How to Choose a Resume Format and Template

Resume sitting on a table with reading glasses and a pen on the top.
NPFire / Shutterstock

A resume is not a creative document. In fact, it may be one of the most formal things you have ever written. What makes boring CVs, it's also what makes them easy to create: you follow a formula.

With this in mind, there is no reason not to use templates to create your resume. Formatting and organizing your work history, education, and skills may seem complicated, but the models do the work for you. All you have to do is add your specific details, which greatly speeds up the process of writing or updating your resume.

The key is to find a model that suits your experience, so you do not have to make too many changes. During this in-depth dive, we will show you exactly how to choose both the format and the CV model to suit your needs.

Resume formats

A resume template is an example of a resume that shows you how to organize your information. Replace the sample information with yours and make small adjustments to fit the job you are applying for.

Each resume template is available in one of three formats. Before you can choose the right model, you must specify it and choose the format best suited to your professional history.

Chronological

The vast majority of CVs use a chronological format. This organizes your work and your other experiences (such as volunteering or school projects) in reverse chronological order, so the most recent is the first one. It highlights the most relevant information because most employers are more interested in what you do now than what you did five years ago.

You must use a chronological resume format unless you have a compelling reason not to do so. If you have limited work experience, either in general or in the field you are applying for, another format may be better for you. Or, if you have very relevant skills or achievements, you can choose a format that highlights them.

Functional

Functional CVs do not rely on chronological information. Instead, they highlight skills, achievements, and other relevant information that is not punctual. You can organize this type of CV by subject (such as "customer service skills" and "computer skills") rather than by chronology.

If you do not have much professional (or relevant) experience, you can choose this format. It works well for a first resume or a career transition.

A functional resume should always include a working history section, but it will be at the bottom, it will be shorter and less detailed than on a chronological resume. You might even give up on including dates from your work history.

Although a functional resume may best suit your experience, hiring services are not always very receptive to this format. Functional picks up the list of skills without the context of when and where you learned them, so recruiters sometimes consider this information irrelevant.

Hybrid

Hybrid CV formats combine elements of functional and chronological design. This format can be beneficial when you have relevant work experience.

Hybrid resumes are also ideal if you have gaps in your work history. If you have not worked at all (or in a relevant field) for several years, this format diverts the attention of your interlocutor to attract your valuable skills. Hybrid resumes place your skills, achievements, and qualifications at the top of the page, followed by a brief section on job history.

You can start with a functional resume when you have minimal work experience, but as you get more, you can switch to a hybrid format. Finally, you will have enough professional experience to turn your resume into a chronological one. Hiring managers tend to view résumés in a positive light, but sometimes it takes time to gain the necessary experience to make one.

Functional and hybrid resumes give you something to show recruiters, but a chronological resume should normally be your final goal. However, if skills and qualifications are crucial to the job of your dreams, you can stick to a hybrid resume that emphasizes it.

Choose the best model

Man's hands holding his resume and a red mounting pencil on his laptop.
jamesteohart / Shutterstock

Now, it's time to select a specific template in your favorite resume format that's right for your experience as well.

There are many free templates online, so there is no need to pay for one. But take the time to browse the options and choose the one that suits you best.

Before going through the templates, it's good to have a general idea of ​​what you want to include in your resume. For example, you may want to include sections on education, work history, achievements, and rewards. If you find a model with most or all of these sections, it will be much easier to fill it. Of course, you can also edit a template and rename or reorder sections to better match your experience.

You should make at least some changes. You do not want it to be too obvious that you are using a template (even if most people do). Pay particular attention to the position for which you are applying, as well as your own experience. Customize the template to show your experience. For example, you can add keywords from the job list to your headers or descriptions to increase your chances of getting an interview.

Everything is in the details

Now that you have chosen your model, you are ready to add your information. When you take the time to choose the right resume template, it is easy to fill it out.

However, there are some details you need to pay attention to, so your resume is taken seriously. These little things can have a significant impact on how your resume is received.

Formatting and spacing

When you edit a template, the format may start to look funny. For example, cutting and pasting a section can affect the spacing. Constant spacing gives your resume a neat and organized look, while random spacing distracts you.

Headers are another place where formatting tends to become inconsistent. Make sure all your headers use the same format, such as a bold 14-point font. If you forget to bold headers, recruiters will think you are paying little attention to details.

Stay tuned for other formatting errors that may occur when you make changes and correct them so that the format remains consistent.

Fonts

Make sure your resume uses only one font that looks professional. Sans serif fonts, such as Helvetica, have a sleek, modern look, while sleek fonts, like Times New Roman, are elegant and classic. You can even change the font according to the job for which you are applying. Serif fonts are suitable for traditional industries, such as publishing, while sans serif fonts are suitable for newer industries, such as technology.

Keep a main font size between 10 and 12 points so that it is readable. Headers can be a bit bigger, but do not make them bulky, you'll feel like you're just trying to fill the space. You can also use bold or capital letters to bring out your headers.

Color

Black and white is always a safe choice for resumes. However, if you're applying in a creative field, you can add a little color (or look for a template that already includes it). For an example of how to use color creatively and professionally, check out this resume example for the famous entrepreneur Elon Musk.

CV templates can save you a lot of time and effort by helping you organize your information quickly and professionally. Just make sure you choose your size and style wisely, then adjust it to make it unique.

If you have trouble starting your resume, do not miss the helpful tips of our productivity guide!

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