How To Choose the Best Resume Layout for You Blog (1)

The impact of a well-crafted resume on your career prospects is immeasurable. It’s not just a summary of your work history; it’s a strategic tool that, when used correctly, opens doors to new career opportunities. The right resume layout does more than present your credentials—it enhances them, aligns them with your career aspirations, and ensures they resonate with hiring managers and ATS software alike.

Choosing the perfect resume layout involves more than opting for what looks appealing; it’s about selecting a resume design that effectively highlights your strengths and aligns with your career goals. The stakes are high, as the wrong choice can obscure your potential and deter job opportunities. Whether you’re climbing the career ladder, pivoting to a new industry, or seeking to highlight a diverse skill set, understanding the nuances of various resume layouts is crucial.

In this article, I’ll explore the three primary resume layouts: chronological, functional, and combination.  I will also touch on more creative layouts and how, even within these three types, there’s a plethora of design possibilities tailored to showcase your professional journey effectively.

With this guidance, along with examples of each resume layout, you’ll be equipped to choose the resume layout that best showcases the information critical to achieving your career goals, ensuring that your first impression on paper is as impactful as possible.

Understanding Different Types of Resume Layouts

Selecting the right layout for your resume is pivotal for effectively showcasing your professional experiences and skills. Each layout is tailored to highlight different aspects of a your career trajectory and expertise.

Let’s delve into the specifics of each format—chronological, functional, and combination—and discuss when and why to use them.

Chronological Resume Layout

The chronological resume layout is the most traditional and widely recognized format. It lists your work history in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent job at the top. This format straightforwardly showcases a clear timeline of your professional growth and progression through different roles and companies. Each job entry typically includes the position title, dates of employment, the company’s name, and its location, followed by job responsibilities and achievements.

Ideal for:

The chronological resume especially benefits individuals with a strong and steady work history. It is best suited for:

  • EXPERIENCED PROFESSIONALS: Those with a continuous and progressive career path in a particular field or industry can effectively highlight their advancement over time.

  • INDIVIDUALS WITH FEW EMPLOYMENT GAPS: If your work history is relatively uninterrupted, this format will showcase your stability and commitment to your professional field.

  • JOB SEEKERS APPLYING WITHIN THE SAME JOB FUNCTION AND INDUSTRY: For those looking to advance further in the same industry, this layout clearly demonstrates relevant experience and a deepening of expertise that appeals to potential employers.


Despite its popularity and acceptance, the chronological resume layout is not without its shortcomings:

  • HIGHLIGHTS EMPLOYMENT GAPS: If you have significant gaps in your employment history, this format will make them very apparent to hiring managers, potentially raising questions about your work consistency.

  • LESS EFFECTIVE FOR CAREER CHANGERS: If you are transitioning to a new industry or profession, the chronological layout might not serve you well, as it emphasizes industry-specific experiences and roles that may not be relevant to your new career path.

  • CAN APPEAR REDUNDANT: For those who have held similar roles across various companies, this format can sometimes seem repetitive, as it might look like you’re listing the same responsibilities and skills multiple times without new achievements or growth.

Example resume in a chronological layout

This example chronological layout resume is from our Accounting Edge collection which features a resume for accountants.

Best Practices:

To maximize the effectiveness of a chronological resume and mitigate some of its disadvantages, consider the following strategies:

By effectively leveraging the chronological format, you can present a compelling narrative of your professional journey that underscores your experience, achievements, and suitability for the role you are applying for.

Chronological Resume Layout Example

The length of a resume doesn’t make a difference. Even a one-page resume can feature a layout that emphasizes work chronology, as shown by this sales associate resume.

Functional Resume Layout

The functional resume, also known as a skills-based resume, emphasizes your skills and abilities above all else. Rather than following the traditional chronological order of listing employment history, this format organizes your resume by specific skills or competencies, supported by examples of past accomplishments and experiences demonstrating these abilities. This style allows you to tailor your career narrative, focusing on your strengths and the unique qualities you bring to potential employers.

Ideal for:

The functional resume is particularly effective for job seekers who may not have a linear or traditional career path. It is advantageous for:


While a functional resume can be highly effective for some, it does carry certain disadvantages that are important to consider:

  • POTENTIAL TO CONFUSE HIRING MANAGERS: Because it deviates from the conventional resume structure, some hiring managers may find functional resumes confusing or difficult to follow. This format can make it harder for employers to piece together your career timeline and understand the context of your professional experiences.

  • RED FLAGS FOR RECRUITERS: Recruiters who are accustomed to scanning chronological resumes might view the lack of a clear timeline as an attempt to hide employment gaps or a lack of relevant experience. This skepticism can put you at a disadvantage compared to candidates with a more straightforward chronological resume.

  • ISSUES WITH APPLICANT TRACKING SYSTEMS (ATS): Functional resumes often fare poorly with ATS, which are programmed to parse and rank resumes based on traditional formats. Since ATS systems typically expect information in a particular order (such as clear employment dates and progression), a functional resume’s layout can disrupt the parsing process, resulting in lower or no visibility in recruiter searches.

Example Functional Layout Resume

From our Pivot Collection, this functional format resume may be a good choice resume layout if you are changing careers as it allows you to focus on your skills and accomplishments rather than when and where they occurred.

Best Practices:

To mitigate some of the disadvantages of a functional resume, consider these tips:

  • COMBINE ELEMENTS WITH CHRONOLOGICAL FORMATS: Consider using a hybrid format that starts with a functional section showcasing your most relevant skills, followed by a brief chronological work history. This combination can satisfy ATS requirements and appease hiring managers who prefer a traditional format.

  • BE CLEAR AND ORGANIZED: Structure your skills sections clearly with bullet points that describe specific accomplishments and quantifiable outcomes to provide context and proof of your abilities.

  • INCLUDE A CLEAR TIMELINE SOMEWHERE: Even if it’s brief, include a section that outlines your past employment to satisfy ATS algorithms and provide recruiters with the essential timeline they expect.

By carefully crafting a functional resume that is both strategic in its skills presentation and mindful of the format’s potential pitfalls, you can create a compelling narrative highlighting your best professional self.

Combination Resume Layout

The combination resume layout merges the strengths of both chronological and functional formats. It begins by highlighting relevant skills and competencies in a distinct section at the top of the resume, followed by a professional experience section that details your work history in reverse chronological order. This format allows you to showcase both your robust skill set and your detailed work history, emphasizing your qualifications upfront while also providing the context of your career progression.

Ideal for:

This versatile layout is well-suited for a variety of job seekers, especially:

Example Combination Layout Resume

Highly versatile, this specialized resume template for DevOps engineers, illustrates the layout known as the combination layout.


While the combination resume is highly flexible, it has potential drawbacks to consider:

  • LENGTH AND COMPLEXITY: Because it includes a detailed listing of both skills and chronological work experience, the combination resume can become lengthy or appear overwhelming. This complexity requires careful organization to prevent it from being cluttered.

  • REPETITION: There is a risk of repeating the same skills or achievements in the skills and employment history sections, which can dilute the impact of key points.

  • POTENTIAL OVEREMPHASIS ON SKILLS: In some cases, focusing heavily on skills can detract from the chronological work history, which might be crucial for roles requiring extensive experience or specific career trajectories.

Best Practices:

To optimize the effectiveness of a combination resume, consider these guidelines:

  • BALANCED CONTENT: Ensure a clear balance between the skills section and the chronological part of the resume. Each section should complement the other without overwhelming it.

  • STRATEGIC ORGANIZATION: Organize the skills section by relevance to the position you are applying for. Tailor this section to highlight the competencies that align closely with the job description.

  • HIGHLIGHT TRANSITIONS AND GROWTH: Use the chronological section to tell the story of your career development. Highlight promotions and transitions that demonstrate your growth and adaptability in your field.

By carefully structuring a combination resume, you can effectively spotlight both your diverse skill set and your progressive work history, making it a powerful tool for a wide range of job seekers aiming to capture the attention of potential employers.

Special Considerations for Creative Resume Layouts

Incorporating creative elements such as color and thoughtful design can significantly enhance a modern resume’s visual appeal and effectiveness, regardless of the industry. In days past, creative layouts might have been reserved for fields like artists or entertainers. Fast forward to the present, and modern resumes across virtually all professions can benefit from well-considered design touches.

Importance of Design in Modern Resumes

Design and layout in a resume do more than just make the document attractive. They can strategically draw the reader’s eyes to key parts of the resume, such as major achievements or skills, thus enhancing the resume’s ability to effectively communicate the candidate’s value proposition. Even in traditionally conservative fields, such as finance or engineering, a touch of design can help a resume stand out from a sea of standard formats.

Prioritizing Content Over Design

The first step in incorporating creative elements into your resume should always be solidifying your resume content. Once you have outlined your skills, experiences, and achievements, you can choose a layout that best showcases this content. A well-designed resume should highlight the most essential information and make it easily accessible, not overshadow it.

Navigating ATS Compatibility

While it’s true that ATS systems have historically had issues with overly designed resumes, the technology has evolved significantly. Modern ATS systems are capable of parsing a variety of formatting and design elements without issue. However, it’s crucial to understand what works and what doesn’t:

Myths and Misinformation about ATS

There is a plethora of outdated and incorrect information regarding ATS-friendly resumes. It’s important to differentiate between the limitations of older ATS systems, which struggled with anything beyond basic text, and modern systems, which are more adept at handling various elements. Here are a few points to clarify:

Resume layouts can be eye-catching and ATS-friendly, provided they are crafted thoughtfully. By understanding both the potential of modern resume design and the capabilities of current ATS technologies, you can create a document that is both visually appealing and effective in automated screening processes. Remember, the goal is to enhance your resume’s ability to communicate your qualifications, not to complicate it. When in doubt, simplicity coupled with strategic use of design elements is the best path forward.

Tips for Choosing the Right Resume Layout

When finalizing your resume layout, consider it a strategic tool to frame your professional narrative effectively. Here are some actionable tips, to help you choose the best resume layout that aligns with your career stage, industry norms, and personal branding. Here’s what to consider:

Consider Your Career Stage

  • ENTRY-LEVEL: If you’re just starting out as a new graduate or other entry-level job seeker, focus on educational achievements and relevant skills if your work experience is limited.

  • MID-CAREER: For those with solid experience in a field, a chronological layout can highlight your progression.

  • CAREER CHANGER: Combination or functional layouts can be beneficial to emphasize relevant transferable skills over a non-linear employment history.

Align with Industry Expectations

  • CREATIVE FIELDS: More design freedom is acceptable in industries like marketing or graphic design, where your resume serves as a testament to your creative skills.

  • CONSERVATIVE FIELDS: In fields such as banking or healthcare, stick to a more traditional, clean layout that focuses on content rather than creative design elements.

Reflect Your Personal Brand

The layout you choose should mirror the personal brand you want to convey. If you position yourself as an innovative thinker, some creative elements can be beneficial. Conversely, a straightforward and sleek design might better serve those emphasizing reliability and organization.

Match the Job Application Requirements

Tailor your resume to the specific job application. Review the job description carefully and reflect the required skills and experiences in your resume’s layout. For example, if a job emphasizes innovation and creativity, consider incorporating elements that reflect these traits in a tasteful manner.

Narrate Your Professional Journey

Decide what story you want your resume to tell. Do you want to highlight a trajectory of promotions within a field, or showcase diverse skills applicable across various roles? Choose a layout that best narrates this professional journey to your potential employers.

Elevate Your Career with the Perfect Resume Layout

Selecting the right resume layout isn’t just about fitting your experiences onto a page; it’s about choosing a framework that elevates your professional narrative and aligns with your career goals. Whether you opt for a chronological, functional, or combination layout, remember that the best resume is one that presents you in the most compelling light to potential employers.

Crafting a resume that stands out in today’s competitive job market requires more than just listing your job duties; it involves strategic presentation and thoughtful design. As we’ve discussed, each resume layout serves different purposes and suits different career needs. By choosing the layout that best fits your professional journey, you enhance your visibility and increase your chances of making a memorable first impression.

If you’re ready to create a resume that opens doors to new opportunities, explore our extensive collection at Distinctive Resume Templates. With hundreds of professionally designed templates that are both visually appealing and ATS-friendly, you can find the perfect layout that not only showcases your skills and experiences but also fits the narrative you want to present to employers. Our templates are crafted to help you highlight your professional achievements in the most effective way possible, ensuring that your resume not only looks great but is also tailored to meet the demands of today’s job market.

Don’t let the challenge of creating a standout resume hold you back from achieving your career aspirations. Visit Distinctive Resume Templates today and choose a template that will set the foundation for your success. Whether you’re updating your resume or crafting a new one, we have the tools to help you present your best self to potential employers. Start your journey to a brighter career future now!

About the Author: Michelle Dumas

Michelle Dumas is the founder and CEO of Distinctive Career Services, one of the internet's longest-standing and most respected professional resume writing firms. Michelle is a 6X certified and 7X award-winning resume writer and career consultant. Michelle designed and created all of the templates in the Distinctive Resume Templates Collections found at

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