6 Smart Tips for Selecting the Best Résumé Format

These six tips can help you pick the best résumé format to leverage your education, skills, and know-how and land an entry-level position after graduation!

You’ve been struggling for hours to fit all the skills you’ve acquired over the past four years of classes, faculty-guided research, campus leadership positions, and multiple internships onto a single-page résumé. Now it looks crammed and crowded. Meanwhile, your best friend is afraid that her one-page résumé is stretched too thin and has too much white space. You’ll both be relieved to know that recent research suggests hiring managers will likely view both of your résumés favorably—if you select the correct résumé format and follow a few key résumé-drafting tips.

1. Leverage white space

A recent study found that résumés with clearly marked headings, bulleted lists of information, and lots of white space commanded greater focus from recruiters than those that crammed too much information onto each page. Another research study found that hiring managers were more than twice as likely to prefer candidates with two-page résumés over those with one-pagers. Even recent graduates seeking entry-level positions were viewed more positively if they submitted two-page résumés. Together, these two studies make a strong case for prioritizing a clean, clear layout and readability over concision. In other words, if you have to sacrifice clarity and good design to consolidate your qualifications onto a one-page résumé, don’t bother. On the other hand, if you find yourself struggling to fill a one-page résumé format, presenting a small amount of information in a clear, attractive layout will serve you better than padding your experience.

2. Opt for clean, traditional formatting

New technology means it’s become easy—and tempting—to create elaborate résumé layouts. However, technology also presents a good reason for sticking with traditional résumé formats. Why? Because most large employers now use automated applicant tracking systems (ATS), which are programmed to scan recognizable section headings for applicant qualifications. Embedding images and graphics or a two-column layout can cause the ATS to reject your résumé before a recruiter even sees it. Even if you make it past the ATS, most recruiters spend just over seven seconds scanning your résumé. Since hiring managers don’t have time to go hunting through your “innovative” résumé design for information, the three traditional résumé formats—chronological, functional, and hybrid (see below)—are still your best bet.

Related: What Is a “Takeaway Résumé,” and How Can It Help You?

3. Consider using a résumé format template

Whatever résumé format you choose, if this is your first time designing a résumé, you may want to consider working from a résumé format. You can find templates for all three basic résumé formats online.

Chronological résumé format

Dominated by its work history section with jobs listed in reverse chronological order, a chronological résumé format makes sense if you have a robust job history, but it’s not typically used by recent college graduates.

Functional résumé format

This résumé format allows you to list skills, knowledge, and experiences gained in the classroom as well as from campus or volunteer activities, part-time jobs, and internships. The functional résumé’s extremely flexible format makes it a useful tool for recent graduates who don’t have extensive on-the-job experience because it focuses on transferrable skills.

Hybrid résumé format

A hybrid résumé combines elements of the chronological and functional résumé formats. If you’ve held multiple part-time jobs, internships, or volunteer and campus leadership roles, this résumé format may help you stand out from your peers.

Related: Infographic: What Skills Should You Put on a Résumé to Land the Job?

4. Highlight your education

At this stage, your education section should precede your work history or skills sections, particularly if your institution has a strong reputation in the field you hope to enter. If your cumulative GPA is 3.0 or higher, include it. In your Skills and Accomplishments sections, you can list skills gained in the classroom as well as those gained through internships, campus leadership roles, and volunteer activities interchangeably. 

5. Employ hyperlinks in your résumé

A modern résumé header should include your name in a larger font with some sort of design flourish; contact information, including URLs to digital media but not your mailing address; and, in some fields, your credentials. Be sure to use a professional-sounding email address and a permanent link to your LinkedIn profile. Before you begin looking for an entry-level job, you should scrub your social media profiles and consider creating a website or blog focused on your professional interests.

6. Consider forging your own format for creative fields

When applying to jobs in fields that value creativity, design, and tech skills, a highly designed résumé that ignores many of the tips listed above can help exemplify your talent and vision. In fields like entertainment, advertising, architectural design, or high-tech development, a two-column résumé format, infographics, and bold design elements may convince your dream employer that you are just the cutting-edge candidate they’re looking for. However, there is a safer way to demonstrate your talent. Employ a clean, one-column functional or hybrid résumé format and provide hyperlinks to a robust LinkedIn profile that showcases your digital media skills. That way, your application stands a greater chance of making it past the ATS, and you can wow human eyes with your dazzling skills using a platform designed for that purpose.

Related: A 4-Week Plan to Perfect Your Résumé

Your résumé is the first impression you’re going to make to a potential employer—so you want to make it a good one. Choosing the right résumé format is about finding the one that best represents you and following these general guidelines to keep it minimal, impactful, and attention-grabbing. Use your newfound knowledge to craft a résumé that is sure to land you an amazing job. Good luck!

Find more tips on how to ace your job search in our Internships and Careers section.

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