The best resume format to try in 2020

The best format for your resume

When it comes to getting your dream job, there's one requirement every potential employer asks for. A resume(opens in a new tab or window). And it’s what separates you from the hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of other applicants.

A resume lists your work experience, qualifications, and supporting credentials, with the aim to help you land that position or at least, get you to the interview stage. With a well-designed resume that paints you in the best light, your chances of achieving that goal are increased even further.

In the article below we look at a range of different resume formats and how to pick the right one for your profession and industry.

Table Of Contents:The best format for your resume

Why a resume is important

According to a study by Ladders, Inc, eye-tracking software reveals recruiters spend an average of just seven seconds looking at each resume. With such little time, you need to make sure your resume captures attention. Whether for a job, internship, or scholarship, you’re competing against a number of other applicants, and a good resume helps you stand out with the best chance of progressing to the next round.

What a resume does

A resume is a snapshot of your educational and career highlights. A resume also:

  • Summarizes who you are, outlining relevant skills and experience
  • Identifies eligibility for a role or position
  • Highlights your unique skills
  • Presents your story to recruiters
  • Remains with the recruiter throughout the process.

Types of resumes formats

There are three main types of resume formats:Chronological, functional, and combination. Chronological is the most common and what employers usually expect, however, there are situations where you’ll benefit from a different format.

The chronological resume format

This format works best for those with a long history of work experience. Each place of employment is listed in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent role first. It’s followed by your education, skills, and any additional information. This makes it easy for recruiters to get an idea of your professional history, presented in an easily digestible format.

Why you should use a chronological format

  • If you want to show career progression
  • If you want to showcase different workplaces
  • If you want an easily-recognized format to tell your story

Chronological resume example

The functional resume format

This format is good if you want to highlight specific skills, change careers, or if you have gaps in your experience. It also allows you to tailor your resume to the employer or industry. Start with a paragraph about your skills and what you have to offer, followed by specific work experience that’s relevant to the role. Focusing on your skills up front makes it easy for recruiters to see how you will be good for the role, even if you don’t have the work experience to back it up.

Why you should use a functional format

  • If you are changing careers
  • If you have gaps in your work experience
  • If you want to tailor your story to your employer or industry

Functional resume example


This format works for showing a balance between skills and experience and is especially ideal for those who have spent significant time at one workplace and therefore don’t have a long list of previous employers. Start by highlighting your relevant skills tailored to the job, then list your experiment history in reverse chronological order. If necessary, you can address any gaps in your work history.

Why you should use a combination format

  • If you have worked with the same employer for a long period of time
  • If you want to equally balance both skills and employment
  • If you’re changing careers but have worked for some well-known companies

Combination resume examples

How to design your resume

As we mentioned earlier, when you apply for a job, chances are you’re going to be going against hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other applicants. So if you want to snag the interview, you need your resume design that stands out.

Things to consider when designing your resume

  • Legibility

Choose a resume font size that makes it easy to read. If there’s a bit of information to include, it’s better to have your resume run over a couple of pages than cram it with tiny text.

  • Margins

Always leave enough space around the edges, even if sending via a PDF. Your resume may be printed by a recruiter so margins ensure nothing gets cut off.

  • Fonts

Use a classic font that is easy to read, avoiding anything that’s too decorative.

  • Images

A resume is not the time to get creative with imagery. Depending on the role, a photo might help but anything else might distract from the information. Oh, and no emojis.

  • Section headers

Often a resume is filled with words so section headers make it easy to navigate. It’s better to make these stand out with a bold text, box, or color.

How to write your resume

Your resume should be written in a professional tone with some personality. You want your language to be formal, but not so much that you sound like a robot. Finding that balance is ideal, showing you can get the job done but can also relate to others. With Canva's AI resume builder(opens in a new tab or window) tool, writing the perfect resume tailored to your target job has never been simpler.

Things to consider when writing your resume

  • Language

The tone should be professional, polite, and with a touch of personality. Use language you’re comfortable with rather than big words you think will impress recruiters. Also, keep it serious, avoiding humor.

  • Length

Reduce the number of words down to what’s necessary. Read it out loud to yourself to hear what words you can remove. Keep it brief and avoid waffle.

  • Bullet points

As above, bullet point gets straight to the point, making it easy for recruiters to scan your website. Use them whenever possible.

  • Wording

Some words are better than others. What you ‘achieved’ is far better than being a ‘go-getter’. Likewise, avoid industry jargon like ‘thinking outside of the box’ when it’s better to talk about ‘innovation’ or ‘ideas’.

  • Spelling

The biggest mistake you can make is not thoroughly proofreading your resume. Always run it through a spellcheck

Choosing your resume layout

With so many templates on offer, it can be hard to determine what layout is best for you but it helps to consider the industry. To help you decide, here’s an article on different resume formats based on different industries(opens in a new tab or window).

In addition, Canva's Online Resume Maker(opens in a new tab or window) can help narrow down your choices.

Traditional Layouts

Traditional resumes are laid out in a straightforward way that makes it easy to skim. These are ideal when applying for roles at corporate organizations. Some great examples of traditional templates include Blue Lines Simple Resume, Gray Minimalist Resume, or Brown and Black Modern Digital Marketer Resume.

Graphic Layouts

Graphic layouts add a little color or flair to help you stand out. They are more modern resumes and are best suited to creative industries. Try templates like Blue and Red Flat Public Relations Specialist Journalism Resume, Yellow and Gray Creative Resume, or Neon Green and Blue Creative Resume.

Photographic Layouts

Photographic layouts give an even better idea of who you are, helping recruiters can put a face to the name. For instant recognition, consider using a template like Colorful Modern Geometric Construction Resume, Brown Simple Photo Acting Resume, or Colorful Geometric Engineering Resume.

What you should include in your resume

  • Contact information and personal details

At the least, it should have your name, phone, and email. Include a website address if you have one but an actual address is not needed. You may consider adding and working visa information, but not personal details like age or marital status.

  • Objective, summary or introductory paragraph

This should be no more than a paragraph to introduce yourself and outline what sort of role you’re after. You can specify whether you want a full- or part-time role, or mention your goals, ambitions, or even desired work environment. Personal attributes, like having a great attitude, might also good to mention.

  • Experience

For a chronological format, start with your most recent role and work backward. Keep it brief with the business, followed by the city or country, and the dates you worked there. Instead of listing what kind of tasks you did, talk about what you achieve with qualitative evidence where possible.

  • Relevant skills, education or certifications

The key here is relevance, so include skills, studies, or certification that is relevant to the role. Many people include the name of their high school, but this usually isn’t necessary.

  • Relevant skills, appearances or awards

If you do have relevant skills, take the time to list them. You never know what skills recruiters are looking for, and you don’t want to miss an opportunity. If you’ve been part of a panel or written an article about your industry, be sure to include it.

  • Additional skills (hobbies, languages, volunteer work, publications)

Companies like to see that you have interests outside of work, however, this is a professional CV so keep this section short. Use bullet points.

  • References

It’s common to include one or two names of past employers or reputable people the employer can contact to verify your resume. Before you add these referees, it’s courtesy to call ahead to let them know you are doing so. If you’re not sure whom you would want as your reference, simply put ‘Reference provided on request’.

Adding a cover letter

Most job applications provide an option for a cover letter. It’s not always mandatory but you may like to add a note about why you’re right for the role, no longer than one or two paragraphs. It provides an opportunity to add anything else you think is relevant that may not be on your resume, such as a project you worked on at a previous job.

Writing your cover letter:

  • Talk about why you are the right fit for the job and how you will add value
  • Keep it brief and relevant
  • Avoid repeating what’s already in your resume

Proofreading your resume

We said it before and we’ll say it again:proofread your resume. Spelling errors in a resume is a big no-no, but unfortunately, we all make mistakes.

Tips for proofreading your resume

  • Read it line by line. Pay attention to how you have formatted the dates so they all look the same.
  • Read it out loud. It’s amazing what you pick up on when you hear it aloud.
  • Use an external spellcheck tool. There are plenty of online sites you can use, or even better, enlist the help of a professional service.
  • Get someone else to read it. You’d be surprised what a second, or third pairs of eyes pick up on.
  • Print it out. Seeing things in printed form is different from reading on a screen, helping you notice errors previously overlooked.

Before you send or upload your resume

  • Export your resume as a PDF. Check the file to see it looks right, and name the file using your own name and the year.
  • Email it to yourself. Experience receiving your resume the same way a recruiter does. It helps identify any problems beforehand, ensures you’re sending the correct, uncorrupted file, and down the track, you can send it on the go, instead of waiting until you’re back at your computer.
  • Make sure it’s the most recent version. Delete old versions so there’s no confusion. And remember to always keep it updated because you never know when an opportunity will present itself.

Crafting a standout resume? Elevate your skills presentation with Canva's AI Paragraph Generator(opens in a new tab or window).

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