Tips for a Great Chronological Resume

A chronological resume helps put your work experience front and center. What do you need to know about the process of writing one?


Chronological Resume

Your resume is the first thing a hiring manager sees about you, which means you need to make sure it’s perfect. That starts with making sure your resume format is correct.
>When you’re crafting a resume, there are three main formats you can use: chronological, functional and combination. A chronological resume is the most common type of resume, and if you’re a typical job seeker looking for a job that’s similar to jobs you’ve had years of experience with, it will probably be the best option for you.
Read on to learn how you can craft an effective chronological resume.

What Is a Chronological Resume?

A chronological resume, also called a reverse-chronological resume, is a resume format that emphasizes your work history. This resume lists your work history in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent job and working your way back to earlier jobs. This type of resume draws a recruiter’s attention to your work experience, highlighting your proficiency in past jobs.

How Is a Chronological Resume Different From a Functional Resume or a Combination Resume?

Functional and combination resumes are slightly different from chronological resumes in what they emphasize, and understanding the difference is important if you want to choose the right resume format.
A functional resume emphasizes skills, with expanded certifications and skills sections. An extremely strict functional resume may also keep your employment history very brief. This type of resume is meant for people whose previous jobs won’t help them in their job searches. This may include people going through a career change, people with unexplained work history gaps, or people who have just graduated.
A combination resume emphasizes skills while also expanding on past employment. Typically, in a combination resume, the work experience section will include an explanation of how each job built applicable skills. For example, if you’re currently in software engineering and you’re moving into high school teaching, you might emphasize how your computer knowledge will allow you to create lesson plans and communicate with students and teachers more easily.
Different resume options will work best for different job seekers. A chronological resume is best for individuals who know their work history applies to the job they’re applying for.

Reasons To Use a Chronological Resume

A chronological resume is typically the most common resume format, and you’ll want to use it unless you have a good reason not to. Here are a few reasons you’ll likely use a chronological resume:

  • Your work history is full of jobs that are similar to the job you’re pursuing
  • You have a few jobs under your belt already
  • Your skills are fairly typical of those in your field
  • You’ve been out of school for a bit of time
  • You don’t have any large employment gaps

In general, as long as there’s not a compelling reason for you to use the functional or combination resume, a chronological resume works just fine.

Chronological Resume Format

The chronological resume format is fairly simple once you understand it. This is typically how a chronological resume will look.
1. Header
First up is the header. This is where you put your contact information. List your name, address and phone number. You may also want to list professional social media accounts like LinkedIn. A resume builder will typically help you create a great look for your header, making your name a little larger so it’s easy to see at a glance.
2. Summary
The next section is your resume summary. This is a two to three-sentence paragraph that sums up your resume and gives a hiring manager an idea of who you are. The summary statement is snappy and to the point, explaining who you are and why you’re the perfect candidate for this job. This is where you emphasize your biggest accomplishments, what you’ve done in your past jobs, and your best attributes.
3. Skills
Next is the skills section. Even though a chronological resume will focus heavily on your work history, you still need a skills section to indicate what you’re most accomplished at. In the skills section of a chronological resume, make sure you list skills that naturally flow from the previous jobs you’ve had, typically as bullet points. For example, as a customer service representative, you may note these skills:

  • Handling demanding customers
  • Working with a team
  • Efficiency at taking calls
  • Knowledge of computer-based calling services

4. Work experience
Even though your work experience is what you want to focus on in a chronological resume, it will still often go at the bottom of the resume. In some chronological resume templates, you may find that the work experience goes above the skills section. Underneath each job, make sure you also indicate the most important things you did and any awards you earned. As a customer service representative, you might write the following as part of your work history:
Ford Customer Service – Dec 2017 to Jan 2020

  • Fielded 50+ calls every day from customers
  • Ranked in the top five callers in my district
  • Helped develop a new onboarding process that reduced turnover by 12%

5. Education
The last section of your resume should be the education section. In this section, you’ll list your college education and any special certifications that you’ve received that are relevant to your career. Avoid listing your high school education unless you have no college education. If you’ve gone through college, potential future employers don’t need to know about your high school credentials.

Chronological Resume Example

If you’re interested in seeing what a chronological resume should look like, ResumeHelp offers chronological resume samples that can help you understand what hiring managers are looking for. Check out the professional resume examples at ResumeHelp to see what resumes are currently working in your industry before you write your own.

FAQ: Chronological Resumes

Q: What job seekers should use chronological resumes?

Most job seekers should be using chronological resumes. This is typically seen as a default format, so if you don’t see a good reason to choose the functional resume format or combination resume format, you’ll want to use the chronological format. Check out our guides on functional and combination resumes to see whether your resume would benefit from using them. If not, just go with the chronological resume.

Q: Is there anything I shouldn’t include in my resume?

There are a few important things you’ll likely want to avoid in your resume in today’s job field. Here are a few things not to put in your chronological resume:

  • Your high school information or your GPA. In general, avoid putting your high school information in your education section unless you have no other education experience. And for both high school and college listings, there’s no need to indicate your GPA (but you should include any honors you’ve received, such as magna cum laude).
  • Basic computer proficiency. In today’s world, employers assume you have basic computer proficiency. You’re wasting space and looking out of touch by listing it as a skill.
  • Proficiency with apps you don’t know well. Everyone knows the trick of listing knowledge of specific software on your resume to try and pad it out, but it usually doesn’t work. So unless you actually have extensive proficiency with software such as Microsoft Excel, don’t add them to your resume.
  • Entry-level jobs unrelated to your career path. If you’re looking to get a job as a professor, there’s no need to put a food service job from 2011 on your resume. It has nothing to do with your current career.

Q: Do I still need a cover letter if I have a chronological resume?

No matter what type of resume you have, it’s a good idea to supplement it with a cover letter. In fact, many hiring managers expect you to submit a cover letter, even if it doesn’t say so in the job description.

Writing a cover letter allows you to bring some life to your resume, indicating what you bring to the table in the new job. It also lets you provide more details on specific career highlights than a resume does and explain what interests you about the position. Lastly, a cover letter is the place to ask for the interview. If you can get an interview, you’re much closer to getting the job, and asking for the interview in your cover letter can help you clinch it.

Q: Should I try a different resume if the chronological resume doesn’t seem to be working for me?

The reason there are multiple different types of resume formats is that different formats will work best for different job seekers. If you feel like the chronological resume format isn’t working well for your needs, feel free to try out different formats with our easy-to-use resume builder.

Remember that your work history section, which may include internships, should be fairly expansive in a chronological resume. If you don’t have a lot of work history, you might want to shift to a different format. A resume builder can be incredibly helpful here because you can simply enter your information and see which format works best for you.

Q: Can I list both hard skills and soft skills in my chronological resume?

Hard and soft skills both work well in chronological resumes, as both of these types of skills will typically be gained through your professional experience. To create your skill list for your chronological resume, go back through your previous jobs and determine what abilities or knowledge you used most frequently, and what skills you honed as part of those jobs. For example, if you’re planning to apply as a dental assistant, you might note “client communication” as an incredibly important skill from your previous jobs, which makes it a great skill for your resume.

Q: Is a chronological resume a good option for an applicant tracking system?

If you’ve looked into how to write a resume, you’ve probably heard of the ATS, or applicant tracking system. Applicant tracking systems are automated systems that go through your resume once you submit it, looking for important keywords that match the skills and experiences of an ideal applicant. If you don’t have those keywords, the ATS will often reject the resume out of hand, never even allowing it to get to a hiring manager.

The chronological resume is the ideal option for an ATS, which has become the standard for many large companies processing resumes. If you’re submitting your resume to an automated site rather than sending it directly to a manager, it’s best to go with a chronological resume if you can, as ATS systems are familiar with the format.

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