No two careers are identical, and it’s the same with resumes. Still, when it comes to structuring your resume, there are only a few commonly used strategies, and the most popular of these is called the chronological resume format.
Also known as a “traditional” resume, job seekers typically turn to this style first. You’ve probably seen many chronological resume templates available for download, but what is a chronological resume, and is it right for you? Let’s take a closer look.
A chronological resume is probably the first format you think of when you envision a resume. It emphasizes your career history more than any other approach. After your title and summary, the chronological resume dives right into your work experience. It tells a linear story by showcasing the jobs you’ve worked, each one summarized as an entry in a list.
Each job will include details such as the name of the organization that employed you, the location where you worked, and the timeframe you spent there. Underneath the logistical information, you typically see a short outline of job functions and duties – strong chronological resumes will also highlight accomplishments to show the value that was provided.
Tip: Make achievements the focus of each entry in your career history.
This layout is also sometimes called the “reverse-chronological resume format.” After all, it starts with your current position and works its way backward. It may include sections such as education and skills, but this format gives the most attention to your work history.
We’ve talked about other resume formats and even taken a bird’s eye view of several in case you’d like to compare functional vs. chronological resume styles, for instance. In general, other layout options can be more complicated. Simplicity is an advantage when comparing the functional vs. chronological resume styles. Functional resumes focus less on telling a story and instead make your competencies and select career highlights the centerpiece.
Why base your resume on a professional timeline rather than your hard-and-fast skills? A chronological configuration shows off job duties while still highlighting selling points. It’s also easy to navigate and understand. Check out the example below to see just how intuitive a chronological resume can be:
As you can see from the example above, the progression in this style is clear and understandable.
You should always be careful when using cookie-cutter templates to build your resume – but even if you do, hiring managers often prefer to receive a document produced from a chronological resume template over other styles. It comes across as transparent and logical.
Tip: Hiring managers and recruiters often prefer chronological resumes, which they see as straightforward and honest.
Think about it. A recruiter looking at your resume won’t have to do detective work to see when you learned a skill or marked an accomplishment. When you use a chronological resume, you lay everything out as clearly as a road map.
Another benefit of using a chronological resume is that it may be more readable by applicant tracking systems (ATS). It’s easier for a machine to connect achievements and responsibilities to their relevant positions when everything is already where it’s supposed to be. While ATS technology continues to get smarter, the more traditional style wins for robot-readability in the functional vs.
Tip: Your resume needs to be friendly to both human and machine audiences.
At this point, you may be wondering, “What is a chronological resume’s weakness?” Despite its many strengths, there are pitfalls to consider. It’s a fact that people looking at your resume will pay more attention to areas closer to the top. In most cases, a human will spend just a few seconds glancing at your resume. Since chronological resumes put your career timeline higher up, this isn’t always good news if your most recent experience isn’t very relevant to your current goals.
Tip: Place your most compelling material in the real estate just under the summary, and you’ll make a stronger first impression.
Chronological resumes also make short stints and employment gaps especially apparent.
Examples of job seekers who may not want to use a chronological format include:
Since functional resumes are likely to be met with suspicion or concern hiring managers, you should view them as a last resort. The hybrid resume format is another option. Sometimes called “the best of both worlds,” hybrid resumes provide some of the benefits of each.
A hybrid (or combination) resume will include a highlights section above your career history. This new section creates an excellent opportunity to boast relevant skills and accomplishments without removing your detailed professional experience section altogether.
Use iHire’s Portfolio tool to build a chronological resume with one of our eye-catching resume templates and check out our resume writing tips and career advice when you need help with details and strategy.
If you settle for nothing less than the best or you just want to make sure it's well written, take advantage of iHire’s professional resume writing services and have our certified resume writers craft yours.