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When you think of a resume, chances are you are thinking of a chronological resume. They are the most popular way to structure a resume today and preferred by many human resources (HR) departments.
A chronological resume is one of the most common resume formats because employers and hiring managers prefer the easy to scan structure.
The chronological resume lists your work history in order of date, with your most recent work experience listed at the top. It may also include a resume objective or summary prior to listing your work experience.
However, there are a variety of different resume formats, and chronological is only one way to structure a professional resume. For example, if you are an applicant with work history gaps or career changes, you may be better served with a combination resume. Below, we outline some important tips that you can use to decide if this format is right for you and the job you are seeking.
As one of the most common resume styles used today, the chronological resume provides familiarity and makes it easier for the reader to absorb the information included. This type of format accommodates all types of industries and all levels of experience.
Human resources departments often prefer this formatting because it is what they are most familiar with and it is the easiest to scan. Consider the fact that some HR departments look at hundreds of applicants per day, so you should do your best to make yours stand out from the crowd.
Ideally, your chronological resume will show the progression of your work history and career in a positive light. Because of this, chronological resumes may not work for recent graduates, applicants with little to no work experience, or those with work gaps or career shifts. You should use a chronological resume if you have several years of experience in a single career path, if you have worked in a single industry, or you have minimal or no employment gaps.
Additionally, the chronological resume can be easier to compile since its dependency on dates helps you nail down the details of your job history.
Employers and hiring managers may only glance at your resume quickly, scanning just the important details. It’s imperative that you highlight your most recent information and accomplishments first, and ensure they are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
You should aim to make your resume include information that relates to the position you are applying for. The most significant difference between a chronological resume and other resume formats is how the experience section is formatted.
List your most recent experience first. Pay attention to the details under each job experience and make sure you pull keywords from the job description for which you are applying. If you insert them naturally into the copy on your resume, it will feel like a perfect fit to your hiring manager or recruiter.
Additionally, you can choose how to best format your professional experience and education section. If you are a student, you may choose to prioritize your education section with relevant accomplishments, awards, and coursework for your potential employer.
To use a chronological resume, your sections should be split in this order:
Contact information. This is the most vital information on your resume. Make sure this is highlighted appropriately and displayed prominently. Always double-check the information in this section. If your potential employer can not contact you with the correct details, you may miss out on your job opportunity.
Summary or objective. Typically resumes will include something called a summary or objective. This is a short statement that describes who you are as a professional. It gives your potential employer quick context of who you are, what your experience looks like, and what you believe your key skills are. Those with extensive experience in a specific industry should include this in the summary, especially if you are applying for a job in the same industry.
New graduates or those still in school should consider the objective statement instead, which describes your short-term goals.
Professional experience. Under your professional experience, you will list all of your work experience in past and present jobs in reverse-chronological order. This means starting with your current or most recent position, and working backwards while listing dates. When writing this section, consider the experiences that are relevant to the next step you’re planning to take in your career.
For example, for a job that is not as relevant, you can provide minimal details to save some space on your resume. When writing your dates for each job, ensure you double-check that they are correct to avoid confusion on the hiring manager’s part if they choose to cross-check the information.
Educational history. The education section is where you’ll list your degree, where you went to school, and your GPA if you so choose. Just like professional experience, your education experience should be listed in reverse-chronological order, listing your most recent educational achievements and working backward.
Note that if you have completed a post-secondary degree in college, you do not need to list your high school information. However, if you did not complete a post-secondary degree, you should consider including your background from high school, along with your GPA, and any other relevant information.
This is also the place where you can also share any awards or certifications you have received.
Skills and abilities. The purpose if your key skills section is to highlight your attributes and skills. Don’t forget to include both technical (hard) skills and interpersonal (soft) skills here. The most important thing to pay attention to is to make sure these skills are relevant to the job you’re applying for. Often times, job descriptions will call out the exact skills they expect to see, so take a look at the posting to ensure you’re sprinkling the right skills throughout this section.
Although anyone can use a chronological resume, it’s most effectively used by applicants who have a solid work history in a single field. The format allows you to showcase work history front and center, as the most important piece of your resume. This shows the employer that you have the specific sets of skills and abilities they may be looking for in a job.
For those who are just beginning their career journey, the chronological resume can be tricky. You likely have an abundance of skills and experience that falls outside of actual paid work history that you can list. This includes work such as volunteering, school clubs, or extracurricular activities. When you use a chronological resume with this type of experience, it could work against you. It will be blatantly obvious to the hiring manager that you lack paid work experience.
If you are in the process of making a career leap, the chronological resume may also not work the way you want it to. If you’re applying for a job that requires a specific set of skills, it’s not ideal to go in with a resume that highlights your experience in a different industry. You would be better served to use a resume like a combination resume, which lists both skills and work history, with an emphasis on skills.
Additionally, if you have gaps in your work history or you have changed jobs frequently, it’s probably not ideal to use a chronological resume either. The chronological format highlights gaps and shifts front and center. Although job hopping is no longer a concern in the workspace, too many job changes could signal a red flag for your potential employer.
The chronological resume is a fairly straightforward and simple template. To some extent, all resumes will look a little different, but the components and relevant information should remain the same across the board. Below is an example of what a chronological resume may look like in practice:
18 Cross Road, Denver, Colorado | firstname.lastname@example.org | 134-234-2123
Marketing manager seeks management position with top technology company that will allow her to utilize her digital marketing and content marketing skills, while coordinating marketing efforts to improve sales and drive sales qualified leads.
Salesforce, Inc — Marketing Manager
Manage and maintain Marketo for micro-Salesforce events, including drip campaign set-up, database management, and email creation across events.
Provided social copy for all relevant events used by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn
Monitored the customer service email box for any pressing questions from attendees prior to the event
Coordinated all event logistics for both external and internal attendees
Accenture, Inc — Marketing Assistance
November 2014-April 2018
Assisted with the development of their new event website including photo selection, web copy, design layout, and logistics management
Developed SOPs for Pardot which was shared across the full marketing team
Colorado State University
Graduated May 2014
Bachelor of Arts, English
Expert knowledge in Marketo, Pardot, Constant Contact, and Salesforce CRM system
Expert knowledge in Microsoft Office programs, Google Suite programs, and Mac programs
Intermediate knowledge in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop
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