The chronological, or reverse chronological, resume is the most commonly used resume format among job applicants. The format requires you to detail your past work experience, listing the most recent position held and going back in time from there. This is the most traditional resume style and is widely accepted by job recruiters. However, the specific layout of your chronological resume will vary depending on your background and your level of experience.
Why Employers Like Chronological Resumes
The chronological resume format is the most popular because potential employers can easily scan it for information. Remember, the goal of your resume is to highlight your qualifications and to convince your reader to follow up with an interview. You won't be hired based on your resume alone, but it will determine whether the employer will at least meet with you.
A chronological resume is familiar, which makes it easy to read. A chronological resume format can also demonstrate growth in your career, and it lists how long you've held previous positions. The reader can tell at a glance, for example, whether you have changed jobs frequently, moved around within the same industry or if you are relatively new to the field.
When You're Starting Out
If you don't have a considerable amount of work experience, formatting a chronological resume will be trickier. In fact, you may want to use an alternative format, such as hybrid of chronological and functional formats. However, hiring managers in more conservative fields may expect a chronological resume format, so provide this type of resume if you know the recruiter values structure and experience. With a little creativity, you can fit a minimal amount of work experience into a chronological format. Start by including previous jobs in other fields. Then, highlight the skills you acquired in past positions that are relevant to the new position you are seeking.
For example, if you are applying for an entry-level position at a childcare facility, your resume may feature your experience in the retail industry. This would allow you to explain how your position in retail required you to fit children for shoes and provide an opportunity for you to discuss an award you may have received. Ask yourself, "What did I learn at my past job that makes me a good fit for this one?" An employer may overlook your shortage of directly related experience as long as you demonstrate your ability to learn and your track record of high performance.
When You've Got Substantial Experience
The chronological resume format is perfect for anyone who has steadily improved within his or her profession. Working backwards, provide a list of your past jobs. For each previous position, be sure to include the dates of employment, the companies you've worked for and the title of each position.
Then, make yourself an attractive applicant by specifying your accomplishments. Use bullet points when you list more than three items, and focus on how you contributed to the company. Your resume should feature a list of all the relevant experience you’ve acquired but not necessarily every job you’ve ever had. Including less important jobs clutters your resume and minimizes your later, more pertinent work.
Since the chronological resume format is most commonly used, every applicant should understand how to write one. However, if you are switching fields or have a large gap in your employment history, you may want to create a hybrid resume in addition to a chronological resume.
LiveCareer has more information about the variety of format types.