How to Structure a Winning Resume

Your resume is the first chance to cause a great impression on the recruiter or hiring manager. A winning resume must be easily scannable, readable and have clean formatting. It is all about capturing the attention of the recruiter and then showing him or her that you have the right set of skills, education and work experience so you get shortlisted for a job interview.
How do you accomplish that?

  1. Choose the right type of resume format for your experience and the job position you are applying for (more on this below)
  2. Choose a resume design that looks professional and polished, with clear sections that are easily scannable and some white space, so it doesn’t look cluttered
  3. When writing your resume, focus on your abilities and accomplishments and try to match your skills to the job description

This article will focus on the main resume formats, their advantages, disadvantages, and what type of candidate should choose each of them.
An effective resume focuses on the right skills and abilities to draw the recruiters’ attention. In addition, it must also display the information in a clear, organized, and professional way.

It can be tempting to try and add as much information as possible so the hiring manager knows how qualified you are. However, a candidate must be very strategic and concise when writing their resume. A recent study revealed that a recruiter spends on average 7.4 seconds on a preliminary scanning phase. That’s why the right resume format is key to land a job interview.

Depending on your experience, career path and the job position, you must choose the most relevant information to add and the order in which it appears on your resume. The right order is one of the key factors that will help highlight the skills that are transferable to the position you are interested in. Specially when you consider that a recruiter might not even get to the second page of your resume.

But how do you know what structure works best for you? Start by looking at your work history, relevant skills and any possible gaps. Ask yourself:

  1. How many years of relevant experience do I have?
  2. If I am a new grad or junior professional, do I have skills that are transferrable to the job position I am aspiring for?
  3. Do I have any employment gaps?
  4. Am I changing careers?
  5. Did I change jobs frequently?

With the answers in hand, find which resume format works best for you.

  • Chronological Resume
  • Functional Resume
  • Combination Resume
Chronological Resume:

The most popular resume format is the chronological resume. It is a favorite not only to candidates but also employers. It focuses on the work experience and lists your job history in order of date, starting from your most recent position. It is easy to read and very familiar, which makes it a friendly option both to the candidate and the recruiter.

The chronological resume is a great option for someone who has a consistent work history and to emphasize their career progression over time. New graduates, candidates with a spotty employment history or who are changing careers might want to consider a functional or combination resume.

Chronological Resume 


  • Easy to write
  • Familiarity makes it easier for the recruiter to absorb the information
  • Clearly shows the progression of one’s career
  • Highlights a former employer that might be significant to the prospective employer
Who it is ideal for:
  • Candidates with a solid background in the field
  • Individuals who are looking for a job in the same area as their last/current job.
  • If you have minimal or no gaps between jobs
  • Academic jobs
  • The focus on work experience may be detrimental to someone who is new to the workforce (if you are a new grad, you can use a chronological resume, but make sure to list your education first! Add courses or workshops starting from the most recent.)
  • It also draws attention to employment gaps and frequent job changes
Who should not choose this format:
  • If you are changing careers
  • A candidate who has employment gaps
  • If you have changed jobs frequently

How to get started:
  • Choosing a resume template is a great way to guarantee a great first impression and to save time. They also help you with tips on what information to include and guide you through the editing process. There are lots of great options, like these templates that can be customized to fit your needs
  • List your work history with dates, titles and accomplishments. Start from the most recent position
  • List your skills and make sure to pinpoint keywords and phrases from the job description that interests you
  • List certifications, awards, and volunteer work, if relevant
Functional Resume:

A functional resume focuses on a candidate’s relevant and transferrable skills and abilities rather than their work experience. It is a great option if you have just graduated, don’t have a lot of experience, have non-traditional work experience, are changing careers or if you have employment gaps.
Because it highlights your skills, you can focus on your abilities and achievements instead of your employment history. Therefore, your resume should be organized in categories that describe your skills. For example, one of your subheadings could say “Project Management Expertise” with a list of skills and accomplishments related to that category beneath it.

Functional Resume


  • Given its skills-based approach, it emphasizes your abilities rather than your work history
  • Makes any gaps or frequent career changes less obvious while focusing on your strengths
  • It is a good option if you do not want to highlight your age
Who it is ideal for:
  • Candidates with transferrable experience
  • New graduates
  • Individuals with non-traditional work experience or with little experience in the field
  • Candidates with employment gaps or frequent career changes
  • If you are changing careers
  • Lack of detailed work history
  • Many employers dislike this format as it makes it look like the candidate may be hiding their age or lack of relevant experience, etc.
Who should not choose this format:
  • If you have a lot of experience in the field
  • If you want to emphasize your career progression
How to get started:
  • Organize your skills and abilities by order of relevance
  • Find keywords in the job description and make sure to use them in your resume
  • Consider using a resume template to save time and ensure a clean and professional look
  • Keep your resume short to hold the attention of the recruiters
  • Make sure you write a cover letter to explain why you want the position


The combination resume format is a great option for those who want to emphasize skills and accomplishments as well as work history. As the name implies, it combines the characteristics of the chronological and the functional resume formats. This format lists skills and accomplishments as well as employment in chronological order, starting from the most recent job.
Candidates with some experience (1-3 years) who have abilities that are relevant to the job position might benefit from this format. It is a good option to connect skills acquired during their early career to their work experience and job position they are applying for.


Combination Resume


  • Emphasizes transferrable skills
  • Shows off your career progression
  • Highlights how the skills you acquired in your early career apply to the job position
 Who it is ideal for:
  • Early career professionals (1-3 years of experience)
  • New grads with minimal experience
  • Someone who is changing careers or fields
  • Candidates with no employment gaps
  • Work history often appears on the second page and recruiters may not reach that far
  • Shows employment gaps
Who should not choose this format:
  • Recent college and high school graduates
  • Someone without work experience
  • If you have a strong background or if you are applying for a leadership role
  • Candidates with a lot of employment gaps
How to get started:
  • List your skills and integrate them to your work history
  • List your work history with dates, titles and accomplishments. Start from the most recent position
  • Consider using a resume template to save time and show the recruiters that you put the right effort into it



Regardless of the format you chose, remember to:
Be Concise

  • Recruiters spend on average 7.4 seconds initially scanning a resume
  • Add a maximum of 6 bullet points to detail your work experience
  • Avoid writing long sentences
  • Consider removing sections such as “interests” from your resume if these are making your resume multiple pages
  • A rule of thumb is that a resume should not exceed 2 pages. And only choose a 2-page resume if you are a very experienced professional
Reference the Job Description
  • Make sure to use keywords and phrases from the job description to show you are a great fit for the job. Of course, no lying
  • Tailor your professional summary to the job position you are applying for
Choose a Clean and Professional Layout
  • Add clear sections with bold titles
  • Use bullet points to detail your experience and list your skills
  • Make sure you keep some white space, so your resume doesn’t look cluttered
  • Use a professional and clean layout. Show the recruiter you put some effort into it, but not too much
  • You can find many examples online as well as ready to use resume templates that will save you time and up your game.


Nurse Resume TemplateExecutive Resume TemplateElegant Resume TemplateFeminine Resume TemplateCreative Resume Template

Remember, templates can be easily customized to highlight the skills and abilities that are most relevant to a job position. You can easily change a section heading according to the format that most suits you.

A resume template will save you time and guarantee you have a professional-looking resume design in minutes.

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