Anatomy of a chronological resume
Organize a chronological resume in the following order:
Your contact information. It includes your name, city, state, ZIP code, telephone number, email address, and links to your LinkedIn profile or your professional website.
A professional summary or an objective statement. It should be written in clear, active language. Show your enthusiasm with a bold statement telling the employer what you can do for them.
A reverse-chronological list of your previous jobs. Include company names, dates you worked, and a bulleted list of measurable achievements with the results of each.
Your most relevant technical and soft skills for the job. Also presented as a bulleted list, your skills should complement the achievements listed in the job section. Employers love to see an accomplished worker.
Your education. This part should include the school you attended, the degree earned or course of study, plus any honors or awards received. There is no need to add dates.
Note: If you are a new graduate or have been working for only one to three years, place this section directly above your job section.
Key additional information. Add relevant volunteer work, school or community leadership activities, awards, licenses and/or certifications if you have any.
When to use the chronological resume format
3 tips for writing a chronological resume
- Your resume should fit on two pages maximum. According to recent HR studies from academic and private organizations, hiring managers have about six minutes to scan your resume, so more than one page is almost always too long. However, if you have several years of experience, and the role requires you to list all of your past jobs or if you are an upper-level manager and want to highlight past successes, you can probably get away with two pages.
- Don’t list more than 10 to 15 years of relevant work history. Prioritize the first five to 10 years, as our experts have found that unless a job requires more than 15 years of experience, a hiring manager probably won’t be interested in what you’ve done beyond that. It will also be more challenging to keep your chronological resume to one or two pages. Consider using a combination resume if you have a longer story to tell.
- Write a cover letter to accompany your chronological resume. Cover letters grab a hiring manager’s attention by demonstrating your interest in the job and the value you would bring to the company. Create one to introduce yourself in your best light and fill in any information left off your resume you want the hiring manager to know.
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Advantages of a chronological resume
When written well by the appropriate job applicant, a chronological resume offers many advantages, including:
- It allows applicant tracking system (ATS) software — which categorizes resumes and scans them for relevant keywords — to review and “read” the information quickly.
- It allows employers to glance where you worked and for how long. It is especially advantageous if you worked for well-known or prestigious companies.
- It calls attention to job titles, which hiring managers like to see, according to experts.
- It allows you to weave your accomplishments throughout your resume, so hiring managers can see what you achieved in each position.
- It displays job advancement clearly if you’ve steadily moved up the ladder.
Disadvantages of a chronological resume
As mentioned above, the chronological resume isn’t for everyone. Misused, it can pose challenges, such as:
- Any gaps in your employment history are apparent to hiring managers looking for consistent work history.
- Skills and education or training take a backseat to work experience.
- Varied work patterns and “job-hopping” — having short stints at various employers — stands out on a chronological resume format.
- Because most job applicants use this format, it can be difficult to stand out from the pack with a chronological resume. One way around this is to tell the hiring manager exactly what you plan to accomplish for the company in your summary statement.
Who should use a chronological resume?As the chronological resume format stresses work experience, it’s best suited for job candidates who have a robust job history from which to draw. This is a particularly useful format if your job experience relates directly to the new position you are seeking. To take full advantage of the format, come up with specific, detailed accomplishments for each job you’ve had. This demonstrates your career growth and abilities to employers.
How do you list your resume in chronological order?To write in the chronological format, list your work experiences in reverse-chronological order, with your most recent position first, working backwards in time. As a general rule, you should only include jobs from the past 10 years. Follow the same arrangement for your education section, with your latest, most advanced degree (or coursework, if you haven’t completed your studies yet) and school presented first.
Does resume work experience have to be in chronological order?In a chronological resume, your work history is always presented in chronological order. If you have gaps in your work experience or lack extensive experience, you may want to consider a functional resume, which focuses on your abilities and skills.
Do you put work experience or education first on a chronological resume?In the chronological format, work experience will appear first. This allows you to show hiring managers that you have the necessary experience to excel at a new job. Like your work history section, the education section should start with your most recent degree or accomplishment. You should include information about any degrees you’ve earned, relevant coursework, special accomplishments, and certificate programs.
How can I make my resume stand out while using the chronological resume format?There are three main ways to make a chronological resume stand out. They are:
Write to the job description directly. In a perfect world, your experience and skills would mirror the job requirements. If that’s the case, then good for you! But even if you don’t have all the qualifications needed, you can stand out by highlighting those you do have, including certifications and licenses.
Focus on your achievements — not your responsibilities — and add measurable details. Hiring managers want to know the kind of impact you have made in other positions to get an idea of what you can do for them. For example: Instead of “Welcomed customers and answered questions,” you should write, “Increased customer base by 40% through demonstration of high-quality customer service.”
Use your summary statement to provide important details about your qualifications. Many job seekers use generic summary statements such as “Good communicator with ten years of sales experience.” If you want to stand out, a direct assertion such as “Proven success in revitalizing underperforming sales numbers through scalable marketing strategies that have driven a 32% increase in leads,” is sure to get attention.
Should I include jobs where I’ve had a short stint?It depends. Most experts agree it’s best to stay with a company for at least two years because it shows a level of commitment and a thoughtful understanding of your own career path. But if one or two of your jobs lasted a year or less, it is OK to add them. Just be prepared to confidently and clearly explain why they were short-term stints during your interview. You can also address any such concerns in your cover letter. However, if you’ve had several short-term jobs throughout your career or within one year, then a functional resume format is by far the better option.
If I’m changing careers, can I make this format work for me?Absolutely. You can make the chronological format work for you if your career change entails applying for the next step up from your current role, and you have a track record of stable work experience and a clear path of advancement in the industry. For example, if you’ve been a construction worker for five years and want to apply for a project manager job, it’s acceptable to use the chronological format. However, if you are a nanny and want to apply for an administrative assistant position, you should use the functional format.
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