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When to Use a Chronological Resume and How to Write One

Updated Sep 8, 20215 min

When to Use a Chronological Resume and How to Write One

Updated Sep 8, 20215 min
When to Use a Chronological Resume and How to Write One

When to Use a Chronological Resume and How to Write One

Updated Sep 8, 20215 min

When to Use a Chronological Resume and How to Write One

Updated Sep 8, 20215 min
When to Use a Chronological Resume and How to Write One

A chronological resume may seem the obvious choice. After all, what other types of resumes are there? Actually, there are two other resume formats: functional and hybrid (sometimes called a combination resume). Which format is best for your job search depends on your circumstances and where you are in your career.

This article will explain what a chronological resume is and how it differs from functional and hybrid resumes. We will tell you who should use this format and why, and how to structure and write this type of resume. Lastly, we provide resume samples.

What Is a Chronological Resume?

A chronological resume is one that emphasizes a job seeker's work experience, whereas hybrid or functional resumes emphasize a job candidate’s skills.  

The goal of a chronological resume is to show career progression. For example, each change in job would ideally show increasing responsibilities. An employer is more likely to hire someone who has a proven history of successfully taking on additional challenges.

The goal of a functional or combination resume is to highlight the job candidate's current skills either because these are critical to the job or because the candidate has other reasons not to emphasize their work history—more on that later.

All of the resume templates shown here are chronological resume templates. Note that the work history section is presented before the skills section. In the work history section, the most recent employer should be listed first under the heading.

The  Chronological Resume Sections

The basic components of a chronological resume are the following:

  • Contact information

  • Summary statement/objective statement

  • Work history with the most recent position first

  • Skills

  • Education

  • Awards/certifications/presentations/publications

Which Job Seekers Should Choose a Chronological Resume Format?

A reverse-chronological resume is best for job seekers who can show steady progression in their employment history. For example, have you been in the same industry for a few years? Have you progressed from an entry-level accountant to a CPA? Have you been consistently promoted as you took on additional responsibilities? Are you looking for the next step up in your career? 

If your career trajectory is an upward one, then you should definitely choose a chronological format because the reader can see that you are capable of moving to the next level.

Which Job Seekers Should Not Choose a Chronological Resume?

If you do not have much work experience or are a recent graduate and cannot show consistent progression in your career, a functional resume might be better. A functional or hybrid resume would show off your skills without drawing attention to the fact that you don’t have years of work experience. 

Job seekers who have gaps in their resume, entry-level candidates, those seeking a career change, or those seeking internships are examples of people who should not use a chronological format. A functional resume format or a combination resume format is best along with the submission of a well-written cover letter to provide additional supporting information.

An example of a functional resume format is shown below. You can download your own copy HERE. In this case, the candidate is looking to switch careers from sales to IT. Again, note that the skills section comes before the work experience section.

functional resume

Why Use a Chronological Resume?

In general, hiring managers prefer a chronological resume format because it is the one they are most familiar with. This format clearly lays out a candidate’s job history and their roles. Also, most recruiters look for this type of resume for senior positions.

The drawback to this type of resume is that gaps in a work history are difficult to disguise. Similarly, if you are early in your career path, the recruiter may focus on the experience that you don’t have rather than the skills that you do have. 

If you are a job seeker who has been in healthcare but now wants to move into an accounting role, a chronological resume will focus on your sales history rather than the fact that you might have excellent accounting skills. Your sales history, in this case, is not what the recruiter needs to see.

Writing a Chronological Resume

Resumes should be one page long unless you need to show an extensive history. This would be the case for someone in academia who has been involved in many years of research on a specialized subject. However, even if you are applying for a senior position, employers are usually only interested in your most recent experience.

Contact Information

This section is standard for most resumes. If you have credentials, for example, CPA or MBA, these should appear after your name. For example,

Emma Tailor, MBA

Steven Adler, CPA

Contact information should include name, email, phone number, and social media handles, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and a website address if you have an online portfolio. A LinkedIn url is highly recommended, most professionals have one, and employers will want to check you out on the platform. Make sure that the information on your LinkedIn page matches the information on your resume.

An address is not necessary. However, if the hiring company states that they are looking for candidates from a certain area, it would be good to put the town and state.

Expert Hint: Don’t include graphics or images on your professional resume. These should be saved for your online portfolio.

Summary or Objective Statement

The summary appears at the top of the resume and acts like a headliner—it should be short yet include a lot of important information. Your summary should be bold and memorable. It might help to first create your resume before coming up with your summary statement because you will then be able to synthesize your most important skills and achievements into a short sentence.

Before you write the job summary, you should research the company and study the job description so that what you say matches what the company is looking for.

Here is an example of a resume objective.

“Rigorous financial analyst with 3+ years of experience in financial statements and budget forecasting. Seeking an opportunity with a large investment organization to use client-facing skills and build successful portfolios. 100% client satisfaction achieved in past positions.”

The statement contains three key components: 

  • a strong descriptive word (rigorous); 

  • years of experience (3+); 

  • a metric that proves the applicant’s worth (100% client satisfaction in past positions). 

Tailor this format so that it is directly relevant for each job that you apply to.

Unless you need to show decades of experience, 10+ years of experience is the most that you should offer. Unfortunately, ageism is rife in the recruiting world, and while you don’t want to downplay your level of skill, you don’t need to draw attention to your age. Employers want to know that you are as current as possible where technology and industries are concerned.

The reason why the metric is so critical is that it is measurable proof of your value to the employer.  

In all of your resume writing, it is prudent to mirror what the job description describes. For example, if the job description calls for “proven client-driven skills,” explain that you “increased the client adoption rate consistently for the past three years” in your past job. Use this presentation of measurable achievements in the work history section of your resume.

The Work History Section

Under the work history header comes the main part of your resume where you list, in reverse chronological order, your most recent jobs, your job titles, and your accomplishments. Start with your most recent employer and work backward. Include the past two or three positions that you have held.

Use bullet points to show your accomplishments in two or five short, clear sentences. Address the skills that the job description calls for, and don’t add anything that is irrelevant.

Expert Hint: You can better tailor your resume by learning about the company through its website or even reaching out to a current employee via LinkedIn.

For each employer, give the name of the company, your position, the dates, and then explain your accomplishments. The resume examples show how to format this section.

As with the project summary, use action words rather than the passive voice, and include metrics to create more impact.

Here are some examples of bullet points. Note that each one uses a metric and an action verb.

  • Redesigned legacy spreadsheets resulting in 30% fewer inaccuracies and faster turnaround times.

  • Managed customer accounts totaling $170,000 with 100% customer satisfaction.

  • Led a team of five students to win third prize in Google Innovation Competition.

  • Redesigned company website and improved lead generation by 25%.

Use some of the wording that you find in the job description in your bullet points. For example, if the job description states "statistical analysis" as a requirement. Use the phrase "statistical analysis" somewhere in your bullet points. This will help your resume to pass the automatic screening software that looks for keywords.

Skills Section

Any skills, professional experience, or accomplishments that you did not include in your work experience can be listed in your skills section. For some jobs, like tech jobs, skills are vital, and the reader should be able to determine your skills with a quick glance of your resume. That's why some resumes list them in a separate column. 

Your skills can be hard technical skills or soft skills, like leadership, problem-solving, conflict resolution.

Here are examples of skills to include:

  • Hard skills: JAVA; Python; Acrobat; Statistical analysis; Excel spreadsheets, Microsoft statistical software; Invoicing; Enterprise systems

  • Soft skills: Management and Communication, Leadership, Problem-solving; Conflict resolution; Critical thinking

Education Section

The education section of the resume should include your degrees and any industry certifications that are relevant to the position. State the school where you earned your degree. If you earned honors, for example, summa cum laude or magna cum laude, this information should be included

Expert Hint: Only include a GPA if you are just starting out in your career and your GPA is 4.0 or very close to it. Remember, if you are just starting out in your career, you should not be writing a chronological resume.

Some resumes place education in a separate column along with skills and other information, such as awards. This can make a resume easier to read and more appealing. See the example at the end of the article.

Awards/Certifications

The last section is optional, but it can be used to show off your unique achievements. It might include languages, awards, presentations, publications, or hobbies if they are relevant. Depending on what you are including here, you can use a different title such as “Achievements,” “Presentations,” or “Publications.”

Key Points to Remember

Finally, it is critical that your resume attracts attention from potential employers for the right reasons—your stellar work history—not the wrong reasons: typos. Proofread your resume, and then have another trusted eye read it for you to catch any mistakes or odd-sounding phrases.

Follow this guide and use the quick checklist below so that your resume ends up on the top of the shortlist pile. 

  • Each job is not the same, so you should submit a different resume for each job.

  • Tailor your summary to each job.

  • Use keywords in your bullet points taken from the job description so applicant tracking systems do not reject your resume.

  • Use metrics in your previous job bullet points to show your worth.

  • Don’t include irrelevant information from your work history

  • Proofread your resume thoroughly.

Now, get ready for the interview!

Chronological Resume Example

Here's an example of what a great chronological resume looks like. Feel free to download your own version HERE.

chronological resume

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