A chronological (also known as a reverse chronological) resume is the most popular resume format used today.
The chronological resume emphasizes the applicant’s work history, education, and specific experience as opposed to skills and achievements. At a glance, employers can review the applicant’s work history, including the dates of employment and company names and location.
Who Should Use a Chronological Resume?
The chronological resume format is suited for applicants with a solid employment history that follows a logical career path, particularly if the applicant is applying for a position in that field or industry.
Do Employers Like Chronological Resumes?
Yes. As a general rule of thumb, most employers and HR professionals prefer chronological resumes over the other formats. Some industries, such as medicine, engineering, or teaching, consider chronological resumes the only acceptable format.
What Information Belongs on a Chronological Resume?
Most chronological resumes include:
- Contact information
- Employment history
- Education information
- Career development highlights – i.e. additional certifications, coursework, or licensure; career-specific and functional skills
How Do I Write a Chronological Resume?
If you’ve ever written a resume before, you are most likely familiar with the chronological resume format.
Step 1: Create a personal resume
Because of the traditional space restrictions on any resume (no more than two pages), you must carefully select which information to highlight on a chronological resume.
Begin by creating a list of every position that you’ve held in the previous ten years.
Fill in as much information as possible for each position
- Company name
- Job title
- Employment dates
- Job description
- Specific duties
- Achievements, awards, or recognition
- General notes about the position: Did you like the job? What would your boss say about you?
This personal resume is for your use only. Flesh out each position as much as possible. Even if the information doesn’t make it into your actual resume, this will be good review material for your interviews.
Creating an extensive personal resume will also enable you to customize resumes for specific positions more easily in the future. Your personal resume history should also include information about any formal education, training, or certification that you’ve completed.
Step 2: Determine which information is most relevant to the employer and reduce your personal resume to one page
The most important information belongs at the top of the resume. In a chronological resume, you will begin with your most recent employer. From there, include details about previous positions in reverse chronological order.
Be sure to highlight the aspects of each position that are noted in the job description. For example, if the employment ad requests a person with sales experience, don’t leave out the fact that you were the top sales representative for an insurance agency.
Step 3: Include skills and achievements
Once you’ve described your employment history, use the remaining space on your resume to highlight your most important skills and achievements.
Because the bulk of your resume space is dedicated to education and employment history, you’ll have to be selective about which skills to include.
The skills and achievements listed on your resume should correspond exactly with the requested skills on the employer’s job description whenever possible.
Step 4: Use resume writing power words and statements of fact to highlight your qualifications
Your position summary beneath each job description should not read as a laundry list of duties. Employers don’t want to know what you were supposed to do, they want to know how you went above and beyond the call of duty.
Using resume writing power words and statements of fact, show employers that you have the skills to get the job done – and prove it. Don’t say you were the top salesperson, show the employer that you were the best by mentioning that you were recognized as “Salesperson of the Year” for five consecutive years.
- Negotiated employee benefits with the union representatives, which saved the company 2% in insurance costs
- Obtained critical competition research that prevented a significant decrease in market share
- Earned recognition for exceeding sales quotas for 10 consecutive months
What are the most common chronological resume mistakes?
- A laundry list of positions. Many employers will draw negative conclusions about an employee who has held multiple positions in a short period of time.
- Listing employment history from first job to last. Although the name chronological resume is misleading, employment history should begin with your most recent position and work backward. Listing the first job at the top of the resume wastes this precious space because employers do not care much about what you did right after college or high school (unless that is your only experience)
- Highlighting employment history from more than a decade ago. Leave out information about positions that are more than 10 years old. This will only date you and is irrelevant to employers.
- Listing irrelevant or obsolete skills. Employers will not care if you have advanced knowledge of DOS or Windows ’95 or are proficient with typewriters.
- Using unknown acronyms or jargon. You may know exactly what a TOC is, but if the HR screener reading your resume is not familiar with the term, you’re wasting precious resume space and may end up in the garbage bin.