Which Résumé Format is Best When Changing Careers?

When it comes to a résumé format, the standard reverse chronological order is by far the most popular. It lists a summary followed by your work experience in a straightforward format. This layout makes it easy for recruiters and hiring managers to determine how your qualifications meet their specific needs. This is great if you want to demonstrate your career progression and apply for jobs in a similar field. However, what if you’re changing careers or have large gaps in employment that you don’t want to put front and center?

The Functional Résumé Format – A Classic Style that Might Not Get You Much Attention

Many job seekers turn to the functional résumé format since it highlights your transferable skills (those developed in one field that are applicable to another). It doesn’t include specific job descriptions, and it puts less emphasis on titles and dates.

Functional Resume Format

While this may sound great, many recruiters and hiring managers dislike this format. They assume the candidate has something to hide. Sometimes functional résumés go directly in the trash because, with dozens to hundreds of résumés to sort through, they don’t have time to figure out where and when you did what. Your work history may be impressive, but if there’s no context because your achievements aren’t associated with a particular company, industry, or role, it makes it more difficult to determine the benefits of hiring you.



The Hybrid Résumé Format – Your Best Option to Connect the Dots for Hiring Managers

A more acceptable option for changing careers is the hybrid résumé. This format puts your relevant skills and accomplishments at the forefront. Then it lists your employment history with duties and accomplishments that transfer to your target role.

Hybrid Resume Format


Many candidates prefer this format because it emphasizes competencies and accomplishments first. This puts less attention on dates. Recruiters and hiring managers like it because they don’t have to put a timeline together on their own.

No matter the format, it’s okay to include volunteer work along with your paid jobs. Format volunteer roles the same way you would a paid position—just make sure you put “Volunteer” somewhere in your title and remove the word “Professional” from the section heading.

Bonus Tips for Your Cover Letter

Whatever style you choose, it’s important to be upfront about your situation in the cover letter. This way, the hiring manager doesn’t have to guess. If you have a 10-year employment gap, be sure the company knows why – whether it be because you used the time to raise your kids, care for an ailing parent, do volunteer work, or support your spouse during multiple corporate relocations.

If you used to be an operations manager but want to use your successes related to training teams to change careers into employee development, use the cover letter to explain why the new role interests you, as well as how you plan to succeed. This is a good place to make connections between your old role and target role in case they aren’t that obvious.

Whether you choose the reverse chronological, functional, or hybrid résumé format, focus on your measurable achievements to let companies know the full extent of your experience. The format won’t matter if the content doesn’t clearly share your accomplishments and capabilities!

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