The chronological resume format is arguably the most commonly used resume format. It emphasizes employment history by listing a job seeker’s most recent work experience first and continuing in reverse-chronological order to the oldest job. According to staffing agency Robert Half International, three out of four hiring managers prefer the chronological format because it helps them quickly gauge if a candidate has the relevant experience and skills required for the position. Still, not everyone should use the chronological resume format.
When to use a chronological resume
You should use the chronological resume format to apply for a job if:
You have a steady employment track record and straightforward work history.
Your skills closely match the specific job description to which you’re applying.
You can show years of consistent, steady job advancement.
You should NOT not use the chronological resume format if:
You lack job experience or currently attend high school or college.
Your skills do not match the specific job description to which you’re applying.
You have any gaps in your resume.
Advantages of the Chronological Resume Format
Besides being the preferred resume format of employers, the chronological resume format allows applicant tracking system (ATS) software — which categorizes resumes and scans them for relevant keywords — to easily read and parse resume content. When written well, a chronologically formatted resume can get past the ATS door and into the hands of a hiring manager.
Sam Weston, Sales Manager - Classica Resume Template
In the resume example below, Sam Weston uses the chronological format to show his steady job history, having worked for only two employers in seven years. It is immediately obvious to employers that Sam was promoted from sales team lead to his current position as a sales manager for the same company.
Sam also uses relevant keywords, such as “leader,” “relationship building” and “strategy” at the top of his resume, and then reuses them in his skills section toward the bottom of the page. Doing this will ensure his resume gets through most applicant tracking systems, and it will let employers know within seconds that Sam is a capable sales manager.
Mylo Burns, Jeweler - Modern Resume Template
The chronological resume below shows Mylo Burns worked his way from apprentice to his current role as a jeweler. It’s obvious Mylo has steadily moved up the ranks of his trade at different companies, each time learning new industry-relevant skills and applying them to his next role. Mylo’s consistent work history, technical skills and education are directly related, which tells employers he has the expertise needed to help their business excel.
Other advantages of the chronological resume format include the following:
It allows employers to quickly glance where you worked and for how long — this 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 a recent scientific study by the career news site The Ladders.
It allows you to weave your accomplishments throughout your resume, so hiring managers can see what you achieved in each position.
It highlights job advancement if you’ve steadily moved up the ladder.
Disadvantages of the Chronological Resume Format
As mentioned above, the chronological resume format is not the best choice if you have any gaps in your resume; that’s because those gaps will be obvious to hiring managers looking for a consistent employment history. But that’s just one of the disadvantages. There are other reasons to reconsider using the chronological format:
It does not showcase your skills because it focuses on your employment history. If you’re trying to get a job in a different field or don’t have work experience, you might want to consider using a functional resume format.
Varied work patterns and “job-hopping” — having short stints at various employers — will stand out on a chronological resume format. A combination resume format works better for those who want to present their employment history while pointing out their achievements and top skills.
It can be difficult to stand out from the pack because a chronological resume format is relatively common. If you do use this format, adding a professional summary or a resume objective statement at the top to highlight your best attributes and show your enthusiasm for the job is advisable.
What to Include on a Resume When Using the Chronological Format
A chronological resume should contain the following sections, in the order shown:
Your contact information, including your name, address, telephone number and email address.
A professional summary or an objective statement. Show your enthusiasm in this section by telling the employer your goals for the job should you get it.
A reverse-chronological list of your previous jobs, including company names, dates you worked, measurable achievements and the result of each.
Your most relevant technical and soft skills for the job, in a bulleted list. They should compliment the achievements listed in the job section.
Your education, including the school you attended, degree earned or course of study and honors or awards received. No need to add dates. Note: If you are a new graduate or have been working for one to three years, put this section directly above your job section.
Additional information such as volunteer work, licenses and certifications if you have it and it’s related to the position.
5 Tips for Using the Chronological Resume Format
It should fit on one page. Hiring managers will scan your resume, and more than one page is almost always too long, according to recent HR studies.
Do not list more than 10 to 15 years of relevant work history, with a priority on the first five to 10 years, according to most resume and career experts. Unless the job requires more than 15 years of experience, a hiring manager won’t be interested in what you’ve done beyond that, and it will be more difficult to keep your resume to one page. Consider using a combination resume if you have a longer story to tell.
Customize your chronological resume for each job and company to which you apply. Employers will know if you are just copying and pasting information mindlessly.
Use bullet points to highlight your achievements for each job you list. This helps with readability and forces you to better condense your language.
Write a cover letter to accompany your chronological resume. Cover letters grab a hiring manager or a recruiter’s attention by demonstrating your interest in the job and the value you would bring to the company. Use it to introduce yourself in your best light and to fill in any information left off your resume you want the hiring manager to know.
Chronological Resume FAQ
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.
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