Job seekers who explore resume formats may sometimes get confused when they see terms like functional, combination, hybrid, and chronological or reverse chronological order. Do you know the difference between these different resume format types, or why the reverse-chronological resume continues to be the format of choice for job seekers and hiring managers alike?
In this post, we’ll examine the chronological, or reverse-chronological, resume and explain why it’s the most popular resume format in today’s job market. We’ll also provide some helpful advice that you can use to determine whether this format is right for you, and tips to help you employ this format for your own resume.
What is a reverse-chronological order resume?
Reverse-chronological order simply refers to how information is organized according to time. A reverse-chronological resume differs from other resume formats in the way employment details are presented to a prospective employer. The format includes the details about each company you’ve worked for, listing them in order, beginning with your current or most recent position.
Now, you may be wondering the difference between a chronological order resume and a reverse-chronological order resume. The answer is simple: the chronological resume format and reverse-chronological resume format are one and the same. The only real difference is in the terms used to describe the format. So, when you read the words “chronological resume” you should automatically assume that the format lists employment history in reverse chronological order.
How the chronological resume compares to other resume formats
The chronological resume is the most popular resume format for many reasons. In addition to providing a clear and concise way to showcase your job history in reverse chronological order, it also offers an opportunity to present a compelling narrative about your work history and achievements. Used properly, this format can help hiring managers to quickly assess your motivation, drive for success, and potential value as an employee.
Since it focuses so heavily on work experience, a chronological order resume is ideal for candidates whose professional experience demonstrates their qualifications for an open position. But how does it compare to other resume formats like the functional or hybrid resume? To understand the differences, it’s important to learn about those other two formats.
The functional resume format
The functional resume uses a different format because it has a different goal than the chronological order resume. Instead of focusing on your work experience, the functional resume is designed to highlight your relevant skills, including transferable abilities. As such, it is best used by job candidates who have little or no experience in their chosen industry or profession. For example, recent graduates can benefit from using this type of resume. It is also a great option for people who have major gaps in their work history.
The combination, or hybrid, resume format
Another option, that combines the benefits of the chronological resume with those of the functional resume, is the combination resume format. This resume still includes work experience, but places that section after a detailed skills section. As a result, employers are able to focus attention on the candidate’s overall qualifications while still gaining insight into the job seeker’s previous work history. As a result, this can be a good option for candidates who are switching industries and careers.
The right way to use reverse chronological order
A reverse chronological order resume should always include your jobs and qualifications in chronological order, beginning with the most recent. In other words, start with your current or last job and work backwards through time, listing each relevant position you held. Any employer who reads through your employment history section should be able to see a clear history of the jobs you’ve held. Follow this simple guide to create that list:
1. Start with your most recent job and the employment dates.
2. Then list the job you held prior to your most recent position.
3. Then list the job you held prior to that job.
4. And so on, for as many positions as you want to include.
While it might be tempting to highlight the most relevant positions by listing them first, you should avoid that option. Employers want to see not only your relevant experience, but your career progression too. The only exception to this rule would be if you have little relevant experience and want to focus attention on your skills rather than your work history. Of course, if that’s the case, you should probably be using a functional or combination resume anyway.
Tips to help you create a reverse-chronological order resume
For most people, the chronological order resume will be the best option, so it’s important to understand how to craft this type of resume. The following tips will discuss the sections that your chronological resume should contain and the types of information you should include in each of those sections.
1. Contact information
Your personal contact information should always be the first thing hiring managers see when they look at your resume. Put this information at the top and include all of the key details an employer might need to contact you for an interview or job offer. Those details should include:
Your first and last name
Your phone number - just your cell phone number is fine, no need for a landline
Your physical address, especially if you are applying for a job in another city or state - just town and zip code is enough
Your email address
Relevant professional social media links, such as LinkedIn
2. Summary statement
If you’re used to the old objective statement, skip it. The resume summary statement is the preferred choice these days because it enables you to focus on the company’s needs rather than your own career goals. Basically, this summarized overview of your skills and experiences is a written “elevator pitch,” designed to capture a hiring manager’s interest and attention in just a few seconds.
Don’t underestimate the important role that this summary plays! Most employers only need a few seconds to decide whether they want to read the rest of your resume, so take your time to craft the right message. Include two or three sentences that highlight your experience in the industry and role, one or two relevant skills, and a measurable achievement that shows your potential value if you get hired.
Your skills section is typically found right after the summary statement. Here, you will want to list all of your most relevant skills. These should include both soft skills and hard technical skills that are required for the position you’re seeking. You should consult the job description to see which skills the employer wants to see in any job candidate, and try to include each of those abilities in your skill section.
As you list these skills, remember to use the same terms you find in the job description. Those keywords and phrases may be essential for ensuring that your resume can be picked out by any applicant tracking system the company might be using to assess resume submissions. If those keywords are not in your resume, there is a good chance that the machines will overlook your submission.
4. Professional experience
In any chronological resume, the professional experience does most of the heavy lifting. In this section, you should include all of your most relevant work experience, listing jobs in order from the most recent to the oldest. As you do so, include several bullet points under each job listing, highlighting the skills you used in your role and notable achievements that created value for those past employers. To add emphasis to those achievements, use real numbers that demonstrate that value. For example:
Acme International 2019-2023
Order Fulfillment Manager
Oversaw delivery of 5 products per week for Acme’s biggest customer, ensuring timely delivery of Acme Anvils, Acme Axle Grease, Acme Dehydrated Boulders, and other in-demand items used for pursuing Road Runners
Led effort to create expedited shipping processes to speed up client receipt of Acme goods by 12 hours, resulting in a new system that guaranteed same-episode delivery of all products
Launched internal diversity project that resulted in the creation of the Female Road Runner Costume
You will also need to include your educational achievements, especially if the advertised job requirements include some type of academic qualification. Treat this section like your professional experience and use reverse chronological order to list your schools and degrees. For example:
Bachelor of Science 2015-2019
Order Fulfillment Science Program
Unless you’re a recent graduate, have major gaps in your work history, or are in the process of switching careers, the reverse-chronological resume will likely be the best option for your resume format needs. By learning more about why this resume type is so effective and applying these simple tips in your own resume creation process, you can create a more compelling resume narrative to aid you in your job search.
Are you still not sure that your chronological resume is ready for prime time? Be sure to get your free resume review from our experts now!
Ken Chase, Freelance Writer
During Ken's two decades as a freelance writer, he has covered everything from banking and fintech to business management and the entertainment industry. His true passion, however, has always been focused on helping others achieve their career goals with timely job search and interview advice or the occasional resume consultation. When he's not working, Ken can usually be found adventuring with family and friends or playing fetch with his demanding German Shepherd. Read more resume advice from Ken on ZipJob’s blog.