats.

Finding a format that works for you can take some time – and will depend on where you are in your career and what circumstances your search is in. Distilling the summary of your professional career into a page or two can be a challenge. The right format can help.

There are several general formats for resumes:


This is the most common format, which highlights the stops on your career journey from most-recent to earlier in your career. The emphasis should be what you have done over the past 10 years or so, as that will likely be the most relevant to the positions you are seeking. This is the most straightforward and is easiest to determine your fit for a position. If your career has been linear in progression, or are staying in your industry, this resume is for you.


This format emphasizes your skills relevant to the job you are applying for over details of your experience. This format seeks to tie your abilities - often your soft-skills - directly to a job. It is a recommended format for students or entry level people entering the workforce, reentering the workforce after a significant gap of time, or making a significant career or industry shift.


A combination resume is a combination of the two – highlighting your skills and touching on your career history in reverse-chronological history. This format is best for C-level executives highlighting specific competencies and results necessary for their next job, or experienced professionals looking to make a change of industry.

Curriculum Vitae:

Technically a Curriculum Vitae, or CV, is NOT a resume. Most people think the term is interchangeable and it is not. A CV is a much more in-depth document, commonly used in countries other than the US. In the US, a CV is primarily used in medicine and higher education where details of research, published papers, and books are summarized. Unless you fall into those categories, you should not be using this format.

Our preference for a format is a reverse-chronological resume, as it is easiest for us and our clients to determine the fit for a role. We’ve seen plenty of fancy resumes where you can study for ten minutes and still have no clue what the candidate is bringing to the table. Keep it simple. Speaking of which, in our next installment of Resume Science, we’ll cover common formatting mistakes that will torpedo your chance of getting an interview. Stay tuned!

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