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  3. What is the best resume format to use? With examples and templates!
What is the best resume format to use? With examples and templates!

What is the best resume format to use? With examples and templates!

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • What the most common resume templates look like
  • What the best resume formats for new graduates and industry newcomers look like
  • What resume formats for experienced professionals look like
  • What resume templates for technical jobs look like
  • What resume formats for leadership positions look like
  • What curriculum vitae formats for academics and doctors look like
  • What resume formats for artists and other creatives look like
  • What resume formats for state and federal careers look like
  • Key takeaways

Looking for a good format to build your resume around? Check out these samples and templates.

The internet is full of example resumes that job seekers can use and most of them share features, such as headings with contact information, career experience sections, and sidebars for listing skills and university degrees. That said, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all professional resume. If you’re trying to create the perfect resume for your job search, make sure you pick templates, sections, and layouts that draw attention to the specific accomplishments and experience needed for your target role.

Most resume examples and blank resume templates can be divided into the following applicant categories:

  • The basics: features common to most resume templates

  • Recent college graduates

  • Technical professionals

  • Managers and executives

  • Academics and scientists

  • Artists and creatives

  • Government employees

What the most common resume templates look like

There’s no such thing as a truly universal resume, but there are certain resume sections that are seen as essential for most modern resumes.

First, there is a header, the section at the top of the first page. It includes your full name and your profession in a larger font. It also includes your contact information, often comprised of the following details:

  • Your phone number

  • Your email address

  • Your home address

  • Your state, country, and zip code

  • A link to your website profile (LinkedIn, a portfolio, etc.)

Most resume formats add a professional summary below the header. This professional summary describes your career path, the types of work you’ve done, the methods you’ve used to succeed, and your personal strengths.

A skill list section isn’t always mandatory for a resume, but is a popular way to elaborate on the talents and aptitudes described by the resume’s professional summary section. In a bullet-point format with multiple columns, you can list important skills that are relevant to the job you’re seeking, such as:

  • Budget management

  • Customer service

  • Team training

  • Data analysis/research

  • Event planning

  • Relationship management

  • Interpersonal communication

After the summary and/or skill list, comes the section that’s mandatory in nearly every resume template: the career experience section. This section describes the present and past jobs you’ve had. 


Company, Location                                                                      Start Date – End Date                                                                                             

Job Title

[A one-paragraph description of your day-to-day responsibilities at this job. List the tasks you completed, the clients/customers you aided, and how you coordinated your efforts with other employees. Avoid using personal pronouns in these descriptions and break apart any run-on sentences into more concise statements.]

Special Accomplishment #1 [Here, describe a special accomplishment you achieved during your time at this job, such as completing a tricky project on time].

Special Accomplishment #2 [Here, describe another special accomplishment of yours such as getting promoted].

Each individual job entry should include your day-to-day responsibilities and show off abilities that are relevant to the role you’re currently pursuing. Generally, these job entries should begin with your current or most recent role.

Expert Tip

Most resume templates available online have career experience section formats where you list the title of your old/current job, the company you worked for, and the start date/end date.

There are two specific circumstances where you might not want to list the start and end dates of your past career:

  • If you started work at a job more than 15 years ago and are concerned about ageism.

  • If you worked at multiple jobs for less than a year and worry hiring managers might assume you’re a job hopper.

Click on the following article link to learn more about how to create resumes for older workers with lengthy work histories.  

Many resumes end with an education, licenses and certifications, and/or training section, where you list the degrees, job-related training, licenses, and professional certifications you’ve earned. Each entry in this section should list the type of degree, license or certification, and the institution that issued it.

The most common resume formats contain all the sections described above, but re-position or expand specific sections based on what a job seeker needs to emphasize:

  • Chronological or reverse chronological resumes have a large career experience section and are good formats for job seekers who want a new job that’s similar to their previous roles. 

  • Functional resumes have large, elaborate sections for listing skills, past projects, and career-defining accomplishments and often don’t include dates. Keep in mind, they can run into trouble with applicant tracking system (ATS) software. 

  • Combination resumes blend elements from both chronological and functional resume formats, containing elaborate career experience AND skill sections while downplaying or removing extraneous sections such as professional summaries. These resumes work well for professionals who are looking to change careers or return to an industry they left behind.

What the best resume formats for new graduates and industry newcomers look like

Job seekers who’ve just graduated from college or just started seeking work in a certain industry are in a tricky position.They need to create a professional resume that will catch the interest of hiring managers, but they’ll be short on work experience they can use to demonstrate their skills.

One option is to choose a functional resume template with a one-page layout that lets you fill out the entire document with the experience and accomplishments you do have. A resume template with a sidebar, for example, lets you list several sets of information alongside each other on the page. However, ATS systems often have difficulty successfully parsing a functional resume, as they deviate from the traditional chronological structure. The system may have difficulty extracting and organizing information, leading to errors or a jumbled presentation of skills and experiences.

To increase compatibility and enhance the chances of your resume being effectively scanned, a chronological or combination resume format is often a safer choice.

What resume formats for experienced professionals look like

Most chronological resume templates are designed for experienced professionals who have worked in multiple roles and are looking for a better job in the same industry. Depending on the career you’re pursuing, you may want to add one or more of the following optional sections to your resume:

  • A special accomplishments section, where you list your key career achievements.

  • A licenses and certifications section, distinct from your resume’s education section.

  • An affiliations section where you list organizations and professional associations you’re a member of or lead.

  • A languages section where you list foreign languages in which you’re proficient. 

When writing text for this kind of resume, pick words and phrases that draw attention to your extensive work experiences, demonstrate your familiarity with the industry, and show your ability to quickly settle into your new career at the company that hires you. Whenever possible, try to spruce up your listed accomplishments with concrete statistics and numbers (increases in profit by percentage, the number of employees and teams you coordinated, etc).

  • Are one to three pages long.
  • Have boilerplate language designed to catch the attention of Applicant Tracking Systems.
  • Have colored headers or lines.
  • Have sections where you can list statistics such as profits or number of employees led.
  • Have sections for listing non-work accomplishments directly related to the job you seek.
  • List conventional, expected skills such as “Proficient in Microsoft Office.”
  • Have sections for listing hobbies that aren’t relevant to the job you’re seeking.
  • Contain boilerplate language that’s too slangy or informal.
  • Have cramped layouts and/or illegible fonts.
  • Have distracting graphics or logos.

What resume templates for technical jobs look like

Certain jobs (computer programmers, machine operators, engineers, technical writers), require very specific skill sets. If you’re currently searching for jobs that require specialized skills, select a combination resume template that presents those skills in a clear, detailed way.

Aside from the usual resume sections described above, technical resumes need sections where you can list and draw attention to specific proficiencies the job you’re applying for requires. 

If you’re a computer programmer, for example, make sure you add a section to your resume for listing all the coding languages you know (e.g., Java, Python, C++, HTML).  

Statistical Insight

According to an article on the US Bureau of Labor Statistics website, employment in the information and technology industries is expected to grow by 15% from 2021 to 2031, resulting in the creation of 682,800 new jobs.

What resume formats for leadership positions look like

If you have a background in business administration and want to work in a leadership position, it’s important you pick or customize a resume template that shows off your management skills and experience directing teams in a workplace. If you’re looking to spruce up a general purpose resume template to be more management focused, there are several useful sections you might want to add to your document. 

Between the job title and the professional summary section, you can add a power statement, which outlines your primary leadership role and your unique strengths as a leader. For example, a financial services professional may write: “Results-oriented financial expert skilled in developing investment strategies, driving profitability, and retaining assets.”

A special accomplishments section, added to the first page of your manager resume, is also a useful way to immediately tell hiring managers about your finest achievements. Finally, an affiliations section, added near the end of your resume, is a good spot for listing any career-related professional associations, private organizations, or volunteer groups you belong to or lead.  

What curriculum vitae formats for academics and doctors look like

A “Curriculum vitae” or academic CV is the go-to chronological resume format for professionals with advanced degrees, such as PhDs. If you’re an academic, scientist, or medical doctor seeking work at a university, laboratory, or research institution, the layout of a CV document lets HR staff and recruiters get a clear picture of your achievements in education and the fruits of the research you’ve pursued.

Unlike more business-oriented resumes, a curriculum vitae template places information about your educational background on the first page of the document. These education and credential sections should describe your academic achievements in detail, not just the degrees you earned and universities you attended but other learning activities such as study programs or research opportunities.

After describing your work experience in the career experience section of your CV, round out your document with sections that describe volunteer activities you participated in and associations you’re affiliated with. Most importantly, add a section to your resume where you can list academic accomplishments such as:

  • Research papers you published

  • Presentations you gave and the conferences where you gave them

  • Awards you received for academic excellence or scholastic/scientific breakthroughs

What resume formats for artists and other creatives look like

If you’re applying for job openings that require creativity and a knack for entertainment, the descriptions in your professional resume should be just as creative. This doesn’t mean your resume should be avant garde to the point of being confusing. Rather, each sentence in your resume’s professional summaries and job entries should be clear, eloquent, and full of useful information about your creative methods and philosophies on how to best connect with audiences.

Template-wise, a professional resume for creative professionals might contain a project section, a space where you can list your creative works and the spaces where they can be seen. For instance, you can include titles for your paintings and the gallery where they can be seen.

Near the end of your creative professional resume, after the career experience and education sections, you can add a section for describing the awards you received and a section listing publications and media sites where your work was promoted.

If you have a creative portfolio website or portfolio document archived on a file-sharing website, you can add the link to your contacts section.

What resume formats for state and federal careers look like

If you’re seeking a government position,the resume format you choose should present information about your work experience and specific information the government needs in order to properly process your job applications. For jobs with the Federal government (advertised on www.usajobs.gov), you’ll need to follow special guidelines for Federal resumes.  For these jobs, if you’re a military veteran, certain institutions may prioritize your application. To confirm your veteran status, the contact information section of your resume should have spaces to list information, such as military grades or security clearances.

State and other local government institutions don’t have one single process, so be sure to carefully read any instructions on the job postings. Add a professional training section to your resume if the government position you’re applying for requires specific certifications. It’s also a good idea to add a section that describes any secondary languages you know and your level of proficiency. 

Key takeaways

  1. Select a resume format that’s appropriate for your level of experience and the target industry. .

  2. Make sure the format you choose allows you to highlight the skills, achievements, education, training, and affiliations that are appropriate for the role(s) you’re pursuing. .

  3. Create a resume format that includes clearly defined sections to showcase your work history in a concise manner that’s easy to read. 

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