The Best Resume Format : Ultimate Guide for 2020

Whether you’ve used the best resume format can either make or break your chance of getting your dream job.

Your CV is, after all, the representative of yourself, your job experience, and your skills. If you can communicate your unique values and “sell” yourself through the CV, you’ll be getting responses and calls from your target companies.

On the other hand, if your CV is not optimized, you might not get any single reply in weeks or even months.

Are you currently looking for the finest CV guide? Look no further. In this guide, we will help you create the best CV in 2020 in a step-by-step way. By the end, you’ll have a better idea of picking the most appropriate setup for your CV, and all you need to know to create the finest CV ever.

Without further ado, let us begin:

Note: we are going to use the terms “CV” and “resume” interchangeably throughout this article, which will refer to a document with American CV rules.

Choosing The Best Resume Format

Before we even begin, we have to understand that there are two main ways of building your CV. The first one is to use a text editor or a word processor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs and start with a blank page or a template.

The second option is to use a dedicated CV/resume builder. There are many solutions available online, some are very affordable and even free. Typically these builders are easier to use as you won’t need to do much formatting.

Nevertheless, even with all the pre-made templates and different builders, there are only three basic CV formats, and understanding them and their differences will be very useful in using these templates.

The three basic CV forms are: reverse chronological, functional, and functional:

1.Reverse Chronological

Great for:

  • Applicants who are looking for a position similar to their previous jobs
  • Fresh-grads looking for entry-level positions
  • Academic fields

Reverse-chronological CV focuses on, well, a chronological history of work and academic experience. It is the most common and popular composition for many candidates because it is the simplest to build and also the one most HR managers/recruiters are familiar with.

However, due to its popularity (or rather, common-ness), reverse-chronological resumes can be too ordinary. However, they are also the most flexible and so can suit the needs of any candidates with any level of experience.

The main characteristic of the reverse-chronological CV is—as mentioned—how it emphasizes the work experience section, which in this composition is placed at the very top or at least near the top of the CV.

Here is an example of a reverse-chronological CV:

reverse chronological CV

As you can see, the work experience section is emphasized at the center of the CV, near the top just after the CV introduction/opening section, while skills are mentioned on a side section (not emphasized).

Typically a reverse-chronological CV will contain the following sections:

  1. Contact Information: This one is fairly obvious and must be included in all kinds of CV/resumes (after all, you’d want the recruiter to contact you).
  2. CV Summary: Also often called objective or introduction. This section summarizes the CV’s objective (i.e. to apply for a specific job position).
  3. Work Experience: The most important part of this CV composition. As the name “reserve-chronological” suggests, the newest work experience is put on top. This is designed to highlight the peak of the candidate’s career.
  4. Additional Skills: An optional section you can use to highlight unique skills and attributes that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
  5. Education: Pretty self-explanatory, a list of your educational experience, degree (if any) and certifications.
  6. Accomplishments: A list of your accolades, awards, and honors that might be relevant.

Pros and cons of reverse-chronological CV


  • It highlights your career progression and the peak of your career.
  • Familiar formats for most HR managers and recruiters, so it’s easy for them to read
  • Suited to most applicant tracking systems (ATS) that are designed to automatically extracts work experience history


  • Too ordinary/traditional, so might not be suitable for creative occupations
  • If you have any employment gaps, it will be highlighted
  • If you don’t have sufficient work experience, it will be accentuated

Should I choose the reverse-chronological template?

In general, the reverse-chronological setup might be the perfect choice for you if:

  • You want to accentuate your career progression
  • You are applying to a job in a similar field or similar position
  • You want to chase vertical career mobility
  • If you are in a relatively traditional industry/niche (accounting, finance, engineering, etc.)

On the other hand, this might not be for you if:

  • You are changing your career
  • You change jobs every few months (it will show), or if you have major gaps in your work experience history

2. Functional or Skill-Based

Great for:

  • Expert candidates with enough job experience who don’t want to seem overqualified
  • Creative occupations that require a portfolio
  • Military/inmate transitioners, or anyone with major employment gap

Functional, or skill-based CV is arguably the least popular form being used today. So, although experienced HR managers might recognize functional CVs, many recruiters might not be familiar with it.

The main characteristic of the functional CV—and also the main difference to reverse-chronological CV—, is the fact it emphasizes the skills of the applicants instead of the work experience.

So, the main objective of using this skill-based/functional template is to tell the recruiter that the candidate possesses the necessary skills relevant to the role applied.

Below is an example of the functional/skill-based CV

As you can see, the biggest difference is how the relevant skills section now takes the center stage, and now the work history section is moved to the side. So, typically a functional CV will contain these sections:

  1. Contact Information: again, this section is always featured in any resumes and typically will be at the top or near the top.
  2. CV Summary: Also often called objective or introduction. In functional CV, the summary section is usually more focused on skills and requirement, and more robust.
  3. Work Experience: Notice how small this section is compared to reverse-chronology resumes, and typically time periods of the work history aren’t included.
  4. Relevant Skills: The emphasis in functional CV, placed in the center and near the top of the page with large enough space.
  5. Education: Pretty self-explanatory, a list of your educational experience, degree (if any) and certifications.
  6. Accomplishments: A list of your accolades, awards, and honors that might be relevant.

Pros and cons of a functional CV


  • Won’t highlight lack of relevant work experience (if you want to change career path)
  • Won’t highlight employment gaps
  • Strong emphasis on relevant skills (technical and soft skills) which can benefit applications in certain industries


  • Can create the perception that you don’t have enough formal work experience
  • Many recruiters are not familiar with this style
  • ATS and other automated HR systems might not be able to extract information from this type of CV due to unfamiliar

Should I choose the functional template?

In general, the reverse-chronological setup might be the perfect choice for you if:

  • You have major employment history gaps
  • You are aiming to change career/industry
  • You are in a creative industry where a portfolio is integral
  • You have a specific skill set you want to highlight
  • You have specific expertise that is relevant for the job

On the other hand, this might not be for you if:

  • You want to highlight your work experience
  • You lack relevant and transferable skills
  • You are a fresh graduate or entry-level applicant

3. Combination

Great for:

  • Experienced professionals targeting a very specific position
  • Those who are looking to change career industry
  • People with major employment gaps

As you might have guessed from the name, the combination resumes merge characteristics from reverse-chronological and functional resumes.

So, the body of the CV emphasizes work experience more akin to the reverse chronological template, but it also puts a strong focus on skills and qualifications. This composition is often used by professionals with plenty of experience in a particular industry (that possess both experience and skills).

Because in combination resumes we emphasize both work experience and skills, we might not have much room for other typical sections like CV summary, accomplishments, and so on. In fact, typically combination CV doesn’t include the CV summary section (or a very small one)

Below is an example of the combination CV

As you can see, the work history section takes the center stage, and although the relevant skills section is placed on the side, there is a much larger space compared to a reverse-chronology CV. If required, we can also create another section to cover additional skills.

  1. Contact Information: Again, this section is always featured in any resumes and typically placed center at the top
  2. CV Profile: Or, a professional profile. The section is used to highlight the skills of an experienced professional.
  3. Work Experience: Very emphasized, just like in a reverse-chronological CV
  4. Relevant Skills: Also emphasized although placed on the side, and we can divide it into two sections based on priority
  5. Education: Combination form is typically used by professionals that are highly experienced, and so education is no longer important. Placed in the CV, but not emphasized.

Pros and cons of a combination CV


  • Generally an attractive and exciting setup, especially when compared to reverse-chronological resumes
  • Flexible and versatile, you can custom tailor the composition to meet your specific needs
  • Effective in hiding employment gaps


  • Not enough space to showcase educational experience
  • Only suitable for people with enough experience and skill levels so the CV looks “whole”
  • Require extensive planning so you don’t repeat information across skills and work experience sections

Should I choose the combination template?

In general, combination setup might be the perfect choice for you if:

  • You want to highlight both your developed skills and work experience
  • You want to change your career path or industry
  • You are an experienced expert on the position you are applying to

On the other hand, this might not be for you if:

  • You want to highlight your education or accolades
  • You lack working experience
  • You are an entry-level candidate or fresh-graduate

Use The Format To Create The Best Resume Ever

Setting Up Contact Information

As we have discussed above, all kinds of CVs and resumes always include contact information. This is quite obvious since the purpose of the CV is so that the recruiter can contact you back.

Typically where we put the contact information section and the information we include won’t change much between the three different formats: the contact information section should be placed on the top of the CV and should be easy to find.

The information you include will depend on your needs, but typically will include the following:

  • Name (you might or might not include your middle initial)
  • Mailing address
  • Email address (make sure it’s a professional-sounding email address)
  • Phone number (tip: have a proper voicemail message)
  • Link to your online portfolio (depending on your industry)
  • LinkedIn or other social media profile (depending on your industry)

There is no set rule on how to arrange and position your contact information section. In general, make sure it’s appropriate and noticeable (easy to find). Your name should stand out and attract the recruiter, so use a larger font size, use a different font color than the rest of the text when appropriate, and write in all-caps if necessary.

Effective Summary/Introduction

You can or cannot include a summary section in your CV depending on the template/format and any other considerations. For example, if you have a long work experience history and want to emphasize it, then you can omit the summary section to give it the work history section more space.

In general, however, there are four different “types” of the CV introduction section:

  • Objective
  • Qualifications summary
  • Professional profile
  • Professional summary

Before we discuss them one by one, we should remember that all introduction sections have the same objective: capture the recruiter’s attention immediately. So, in general, the main principle in choosing between these different types is to know what you’re going to emphasize in your CV.

1.Introduction type 1: Objective

This type emphasizes the applicant’s career objective. Typically will be only 2 or 3 sentences long and cover an overview of the applicant’s work experience and skills. This type is suitable for fresh grads and entry-level applicants.

This type is for you if:

  • You don’t have sufficient work experience (you are an entry-level applicant)

And you should avoid this type if:

  • You want to emphasize relevant and industry-specific skills
  • You are changing your career

2. Introduction type 2: Qualifications Summary

The qualifications summary type is typically presented in a bullet point list from 4 to 6 points and is used to highlight your most outstanding career achievements. If you want to use this type, try to be as unique as possible in highlighting your career achievements and relevant skills.

This type is for you if:

  • You are applying to a position that requires a specific set of skills
  • You have plenty of experience in the industry
  • You have multiple skill sets you’d want to highlight

And you should avoid this type if:

  • You lack experience in the specific industry
  • You are a fresh graduate and you lack the required skill sets
  • You don’t have enough achievements you can show

3. Introduction type 3: Professional profile

The professional profile type is technically a combination of the career objective and qualifications summary types. So, it is considered the most versatile out of the four different types: you can either use a paragraph form or a bullet-point list.

This type is for you if:

  • You’ve had major achievement in your work experience
  • You are applying to the same position or at least the same industry
  • You have a specific skill set that is relevant to your field

And you should avoid this type if:

  • You are a fresh graduate or entry-level applicant
  • You lack enough accomplishments

Introduction Type 4: Professional Summary

The professional summary type is typically presented in the bullet-point form, and is designed to present quantifiable data (i.e. managed 50 team members, handled $100m in the monthly budget, etc.).Typically uses bolded subheadings for the relevant skills (i.e. leadership, negotiation, etc.) to attract the hiring managers/recruiters to read your most relevant skills immediately.

This type is for you if:

  • You have many relevant accomplishments you want to highlight
  • You have a broad range of skill sets to emphasize (hard and soft skills)
  • You can quantify your experience and accomplishments effectively

And you should avoid this type if:

  • You are a fresh-graduate with no or little work experience
  • You have little achievements you can show
  • The field doesn’t prefer quantifiable data (i.e. it’s a creative industry)

With all these four types, the important thing to note is that you should figure out the skills and experiences that are more relevant to the job you are applying for. Put yourself in the recruiter’s perspective: what kinds of skills and experiences might attract them.

Try to use strategic words that are common to the specific position/industry. For example, if it’s a sales job, you can use conversion or revenue, and if it’s a managerial position, you can use an organization or negotiation, among others.

How to Emphasize Your Work Experience Section

If you are going to use the reverse-chronological or combination formats, then ensuring this section is properly done is the secret in creating the best resume ever. Even if you are using the functional form where this section is not emphasized, making sure this section is well-optimized is still very important.

You can label this section with “relevant experience”, “professional experience” or “work experience”, and start by listing your work experiences in reverse chronological order. List only experiences that are relevant to the specific position you are applying for.

For each experience, you should include:

  • A heading that includes the company’s name, the location (city and state), your job title, and time of employment (month and year). If you still work at the company, write “-present” for the employment dates
  • 3 to 5 bullet points of main duties and achievements with the following formula: Action, followed by specific duty, followed by a quantifiable point. For example:
  • Spearheaded (actionthe marketing team in developing and executing a strategic plan (duty), increased lead generation by 25% in 2020 (quantifiable point)

One of the most important strategies in creating your work experience section is to custom-tailor it to the specific job or company you are applying for. So, try to find keywords and specific verbs/nouns within the job ad/ posting, and then use these words naturally within the CV. This is a great way to attract the recruiter and to tell them that you understood the job requirements well.

For, example, if the job ad includes something like:

Responsibilities: Create and analyze SEO, content marketing, and social media marketing strategies to generate leads.

Then in the CV, we can say something like:

  • Planned and execute SEO strategy using SEMRush, prepared relevant evaluation process, reached the first page of Google SERP within two years
  • Developed content marketing strategies to generate leads, captured 1,420 lead in a year
  • Worked with cross-channel teams to execute social media and influencer marketing strategies to boost sales by 40% in a year

Again, this is a very important section to focus on, so take your time in fine-tuning all the words and sentences to suit the job ad. Strategically develop this section

To summarize, here is our recommended way to structure your work experience section:

  1. Job title: Typically put at the very top of each work history, so it’s easier for recruiters to find. Alternatively, if you’ve worked in a big, recognizable company, you might want to put the company name on top. Nevertheless, the topmost item of your work history should be put in bold and/or use a bigger font size from the rest of the entry
  2. Company and location: Include your previous employer’s company name and the location (city and state are sufficient). Again, if you want, you can highlight this part instead of the job title.
  3. Time of employment: You can add the year only or month and year, but you don’t really need to put exact days.
  4. Responsibilities: Focus on highlighting the duties most relevant to the new jobs you are applying to, don’t just randomly list the tasks you’ve performed in the previous job
  5. Achievements: Optional, but very important if you have any accomplishments in your previous jobs. If you can put it as a quantifiable data, even better.
  6. Keywords: As discussed above, use terms and verbs used in the job ad.

How much work experience should you include? While the answer for this can vary, the general principle is:

  • For seniors, like managers and executives, list only relevant work experiences up to 15 years. You can omit irrelevant ones.
  • For mid-level applicants, add detailed job descriptions of relevant positions. You can briefly mention irrelevant positions if you want.
  • For entry-level candidates, you can list all paid positions and achievements, and you can also include volunteer works, internship, and other experience to fill out this section.

How To Create An Optimized Skills Section

In recent years and with the growing trends of the gig economy, more recruiters are on the lookout for skilled professionals.

Of course, simply listing your skills on the CV won’t actually mean you are skilled. But the main purpose here is to communicate that you have the necessary skills and capture the recruiter’s attention by spreading your skills and capabilities throughout the CV.

If you are using the functional CV template, then this section should be your main emphasis, but we must first understand the main differences between hard and soft skills.

  • Hard skills are, simply put, specific and quantifiable abilities that can be measured/tested fairly accurately. For example, fluency in a certain language is a hard skill, as well as the proficiency to use certain software. Here are some examples:
  • Data Presentation
  • Cloud Apps (JSON, Rest, etc.)
  • Software Development
  • Accounting Tools (SAP, Oracle, etc.)
  • Foreign Languages
  • Statistical Analysis and Data Mining
  • Bookkeeping
  • Database Management and Software
  • Software QA and User Testing
  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • HTML / CSS
  • Public Speaking
  • UX / UI Design
  • SEO & SEM
  • Perl / Python / Ruby
  • Data Engineering and Data Warehousing
  • Content Management Systems (CMS)
  • Technical Reporting
  • Automotive Services
  • Mac, Linux, and Unix Systems
  • Java Development
  • Cloud Apps (JSON, Rest, etc.)
  • Vulnerability Analysis
  • Business Intelligence
  • Soft skills: soft skills in most cases are intangible traits that are more related to personality traits. “Well-motivated”, for example, is a soft skill, as well as discipline and the popular “team player”.Here are some popular soft skills to put on a CV:
  • Open-mindedness
  • Discipline
  • Trust
  • Self-starter
  • Critical observation
  • Organization
  • Decision making
  • Logical reasoning
  • Focus
  • Responsibility
  • Diplomacy
  • Integrity
  • Patience
  • Initiative
  • Teamwork
  • Cultural intelligence
  • Versatility
  • Self-motivation
  • Empathy
  • Professionalism
  • Diplomacy
  • Time Management
  • Persistence
  • Commitment

Why is discussing soft skills and hard skills important? Because, in a great resume, you’d need to maintain the right balance of both soft and hard skills. Again, use the job ad to find keywords and job-related skills you can include. This is especially useful for ATS and other recruitment data extraction software.

Here is the list of some popular and attractive skills to put on your job CV, depending on the job you are applying to:

  • Technical skills: technical proficiency and knowledge required to perform specific tasks, like the ability to use certain programming language, accounting skills, design skills, and so on.
  • Communication skills: can include verbal and non-verbal skills, interpersonal skills and listening skills
  • Critical thinking skills: decision-making skills and the ability to take initiative, including analytical skills and problem-solving skills
  • Leadership and management skills: for managerial positions, the ability to be a good leader and manager.
  • Organizational skills: pretty self-explanatory, the ability to plan and organize things or team.
  • Transferrable skills: these are the abilities you’ve learned that can be transferred to your new job, very important to highlight for career changers.

To summarize, there are two important things to emphasize in the skills section:

  1. Make sure to list only the relevant skills for the job position you are applying for. You don’t have to oversaturate your CV with all listable skills.
  2. Make sure to maintain a good balance between soft and hard skills

Creating a Pro Education History Section

If you are creating a combination CV and don’t have enough space to list your education history, then you can skip this section. On the other hand, if you don’t have enough work experience, you might want to switch the order of the work experience and education section. This is also true if you have a very strong educational history you’d want to emphasize on.

Again, if you want to emphasize your professional experience and/or skills, it’s okay to keep this section short.

Here are the important things to include in this education section:

  • The right order is to place your highest degree up top (reverse-chronological order)
  • If you’ve finished a university degree, you don’t have to add high school info
  • Include the name of the institution (college, university, technical school, etc.) up top
  • Below the name of your university, you can add:
  • Date of graduation (month and year, or just year)
  • Degree/major
  • GPA, only include if your GPA is above 3.0
  • Add any relevant coursework if you want, but make sure it’s relevant to the job you are applying to

Remember, it’s very easy to check for the validity of your education, so don’t lie in your education section. You might be just one or two credits short of a dilemma, but it’s still not a diploma. And, a 2.95 GPA is not a 3.0 GPA. It’s better to just be honest.

Optimizing Extras Sections

Your CV, regardless of which format you choose, is now almost ready. This last section is your final touch to make the CV unique and personalized for yourself alone.

The main principle in adding this extra section(s) is that they should be relevant to the job you are applying to. You don’t have to tell the HR manager about your hobby/interest if it’s not really relevant to the job at hand, and vice versa.

With that being said, here are a few sections that might add value to your CV:

  • Volunteer work

Studies have suggested that volunteering and social work can boost your chances of getting employed. If you have any volunteering experience, you can include it as an additional section in your CV to show your work ethic and values. If you are a fresh graduate or first-time applicant, this can be a great section to add to “hide” your lack of work experience.

  • Certifications and licenses

A very important section to add if you have relevant certifications to the position you apply to. If you are applying to an industry with strict licensing requirements, then this section is mandatory. Research your industry to check whether there are any licenses and certifications required that you may have missed.

  • Hobbies and interests

Often overlooked, but listing your interests and hobbies might tell the recruiter about your teamwork ability or leadership skills. For example, if you are a Little League coach or used to be the captain of your high school basketball team, it can be good to include in your CV.

  • Languages

If you speak more than two languages outside your mother tongue, then you might want to include this section. Language skills can add your attractiveness as a potential employee especially if at least one of the languages is also relevant for the job/industry you are applying to (i.e. an international corporation serving a population that speaks your second language). Be honest about your fluency levels.

  • Publications and projects

If you have articles written for a scientific journal, magazines, or a blog, then you can mention these publications on your CV. If your published material is online, then you can simply put the link to your online portfolio. If not, you can create a short bibliography.

If your industry demands a portfolio like architecture or design, then you might need to build an online portfolio and put the link to the contact section instead.

  • Awards and accolades

Another section you can use to promote your abilities. You might want to consider adding items like:

  1. Academic honors
  2. Scholarships
  3. Professional affiliations
  4. Grants
  5. Awards and trophies

Tips and Tricks to Create The Best Resume 2020

Now that you’ve learned how to create a well-optimized CV by using one of the different formats discussed above, here are some tips you can use to fine-tune your CV and improve your chance of getting more replies:

1.Check CV examples for your industry

Nowadays, there are many CV examples for different industries available online, so you can use them for inspiration. However, when using these samples, keep in mind that you don’t really want to copy everything exactly. Use the terrific practices we have discussed above and custom-tailor the different sections

2.Look for keywords in the job ad

Carefully read the job postings, there can be key verbs and nouns that can show what the potential employer is looking for in an ideal applicant. As we have discussed above, you can include these keywords in your work experience or skills sections where relevant and possible.

Pay particular attention to the “requirements” or “qualifications” section on the job posting. This can be a gold mine for keywords.

3.Font can make or break your CV

Use a professional and easy-to-read font in your CV. Remember that recruiters and HR managers only have a short time to review your CV, so make sure they can read it easily. It’s better to use basic fonts like Times New Roman than flashy ones that are hard to read. Also, keep your font size around 10 to 12 points.

4.Use white spaces carefully

White spaces or blank spaces can be very important in ensuring the readability of your CV. However, too much blank space might reduce the professionality and busy-ness of your CV, and might raise a red flag instead.

So, maintaining the delicate balance between too much and too little is very important here. In general, use one or two spaces between each section.

5.Top-down priority

The general principle of writing the finest CV is to put the most important information first and only include relevant information. Yes, you might have an extensive education history or lengthy work experience, but remember that recruiters don’t generally spend a lot of time reading the pile of resumes.

In fact, research has suggested that recruiters only spend 7 seconds on every CV. So, prioritize important information and strategically place them on top to capture the HR manager’s attention quickly.

6.Proofread and find feedback

Read your CV carefully and make sure there are no grammar and spelling errors at all throughout the whole sections. Nowadays, there are plenty of proofreading tools and apps you can use, but you can also ask a trustworthy friend to help proofread your CV. They can also provide useful feedback (content-wise) so you can further improve upon your CV.

7.Custom-tailor your CV

The goal of your CV is to provide the potential employer the easiest possible way to see that you are indeed qualified for the offered job. So, if you are applying for a job that has specific requirements, custom-tailor your CV so it can fully communicate your qualifications. You can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach with your CV for every job application, but you must decide on a case by case basis.

End Words

We have finished our finest resume guide in 2020, so if you’ve read this far, congratulations! By now you should have a better idea of the perfect CV format you should use, how to fine-tune each section, and how to implement valuable techniques to improve your chance of getting hired.

Remember that each CV must be personalized according to the job applications. Find useful keywords in each job ad, and sprinkle them carefully on your CV.

Written by Vitalii Butiluk

Editor and CTO at Jobitin

Top 11 Phone Interview Tips For 2020 [+Questions and Answers]

Best Cover Letter Examples Format For 2020