Lehigh University
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Choosing a Format

How you organize the facts about yourself can have a major influence on the reader's image of you. There are basically three formats that are used in writing a resume: reverse chronological, skills-based (functional), and combination. Below is more information about each format.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each format.  Depending on the positions for which you are applying, you may choose one format that's best for you and your experiences.  Typically, undergraduate students utilize the reverse chronological format, and graduate students and alumni with signifcant experience may use the skills-based or combination format.

What is it?
Begin with your most recent position and work backwards. For advanced level, focus on last 10-15 years Summarizes your professional skills and minimizes your work history Utilizes the best of the reverse chronological and skills-based styles
When to use it

When seeking a position in the same field

Your career path has shown steady progress and increasing responsibilities

You can demonstrate measurable results from your work

You've held impressive job titles and/or have worked for big-name employers

Your work history has no gaps

You are changing careers and utilizing your transferable skills

You have been employed by the same company for a long time

You have held several jobs that are dissimilar or very similar in nature

You are a new graduate with limited work history but do have relevant coursework or training

Your work history contains gaps in employment

Each position you have had involved a different job

You want to highlight internship or volunteer positions that are related to your field of interest

Significant skills are highlighted and supported by your employment history


Calls attention to employment gaps

Skills may be difficult to spot if they are buried in job descriptions

Employers are used to viewing reverse chronological resumes. Be clear about why this is the best format for you.

May be more difficult to write

Be sure your format supports your objective and is arranged in a logical, easy-to-follow manner

Credits: Employee Career Enrichment Program, University of MN