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Resume Styles - CDO

Resume Styles

Selecting an appropriate resume style will help you communicate your qualifications more effectively and give you an advantage over your competition. Some common resume styles are traditional (which includes chronological) and functional. Different styles must be used for resumes that will be e-mailed, scanned, or viewed on the Internet. Some combination of styles is often very effective, and more than one resume may be necessary.

One person may best present his/her qualifications with a traditional resume, while another may use a functional format. You may need to use more than one style of resume, depending on the positions you are considering. Understanding how and when to use each type enables you to present yourself in the most powerful manner. While these are the basic styles, there are others; and there are variations of each of them.

Learn about a variety of resume styles; don't hesitate to modify them so the resume fits your situation, not vice versa. Check the sample resume notebooks and the books about resume writing on the Resumes and Correspondence shelf in the CDO for examples.

The differences in resume styles or types affect primarily the way that experiences, activities, skills and achievements are presented.


In the traditional style, experiences include the following information:

  • job title (or title representing your role, such as "Accounting Intern" or "Social Work Volunteer")
  • organization name, city, and state (no street address or zip code)
  • dates or length of time ("Fall 200_, 10 weeks")
  • descriptive phrases (Refer to "Describing Your Experiences" in Career Guide R3.)

Organize experiences in chronological order when you want to show that you have uninterrupted, progressively responsible experience (over a period of time) directly related to your objective. Dates are placed in the left margin for emphasis. This order can be useful for experienced candidates to show career progression. It can work against you if your most recent experience isn't related to your current goals or if you have gaps in your employment history.

Organize experiences in priority order when you want to show relevance by grouping your experiences in order of importance or by type instead of by date. Dates can be placed on the same line as the job title or on a separate line. Dates are not placed in the left margin unless using the chronological order.

In the traditional style, either the job title or the organization name is presented first (be consistent), so that when a reader skims a resume written in this style, that information is most apparent. If you have job titles or organization names that are directly related to the positions you are considering, this style may be effective for you. Example:

Student Teacher, Kindergarten, Fall 2003_, 10 weeks
Highland Elementary School, Derby, NY

  • Assumed full classroom responsibility for two weeks.
  • Developed and implemented unit on space incorporating learning centers in all subject areas.
  • Directed developmental math activities based on Math Their Way.
  • Participated in parent-teacher conferences.


In this style, instead of putting your descriptive phrases with each job title, group the phrases to demonstrate a skill, ability, or function you know is desired for the positions you are considering. Use phrases from several different experiences in one group; include 2-4 groups and place them in priority order. Name the groups by the skill or function you are illustrating. Place your position titles, organization names, cities, states, and dates in a separate section with no descriptive phrases.

When a reader skims a resume written in the functional style, the names of related skills or functions are most apparent. This is a good way to present skills gained and tasks performed in class assignments, activities and volunteer experiences. If your position titles and organization names do not communicate the skills and experiences you have that are related to your goals, this style may be effective for you.


  • Gave presentations to prospective college students as a peer recruiter.
  • Conducted informational tours of college campus as an ambassador.
  • Taught group and individual lessons to first and second grade students for five weeks.
  • Hired to contact parents and alumni for donations as a fundraising telemarketer.
  • Successfully completed Technical Writing class to sharpen business writing skills.
  • Represented college as ambassador at official functions, open houses, and alumni receptions.


A combination style is any resume you create which uses elements of more than one resume style. Many resumes are written in this way, resulting in your personal style. One person may, for example, choose to include a "Capabilities" section and present experiences in the traditional style in priority order. Another person may choose to include two or three "Skills" sections in the functional style and present the position titles, organization names, and dates in the traditional style in chronological order.


A discussion of resume styles usually refers to resumes that will be read by human eyes. The increasing use of technology in the transmission, storage and retrieval of resume data has introduced new considerations for resume construction and formatting. If you plan to use technology to transmit your resume, or if the organizations to which you are applying use scanning or imaging technology and computerized databases for the storage and retrieval of candidate information, some basic considerations are:

  • Resumes that will be scanned should be prepared with the understanding that a keyword search will probably be used to screen qualified candidates. That means using very specific, carefully selected nouns and using a plain font that is easily readable by a scanner.
  • A resume that will be forwarded by electronic mail should be created in a plain text file format or rich text file (RTF) format in order to be certain that it will be readable by its recipient unless the organization has indicated that they are willing to accept attachments.

    For more detailed instructions about these technology-related issues, consult the Resumes and Correspondence shelf in the resource area of the CDO.

    FINALLY: Think about the positions you are considering, how you can most convincingly communicate your related qualifications, and write a draft. Bring your draft to the CDO for suggestions and answers to your questions.