University of Minnesota
Office of Human Resources

Step 3: Choosing a Format

There are three basic formats that are found when writing a resume: a skills-based resume; a reverse chronological resume; and a combination resume. All three have distinct advantages and disadvantages. Depending on the job for which you are applying, you may choose one format or the other. It is good to try all three styles to see which one presents the most powerful image. Whatever style you choose, you will always need to include your work history.

Which Format Is Best for You?

  Reverse Chronological Skills-based Combination
What It Is Begin with your most recent position and work backwards, typically focusing on the last 10 to 15 years of experience Summarizes your professional skills and minimizes your work history Utilizes the best of the reverse chronological and skills-based styles
When to Use It

When seeking a position in the same field

Your career path has shown steady progress and increasing responsibilities

You can demonstrate measurable results from your work

You've held impressive job titles and/or have worked for big-name employers

Your work history has no gaps

You are changing careers and utilizing your transferable skills

You have been employed by the same company for a long time

You have held several jobs that are dissimilar OR very similar in nature

You are a new graduate with limited work history, but DO have relevant coursework or training

Your work history contains gaps in employment

Each position you have had involved a different job

You want to highlight internships or volunteer positions that are related to your field of interest

Significant skills are highlighted and supported by your employment history


Calls attention to employment gaps

Skills may be difficult to spot if they are buried in job descriptions

Employers are used to viewing reverse chronological resumes. Be clear about why this is the best format for you!

May be more difficult to write

Be sure your format supports your objective and is arranged in a logical, easy-to-follow manner

Examples Reverse Chronological (Word) Skills-based (Word) Combination (Word)

Next > Step 4: Sections of a Resume